The current state of the world is…not great.
So many of our problems are global, governmental, and systemic, stemming from conflicts spanning thousands of years. Perhaps, like me, you wonder, “What the heck can one person do?”
When I am overwhelmed by an avalanche of things I can’t control, I find it helpful to focus on what I can. And then I came across this quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta:
“If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.”
Ah, good ol’ Mother Teresa. What a pleasant thought from a sweet old lady beloved the world over. It’s a nice sentiment for a greeting card, but a naive prescription for solving what ails our world.
Well, that’s how it seems, if you didn’t know what a tenacious, uncompromising spark plug she really was.
Of course we love our family, we think. Check. Done. Got it. After patting ourselves on the back for acing a homework assignment from perhaps the greatest saint of the twentieth century, we think, ok, what else?
Buckle up, buttercup.
We all say we love our family, but do our actions match our words?
- Are you spending real time with your family, or are you spending money to make up for all the times you’re not there?
- Is it quantity time, or just scraps of time here and there you call “quality” time?
When you are together, how much time do you do what THEY want to do, on their terms?
- How much time do you spend criticizing your spouse or trying to “change” them?
Do you ever take on some of their household responsibilities to give them a break?
- Do you take out the garbage before your wife has to remind you four times?
- Do you ever give your husband back rubs, or are you too busy pointing out that he forgot to take out the garbage again?
- How protective are you of family dinner time? How many times a week do you eat dinner together?
- If you have children, do you allow them to struggle with hard things, or are you quick to swoop in to help them out of every jam?
- Do they have chores they don’t get paid for?
- How often do you put healthy limits on your kids, and how good are you at holding to them?
- Are you paying attention to who your kids hang out with and what they’re watching?
- How often are you labeled the “mean” parent?
- How often do you sacrifice what you want for the good of your family?
Oof. Suddenly that sweet old lady’s Hallmark card just got real. I don’t know about you, but if I really want to follow Mother Teresa’s advice, I’ve got some work to do.
Please know I’m not being accusatory here, only trying to provide a full picture of what true love looks like. Loving your family well is hard. It goes far beyond providing room and board, buying gifts, and shuttling them to and from myriad obligations.
Heck, I expect if you are a regular reader here, you probably can check off many of these things with confidence. That’s great! If so, let this serve as a reminder that you’re doing good.
Because the world—and Adultitis—will bombard you with reasons you’re not.
It will try to get you to place your attention on your career. Your income. The size of your home. All while convincing you to embrace the mantle of “providing a better life for your family.” It’s not bad to want a better life for your family, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of loving them well. We do a lot of things “for our family” that if we’re honest, is really more about making us look good.
I got an email from a woman who had a great job at a bank. Then she gave birth to a daughter with health challenges. She made it work for a while, but eventually quit the bank and started an in-home daycare to be with her kids. It came with a pay cut and a plummet in status. Even though she took countless classes and became certified as an early childhood educator, she was often referred to as a “babysitter” by friends and peers. She admitted that she went down the negative road of “what ifs” from time to time. Now that she’s retired, she is grateful for the decision she made and the impact she was able to have in the lives of so many, including her daughter.
Loving your family well isn’t easy. It’s hard and uncomfortable, often bringing feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and fear.
It’s true that you may not be able to make a dent in the policy of global governments.
But it’s also true that no one on Earth can fulfill your mission to love your family.
I suppose it takes a fool to believe that loving your family really can bring happiness to the whole world.
But it would be more foolish not to try.