How Do You Respond When Your Spouse and Kids Annoy You?
Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to honor a perfect stranger, or someone you hardly know, than it is the people you love the most? I find this to be not only true in my own life, but very perplexing. How is it so much easier to be patient, kind and understanding to people I don’t really know than it is to be all those things with my wife and kids?
Do I love the people at the gas station more than my own family? Do I prefer the company of the grocery store clerk over my kids? Are my co-workers more deserving of my best than my wife? I doubt we would answer any of these questions in the affirmative and yet, practically speaking, we live life as if we answered “yes” to them all.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13: 7 as he teaches on what love looks like in daily life. Paul, speaking of love, says that it:
“Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”
In other words, when it comes to the people we claim to love the most our love should produce more patience, more kindness, more hope and more trust. So whatever measure of these attributes we show towards the relative strangers we live next door to, work with, or encounter at the grocery store, the measure shown to our wife, kids, and extended family (Christian brothers and sisters) should be greater.
So even though you find it annoying that your co-worker whistles all day, or it really bugs you that the teller smacks her gum while talking to you, or your neighbor’s apparent lack of common courtesy is frustrating, the fact that you show patience, kindness and respect to these people is a good thing. What is not good is when you become visibly irritated, verbally frustrated or completely lose your patience with those you claim to love most over the same quirky pet-peeves.
By honoring those we don’t know all that well and don’t claim to love more than our own wife, kids, families, church family and others we do claim to love, we mix-up Paul’s message and send the wrong message to those we are closest to. Don’t get me wrong, showing the attributes of love for the world around us is needed and must be an aspect of our walk with Christ. However, showing the attributes of love to the lost world around us while not bestowing the same honor on our own family is harmful.
Carey Nieuwhof has written a very helpful article on this very topic with some practical advice I think we all need reminded of occasionally. He says;
“So why not change your assumption about the people you live with? Why not decide there’s a perfectly good explanation as to why they forgot to turn off the lights/empty the dishwasher/do their homework? Why don’t you assume they meant to, but forgot? Got called away by something urgent? Left the room to help someone else? Were coming back to get it done but you just happened to walk in early? Three things will happen.
- First, you’ll have a lot less conflict in your home.
- Second, you’ll feel better about the people you live with, and they’ll feel better about you. You will begin to honor each other.
- Third, people might actually start turning off the lights. Because you’ve treated them as responsible people who tend to do these things. People have a way of becoming what we believe about them.”
You see, our beliefs about the people we know best, the people we claim to love the most, will have a lasting impact on them. Our spouse needs to know that we love them so much we assume the best, no matter how annoying it is that they can’t pick up their socks off the floor. Our kids need to know we believe they intend to do the right thing, even when they fail. If we continually assume our spouse and children will always do the wrong thing, they will.
By bestowing this kind of high honor on our spouse and kids we will be living out Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:7 and showing them just how much we truly love them. It’s not easy to “bear all things,” such as the ups and downs of a marriage. It’s not easy to “believe all things,” by seeing the good in our spouse and kids continually. It’s not easy to “hope all things,” by giving our spouse and kids the benefit of the doubt. And it’s not easy to “endure all things,” as life can be a real trial at times.
But our spouse and children are worth every effort we can make to ensure they know, without a doubt, that we love them.