This is scary! The person you are in the privacy of your home is the real you. This is true for all of us. Our true character is always revealed in the real world of family life. Many of us had a parent who portrayed one image outside the home, in the community, but back with the family, when the doors were closed, he or she portrayed a different image.
We do not like to admit it, but the worst part of our character comes out at home. Would you give your boss the “silent treatment?” Not if you want to remain employed. How about someone in your men’s or women’s Bible study at church? You would not even consider being that rude to someone at church. So why do we give the silent treatment to our family members at home? Because our real character, and our real character problems, come out at home.
When was the last time you lost your temper with a co-worker or one of your friends? Most of us are able to “keep it together” when we are at work or spending time with friends. So why is it that we lose our temper so often at home with our family members? It is because the intensity of family relationships reveal the real state of our character. For some, family is a safe place to be real with our true emotions. A mom can show great tenderness and patience with the kids they take care of in children’s ministry but are harsh and short-tempered with their husbands and children. A dad stays on top of the details of everything at work but so often seems to forget everything that needs to be done around the house.
As parents, it is easy to fall into the trap of measuring our child’s character based on his or her life outside the house. Have you ever had one of your daughter’s teachers go on and on about how well she is doing in class, how respectful she is, and how considerate she is of the other students? Of course, we like hearing this type of praise, but in the back of our minds, we are thinking, Are we talking about my daughter here? Is this the same kid who just threw a complete fit on the way to school this morning because she was not allowed to see her friends after school today? Or perhaps your son spends the evening at a friend’s house, and the other parent gives you a glowing report of how well behaved he was, how he said please and thank you, and how he cleaned up his own dishes. You hear all this while struggling to remember the last time you experienced these same virtues at home. Who your son or daughter is at home is who they really are.
At first, it does not seem right that we are at our worst at home. But consider how perfectly God designed the institution of the family. Family relationships are the only relationships hot enough and intense enough to bring out the worst in our character. God created the family in such a way that the worst in us would come out with the very people He made to love us unconditionally and to stick with us for the rest of our lives. What a great plan! Unfortunately, because we do not understand that He created our family as a discipleship center, when those ugly things emerge at home, we often become angry or impatient with one another, rather than seeing these moments as opportunities to help each other grow.