Don’t air the family’s dirty laundry

September 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Family LIfe

Do you remember your parents telling you to not air your family’s dirty laundry? It’s a metaphor which apparently can be traced back to Napolean. The idea being that you shouldn’t do laundry in public (eg hang clothes on a line to dry) that would reveal intimate details of your life and you also shouldn’t tell others about the troubles and private things that happen in your family.

I remember hearing this saying when I was young and my Granny was still alive. I remember wondering why (if this saying were true as a fact as well as a metaphor) she would hang her unmentionables on our clothes line when she visited. Now I should mention that my Gran was a wonderful lady but she was a very large woman and her private garments would attract attention. However, for some reason she seemed oblivious to this fact.

I’m telling this story because I believe that somehow, somewhere along the way, we’ve adopted the idea that what happens behind closed family doors is no one’s business but our own. Which has again somehow led to the idea that we are free to behave in ways in our homes that we would not act in public.Although I’ve seen this in many Christian homes, it is not God’s idea of how a Christian home should function. Being a Christian is about who we are and who we’re becoming, it’s not just about what we believe. As we submit our lives to God, he by his grace and the work of the Holy Spirit begins (and never stops) to change our hearts and that change should be reflected in our behavior. The first place that our changed behavior should show up is in our closest relationships – in our family relationships.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words. “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2)

Notice that Paul assumes that our best behavior would be used on our family members and he therefore exhorts Timothy (and us) to treat other Christians how we treat our family. Would it go over well if you treated the people at church the same way you’ve allowed yourself to treat your spouse and/or children from time to time in the privacy of your own home?

In the same letter to Timothy, Paul outlines the qualifications for leaders in the church and reveals that what goes on at home either qualifies or disqualifies you for leadership. Would others question your ability to minister to others if they saw a video (taken secretly) of you at home?

The only Biblical application I can see for ‘Don’t air our family’s dirty laundry’ is that we shouldn’t gossip about our family members or maliciously share their mistakes with others. Our homes should be a safe place to grow and make mistakes but it was never meant to be a place where we can behave badly because we’ve been led to believe that a Las Vegas like slogan applies, ‘what happens at home stays at home’.

Try this, next time you’re reading the Bible, with each instruction ask yourself “Am I living this at home?” If you’re not, stop and pray and ask for God’s help. Also start checking your home behavior, if you’re about to scream or get unreasonable stop and think if you’d speak that way to your pastor. If you’re doing something that you wouldn’t want to talk about Sunday morning then think about why you’d even consider behaving that way in front of the ones you love the most.

Perhaps my Granny knew this to be true and was reversing the metaphor when she hung out her large unmentionables to dry. Or perhaps she just wanted dry unmentionables. I’ll ask her when I get to heaven.

For more practical and Biblical Christian Parenting ideas, we recommend the Christian resource, “The Seven Mistakes Parents of Toddlers Make”

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(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad – your source for Christian Parenting advice, resources and books)

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