The Key to Unlocking Bitterness & Frustration

Have you ever done something nice for someone and it went unnoticed?

Have you ever had the opportunity to do something special for someone and when you did there was no reward, not even a thank you?

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This is the story of my wife, Rachel. As some of you know, we have three children ages four, two, and six months. Rachel is a busy stay-at-home mom. Not only is there the busyness of keeping all three children on a daily schedule of meals, naps, education, play time, etc, there is also the work of staying on top of managing our crazy household with things like cleaning, laundry, and a long list of things that make my remaining hair fallout or turn grey.

Now, if you know me I tend to be a little OCD. One of the features of my disease is cleanliness. I don’t do clutter. I grew up on a farm with a dad who was a packrat, if not a downright hoarder (sorry Dad, it’s true). My dad has no option of where to live. If he didn’t have 100+ acres he would go clinically insane without space to store all of his junk, I mean, items that he has procured over his life.

For me, the pendulum swung in the entire opposite direction. I’m a minimalist. I don’t do knick-knacks. I don’t collect weird things that adorn the nooks and crannies of my home. I do collect books. Books that are neatly displayed on shelves according to subject and alphabetized by author. I enjoy order and structure. I love the word “clean.”

For Rachel, she knows I find immense pleasure when the house is clean and clear of clutter. Toys are put away, dishes have been washed and put back into their cupboards, and the clothes have been cleaned and folded neatly in our dressers and closets.

Now, do you think this picturesque scene is a regular occurrence at the Winterhalter home with all that my wife is facing? No, not really. She would have to have the powers of Superman with blazing speed and super patience and the truth is superman, if given this task, would be suicidal by the end of day one.

Instead, our living room is often a mine-field of dolls and toys that beg for the bottom of your tender feet to find them. Our kitchen is evidence of the preparation and effort that went into the creation of the last meal and many snacks that have been enjoyed and devoured. Our furniture often becomes trees where branches display the latest Winterhalter wardrobe in stunning array.

So, when Rachel works extremely hard to clean the house and make it a den of zen for our family do you think that when I come home I acknowledge this almost supernatural miracle?

Sadly, there are many times that I don’t. You see, somewhere in the stupidity and selfishness of my mind I expect to walk into a clean house every time I come home from a long day of work. In the depth of my heart I feel entitled to this “simple” joy because hey, I work hard for my family. I work diligently to put this roof over our head and food on our table and the list goes on and on of all the things I do to earn my expectations.

This is where entitlement leads. It leads to frustration and it leads to bitterness. If we don’t deal with selfishness of our hearts and our entitlement mindset our trajectory will be one where no one wants to be around us and we will lose our ability to influence and lead.

I’m glad I have a wife who gently calls me out on my sin. She never yells at me for being an ignoramus by ignoring her hard work and she doesn’t break down and cry in the midst of my failure. She calmly and in love helps me see the condition of my heart in order for me to admit my failure and appreciate her with the kindness and affection she deserves, not primarily because she cleaned the house, but primarily because she is my joy and the delight of my heart.

I’m thankful I have a spouse who calls me out on my entitlement attitude. I’m glad she sees in me not the man that I currently am but the man God wants me to become.

Where is entitlement holding you back? Is your frustration and bitterness a result of unmet expectations? Where might you be able to have a heart of service instead of entitlement?

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