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Are They Impressed Yet?

Last year's tree
You know how you sometimes start thinking about one thing, which leads to another, and then another? I was originally thinking about decorating our home for Christmas. That led to thoughts about one day buying a home that I could decorate, which led to contemplation on big beautiful homes in general ... and then it dawned on me.

I'm slow, so forgive me if you've already figured this out. While most of us probably do like living in a clean, organized, aesthetically-appealing home with matching decor, I realized that when we strive so hard to make our abodes look magazine-worthy, we do so to impress others. Not necessarily family "others," but our friends and colleagues and neighbors and acquaintances. I mean, my Hubbs and Little L could care less about the colour of the rug and whether or not the book baskets match the drapes, even though this is the space they live in 24x7. So why do I care? My comfort and convenience may be enhanced by having modern appliances, but I'm sure the white stoves work just as well as the stainless ones. The safety and sanctuary I feel from being in my home is not contingent on all of my decor being colour-coordinated, nor on how consistently the "theme" of the room holds together.

But I suppose, like everyone, I do care what others think. I want to make my home look "nice" so that nobody looks down on me, or presumes that I'm a stunted grown-up or bad parent or *gasp* poor. 

At the heart of it is a fear of people's judgement, and pride, and a value set gone awry. Though there may be great personal satisfaction derived from furnishing a home well, I wonder how much of that satisfaction comes from within, as opposed to others' admiration and envy and approval feeding into one's own pride? 

Lest you think that I'm out to lunch on this: what images do you conjure when you think of a college student's apartment? Or a bachelor pad? What opinions do you form about the residents based on these stereotypical images? And what judgements do you make when you see a home with couches that don't match, or kids' beds with floral sheets and gray comforters, or tables made of milk crates and sheets of plywood? Or when you notice a dollar-store soap dish and air freshener in the guest bathroom, or a pile of laundry sitting in a corner of a family room? Maybe you're a better person than I, but I know that if I'm being honest, I do make unwarranted judgements based on what I see: ideas about the person's socio-economic status, their domestic abilities, work ethic, maturity, and parenting. It's awful that I do this, and equally awful that I am a recipient of this kind of baseless characterization too.

And yet, it is a reality that despite our best intentions not to judge, we do so anyway. We run ourselves into debt keeping up with our neighbors or trying to impress them with our nice things and big houses and fancy cars. We spruce up our abodes before guests arrive, putting out the "good towels" and "nice dishes" so that they won't know that we normally use the crappy stuff. We shove things into storage and junk drawers to make our homes seem tidy, when in reality we live in the clutter when nobody's looking. We compete when there is no prize or even a finish line in sight, and we place so much of our identity on what we have rather than who we are.

It is a vicious cycle. I'm not sure how to break it, but I do think that being aware that I am guilty of this is a good first step. Maybe next time I won't judge when I see a messy or mismatched home, and maybe I will try not to fret so much before friends come to visit. Instead of being a Martha who needs to keep up appearances, perhaps I will be a Mary instead. And rather than spread myself thin trying to make my home a glorious spectacle of Christmas cheer, I will resolve to be satisfied with simply having decorations, period. The important thing, I must remember, isn't to impress everyone else; this is a fleeting goal that I might never achieve, and that might drive me batty in the process. The better goal is to love my neighbour as myself, and humbly consider others better than I. After all, at the end of the day, I would much rather impress Jesus from within my heart than anybody else from within my four walls. Who do you seek to impress, and are they impressed yet?

She's not impressed. And note the mess of "stuff" in the background.


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