Let me just start out by saying that this topic is incredibly personal to me because it is a lesson I have had to learn firsthand. Although much of what I will be referencing is tied to marriage and parenting, my hope is it will reveal some things that anyone in any stage or season of life can benefit from.
In short, I have come to realize that I am a very selfish person.
If asked the same question about ten years ago, I would not have said the same thing, but I believe our human nature is to be selfish. There is much to say here from a spiritual perspective, but I will hopefully write on that at another time.
I’m a fairly easy-going guy, but I was struggling with anger and it was showing up in how I was responding to my wife and kids. I was finding that when I came home from work, I was immediately upset with my family because, based on my view of the world, the kids were out of sorts, or it was way too loud to focus on anything productive, or the house was not as clean as I would prefer, or I had to remind someone yet again about the same thing I told them yesterday…I could go on. I was fully justified in my mind as my expectations were clear and my family wasn’t living up to them. So, this simply went on for months…and months turned into a couple of years of consistent responses of anger or annoyance from me to my family.
I wouldn’t have described myself as an angry person because my family saw a good dose of love…and occasional compassion. Those who know me well will probably smile as they read that…let’s just say that my wife and I balance each other out quite well in that regard. So, my family knew that I loved them but I would find myself raising my voice and getting upset over life’s circumstances. So long as I felt that my annoyance and anger was balanced with love, I was still OK with how I was responding.
I, to this day, am grateful for a group of friends that were willing to call me out on this. What I thought was happening behind closed doors had begun to manifest itself in front of them and, at times, in public. As a result of their challenging me on this topic, I began to ask this one question…
What environment am I creating in my home?
This is a powerful question…we could ask it in a number of ways by replacing “home” with any other circle we happen to be in. But my home environment was the one I was being challenged on, so it led me down a few different lines of questioning.
1. Is my home environment one that I will regret when my children are older?
Will they look back on their years in our home with frustration, hurt feelings or, worse – fear?
2. Am I simply trying to create little versions of me?
Or do I see the genius of God in how they were uniquely created and wired and look for ways to refine who they are versus change or suppress it?
3. Is it an environment I would be comfortable using as an example for others?
My neighbors? My friends? My children?
Some would say that “more is caught than taught” when it comes to being an example to others.
4. What is driving my anger?
Is it justified? or is it prideful and selfish? Is it based on unrealistic expectations?
I was challenged by scripture which indicates that the evidence of Christ’s Spirit in me will look like love,
and self control.
Colossians 3:11-14 says that I need to put on this new nature, which means there is action on my part to ensure this new nature becomes my default vs. an afterthought.
I wasn’t self aware in this area in my life nor was I taking the time to reflect on my day to see where I could be more Christ-like.
Now, I still struggle with this at times (as my family will surely attest to), but I am more aware of it and I am trying to intentionally respond in a different manner. Many times I find that if I just slow down and take time to think before I respond (which is very difficult most times), the likelihood of me responding with the new nature – the right nature – is much higher.
Think of it this way…I have the ability within me to always respond the right way, but I need to stay close to the source of that ability – the Spirit of Christ in me.
Have you experienced something similar? What are some things you do that help you create the right environment wherever you happen to be?