| Family Reflections |

Lighten Up

You can bring light into your home by toning down the negativity


We’re all drawn to the light of the menorah. In fact, we’re all drawn to light, period. Our souls and psyches are programmed by our Creator to read “light” as joy and peace. Darkness, on the other hand, signals danger and is associated in our minds with pain, struggle, and suffering. Light makes us feel lighthearted and happy again, free from the smothering, depressing weight of darkness. So of course, we love Chanukah, the holiday of light.

Considering Consequences

Some homes are lighter and brighter than others. The people who live in them are generally happier and healthier as a result.

Why should it be this way? Isn’t every family engaged in essentially the same tasks? Under every roof, we see children playing and learning, adults learning, teaching, helping, relating, working; we see meals being prepared, rooms and belongings being cleaned and ordered. Why should some people enjoy all of this far more than others? We’re all doing essentially the same thing!

But of course, we’re doing it in vastly different ways.

“My husband looks ahead and around every corner. He always sees what’s coming next and what we have to do to ward off problems and disasters. He’s saved us from near disaster when traveling, renovating our home, sending our kids to schools, and so much more. The problem is that this talent comes with a downside. I find it oppressive to hear all these dire warnings constantly.

“The worst part of it, though, is watching him do this to the kids. They’re all tense when he’s around — and with good reason. He can’t let them just be. He tells me, ‘If I don’t point these things out to them, they’ll turn out like you, oblivious to the world around them. My kids need to be functional and I’m going to ensure that they are!’ His attitude is oppressive. I know he means well, but he’s taking things too far. He sours our family experience.

The husband in this example seems to be able to consider every consequence except the one arising out of his interpersonal behavior. “Helping” loved ones with frequent corrections and warnings may raise their awareness and improve their patterns of thinking, but it may also make them become avoidant of their “tutor.” It can be a case of “too much of a good thing.”

This gentleman needs to keep his eye on the amount of corrective and protective information that he doles out on a daily basis, choosing only the absolutely essential minimum of behaviors to correct. He can rely on the powerful role of his own model as an excellent teaching device; everyone in the household can learn just from watching him in action.

Stress, Pressure, and Negativity

There are many ways to darken family life. Although criticism and fearmongering are good for this, the routine expression of intense negative emotion is surely one of the best ways to dim the atmosphere. Running late and the kids are dawdling? Why not make this sound like the world is coming to an end? Someone left his cup on the table? There’s an opportunity to lecture, nag, whine, and complain!

In fact, the daily behavior of those we live with can certainly bring us to the brink of despair, giving us plenty of opportunity to demonstrate how awful and painful life really is. Spouse failed to say “thank you”? You can make it clear that the marriage is now hanging by a thread as you refuse to talk to your social-grace-impaired partner for the next three days.

Indeed, any form of drama will do the trick. Any long, loud, silent, brooding show of displeasure aimed at anyone in the house can significantly darken the atmosphere, no matter how many menorahs are lit.

But why go that route? You can bring light into your home by lightening up! Judging everyone for the good can brighten your perspective when they make inevitable errors. Tone it down instead of revving it up and you’ll find that you gain more cooperation  and love!

Make your home brighter and more cheerful by focusing on the blessings right in front of you that can never be taken for granted: your family, your home, and your opportunity to fulfill mitzvos in freedom  just for starters.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 721)

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