Our house can get really gross. We’ve lapsed back into that bad, bad place we were in months ago where none of us are keeping up with our chores and the little things – like cleaning the excess food out of the bottom of the sink, making room in the fridge, putting a new roll of toilet paper up when it runs out, and not throwing our clothes on the floor in the bathroom – have started causing the type of frustration and stress that makes me not even want to come home (or, when I am home, makes me want to hole up in my room and never come out).
The first couple of times it happens, I let it go (I mean, we ALL have those weeks). Usually, with some inward sense of servanthood, I take care of it. I’ll clean out the fridge and rearrange it myself. I’ll clean someone else’s dishes or fold someone’s forgotten clothes in a pile. And then it starts to become frequent. Deep down somewhere the tiniest bit of anger starts to surface. After a while, my frustration culminates into rage and this horrible version of myself is brought forth. Monday was that day. I came home to a horribly unclean kitchen, a bathroom with clothes strewn all over the floor, and I just got so angry. My response was to take a picture, send it to my roommates with a snarky comment about how disgusting it all was, and storm out of the house to blow off some steam at the gym.
But somewhere over the course of the day, I cooled down and realized that behind all of this – behind all of those little things that built up and built up – I was angry because the neglect of our house made me feel unloved. While it was a valid feeling, I had this realization about the way I responded to feeling unloved:
I responded to feeling unloved by being unloving.
Neglecting to communicate my feelings, talking to other people instead of my roommates, letting myself get to the point of anger, the passive aggressiveness and snarky comments – all of those responses were even worse than a dirty sink or forgotten clothes, because they were intentionally unloving.
At our house meeting that night, we were all sitting around and I felt the need to tell my roommates all of this and apologize. And you know what the next hour looked like? All of us going around the room saying what we loved about each other. Loving each other. Spending time together. Not worrying about who was going to do the dishes that night or if anyone was going to pick up those clothes. And two days later the clothes were still on the floor. But the anger was gone.
I think the key to loving each other when it’s hard is to be face-to-face with each other. When we are together, when we communicate the hard things, when we encourage each other with the good things – that is when community gets healthy. It doesn’t change all of our bad habits, but it helps us to learn how to love each other better.