Combat Loneliness by Practicing Compromise

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

I get plenty of time to myself. But I’m not sure that’s a good thing. In our amazing era of customized entertainment options, it may have become too easy for family homes to devolve into a warren of disconnected recluses. Society laments increased loneliness and depression and often lays blame on technology and busy schedules for this growing sense of disconnectedness. But I blame selfishness and the ease with which we need not compromise.

Let me explain. For nearly two years, the lower level of our home was under construction. The hubs and I had this grand idea to completely renovate the space into an entertainment hangout for our kids.

During construction, most of which the hubs did himself, the kids and I lived our waking hours on the main level with–(gasp)–only one television. This meant all viewing decisions were made by polite compromise, heated debate or parental tyranny. I chose not to watch the evening news or Entertainment Tonight while making dinner, lest the youngsters think mom is drawn to politics, natural disaster and celebrity breakups. (Which I kinda am, but pretend not to be.)

But what our boys love more than watching television is playing video games. And this mind-numbing, thumb-frenzied activity was happening right under my upturned nose. I couldn’t wait for our basement to be finished so I could banish Super Mario from my main level kingdom.

And then it happened. The paint dried. The carpet was laid. And TWO televisions were installed in two rooms of our renovated lower level. The original plan called for only one TV in a movie room. But a friend suggested we add a second TV in an outer room so that guests could choose to play video games or watch different movies at the same time. Sounded reasonable. And better yet, the main level TV would be mine. ALL MINE!

Here’s the downside, so pay attention. I can now watch whatever I want whenever I want. I don’t ever have to sit through episodes of Arrow or watch Lego Batman’s endless attempts to save the world. No one needs to compromise anymore. We live in completely self-interested entertainment freedom.

So, for the sake of family togetherness, I force myself to switch off the main floor television, go downstairs, and spend screen time with my kids. I even flex my thumbs at driving a videogame version of my favorite sports car.

You see, left to our natural tendencies, we drift toward personal desires, toward that which resonates best with our own temperaments, beliefs and comfort levels. And I’m not just talkin’ TV shows here. The more opportunities we have to separate ourselves into completely like-minded groups, or be alone with our personalized diversions, the less opportunity there is to practice compromise or develop an appreciation for the longings of others. These perceived freedoms weaken relationships and lead to loneliness.

Our new basement is amazing. But I refuse to let its luxuries break down our family connectivity. In what areas of life should you consider compromise and resist self-interested isolation?

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