How does your attitude affect those around you?
One morning last week I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. That’s a nice way of saying I was grumpy. My fuse was short. My voice was loud. My temper was nasty. Clearly my heart was not focused on living like Christ has called me to.
My husband and sons, on the other hand, woke up smiling. They were happy at the prospect of a brand-new day, at least until they encountered me at the breakfast table. My attitude stunk, and they smelled the stench pretty quickly. And then, a funny thing happened—instead of persuading me to perk up with their bright smiles, they started to get grumpy themselves. The whining began, so did the bickering. All of this ratcheted up my annoyance which only amped up the bad behavior by everyone else.
You’ve had days like that, right? Your heart’s out of whack and it spills over into your behavior, and before you know it everyone around you is crabby. Our attitudes have the power to spread person to person like a contagious disease.
I read a bold statement on this phenomenon in a book I am reading on motherhood. Author Rachel Jankovic wrote,
“It is not an abstract thing—the state of your heart is the state of your home. You cannot harbor resentment secretly toward your children and expect their hearts to be submissive and tender. You cannot be greedy with your time and expect them to share their toys. And perhaps most importantly, you cannot resist your opportunities to be corrected by God and expect them to receive correction from you (Loving the Little Years, 14-15).
Is it possible that the state of my home and relationships hinges on what’s brewing in the depths of my heart? It’s a possibility that reminds me of a zinger that Jesus once directed at the Pharisees.
In Matthew 23:27 He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
In other words, “Stop putting all of your effort toward looking good to the outside world. Turn your attention toward what matters, because your hearts are starting to stink.”
When we get so busy doing life that we don’t tend to our own hearts by allowing God to shape them, we are also in danger of becoming whitewashed tombs. And then, inevitably, our rotten heart becomes like a stone that gets plunged into the lives of those around us, prompting a ripple effect like the one I experienced on my grumpy morning.
There is a risk of oversimplification here. Certainly our children and husbands and friends and coworkers are responsible for their own behavior. There are times when all is well in our hearts and someone else is guilty of allowing their attitude to get stinky, and then we have to choose to ride the ripples with grace. But we aren’t responsible for them, we are responsible to keep in mind that our attitudes matter, that we need to do the constant work required to make our hearts fertile soil for the Holy Spirit to work, and that ultimately—the state of our hearts is the state of our home.