Living together, though necessary, can also stretch relationships. One way we can protect our relationships is by respecting each other’s boundaries. We need to respect people’s time, energy, and property. We need to respect the dreams and passions of others as well. Just because we are family – we are siblings – or they are my kids – does not mean we can do what we like!
Some examples of things that respect each other:
- Be considerate of what others are doing – they may be having their devotional time, sleeping in, talking on the phone, studying, or visiting with a friend. We may need to tone down our noise to respect others.
- Ask before we borrow something belonging to others, and replace it or fix it if it gets broken while we are using it.
- Respect other people’s choices – such as the music or TV show they are watching. We will get our turn next.
- Be tactful when people’s style and taste differs from yours
- Give time to support each other’s events (sport, drama, music etc)
- Be considerate when someone is tired, giving them opportunity to rest or help with their chores
- Listen when someone is talking, even if we don’t have the same passions
- Be punctual and not make people late or wait for us
- Do all we can practically to make someone else’s project successful – we may give ideas, time, effort or money to make it happen
- Interrupt people talking, thinking or reading with consideration – we don’t just barge into a room already talking – we wait till people are ready to hear what we have to say.
Another aspect that may not be as easy to define is that everyone needs their space. Traditionally families have given children their own rooms for this to happen. We haven’t taken that path. Our kids have shared bedrooms (boys / girls room) and this has actually strengthened relationships – though it takes effort to make it work. One of the things we have talked about is recognising the signs that your room-mate needs some space.
Needing space is not just a physical concern – though we do need space to organise our belongings and have a physical rest – there are times though that we need space emotionally. There are times that our children need to be alone and this needs to be respected by parents and siblings alike. When our kids were little we would send them to their room to sort out their heart. This has become a way of life for us – when we have a grumpy heart we need space; space to get our heart right before we sin! We also need space mentally especially when studying or working out a problem.
When every person in the family is respectful of these inner needs we can make room for each other’s weak spots and at the same time encourage each other to grow. We don’t need to know all the details – we just need to be prepared to show love and respect. This is gracious living together.