Too often I’ve observed this progression within families.
- Unattended frustration in the home leads to resentment.
- Resentment in the home creates walls between family members.
- Walls between family members makes for a miserable existence.
- When the misery gets too unbearable such families finally ask for help.
Today I want to draw attention to what I believe is a common component within fragmented, unhealthy families: the inability to identify and address the frustrations of its family members. I’ve observed that when frustrations are neglected — even small ones — seeds are sown that can ultimately destroy families and marriages. Given enough time the accumulation of these unattended frustrations results in resentment, anger and hatred, and can result in the breakdown of the family unit. By this point it’s often too late for help.
What’s the antidote? Create a family environment where frustrations can be easily brought out into the open and addressed. Think of it like a pressure release valve.
In our house this environment was attained through family meetings. We made it clear that if anyone was frustrated about anything going on in our family that they should call a family meeting, where we would work it out together. We had a lot of family meetings!
Here’s an example from a meeting that I called when our kids were young to address two of my frustrations at the time. Being the family dishwasher, I was frustrated because I felt we were dirtying cups needlessly. (I was washing what seemed like two dozen cups per day for only four people!) I had also noticed that my family members were in the habit of getting a new bath towel after each use rather than reuse them! Wasteful! (Admittedly these issues seem pretty small compared to the other problems of the world! But this was becoming a daily irritation for me and I could feel resentment beginning to creep in.) Time for action!
So I called the family meeting to express my frustrations and to see if we could come up with a solution that would restore my tranquility. After identifying my issues (and they were just my issues!) we brainstormed ideas and figured out that we could solve my problem by color-coding our household items just like our friends the Calcaras had done. We negotiated over what colors we each would get (somehow I ended up with pink!) and then went to the store to buy plastic cups, plates, and bowls for everyone. We also got towels of the same colors, which now could be easily identified, hung up, and reused. We even extended our color matching to include toothbrushes (to this day my dentist’s office knows to give me a pink one!)
A few final thoughts:
- Personal happiness is not the main goal in life. Serving God and serving others is.
- We can’t promise our families that every frustration of theirs can be entirely removed — we’ll always have to come to terms with things that are beyond our control and it’s also not reasonable for each one to get his or her way all the time.
- It’s also important to communicate that a family is not a pure democracy — ultimately the parents are charged by God to make decisions for their family’s overall well-being. Our guarantee is not that we will resolve things to everyone’s satisfaction, but that we will listen, respect, and love each family member as we seek to honor God in our homes.
In summary, I’m prescribing a family environment where respect is shown for each family member, where verbalizing frustrations is the norm, where people’s feelings are validated, and where reasonable solutions can be worked out as a team if possible.
Families who operate under this kind of environment will enjoy a greater closeness, which brings glory to God.