Home Repairs

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If you are a homeowner like me, you likely have a “fix-it” list somewhere in your house. A few couples call it a “honey-do” list because the intention is that one spouse is responsible for repairing things on the list. Some of the items may require one quick trip to the hardware store, while others may take several months along with several car rides to one of the big-box home improvement centers. There may be an item or two that you aren’t sure how to fix, but there are always people or books or YouTube videos available to show you how.

The same is not true, however, when attempting to fix those we love. Most of us are guilty of picking a family member in our mind and then devoting ourselves to fixing their issues, most times without their knowledge. Right now, for example, you might be able to reel off a list of things you’re struggling with concerning your wife, and you’re convinced it’s her problem. You might think about your children and dream that if they would just change this or do that differently, they would be so sweet.

The reality is we can’t fix anyone other than ourselves. We’re the only ones with the how-to manual on ourselves. What if you turned to the first page and there were instructions on improving your attitude? Whose life would benefit from that happening? What if you turned to page seven and learned how to increase the productivity of your actions? Who would be thankful if they saw you do something different than what you’ve been doing, especially if what you were doing was harmful or unpleasant?

That’s what happened with a gentleman I met with recently who was continually at odds with his wife. He initially thought the problem was her, but as we talked and analyzed the situation, it came down to his attitude. He discovered the root cause was that he really disliked his job but felt trapped by his mortgage, cell phone bills, and car payments.

Instead of talking it out with his wife, he was taking it out on her. It’s amazing how adding just one letter to a word can alter the meaning and outcome. Once he realized the core of the problem, he worked on improving his attitude, and that benefitted her. He was able to admit his shortcoming, seek forgiveness, and talk openly about solutions.

I believe the tendency to want to fix other people is not always motivated by a desire to help them change, but from a yearning to avoid our own issues. What better way to ignore your own problems than by identifying and focusing on someone else’s? It makes you look better to yourself and others when you talk about, for example, what’s wrong with your spouse. The words should taste bitter when you speak negatively about someone else, but in that moment, the flavor of not taking responsibility for your own actions is sweeter.

If only we could live without worrying about changing ourselves. We would cease to doubt or speculate about what we said or did and whether it negatively affected anyone else. Although there is freedom in that thought, can you imagine the chaos created by that kind of mentality? Our role is to take responsibility to fix whatever is broken in us—not others!