Roommate Troubles

Our community (being a college town) is emptying out for the holidays. Students are taking finals and heading home.  For many of them,  not only is it wonderful to be looking forward to a break from their studies, to some much missed family time and the excitement of Christmas, but it is also a welcome relief to have a break from their roommates.

Roommate troubles are as common as can be. And Christmas break is as good a time as any to get them sorted out before school starts up again next month. So here are a few thoughts to help get the process started.

Some troubles are so serious that the best solution is to separate. It is always better to separate on good terms rather than on bad terms, so whatever apologies that should be made ought to be made as soon as possible. But sometimes the differences of lifestyle are so pronounced, that for the sake of peace someone ought to move on.

But more often roommate troubles are of the petty variety. She picks her teeth. She hogs the bathroom. She never admits it when she is wrong. She borrows stuff without asking. She always criticizes. She leaves her stuff out. She never helps with the dishes. And there is probably a whole lot more. A truckload of petty annoyances can seem pretty overwhelming. But it can and should be dealt with. Where to start is a good question.

Let’s not argue over the list. Let’s say she really is like this. But notice the sweeping absolutism of the charges. She never helps? (Not even once?) She always criticizes?(Without exception?) Words like never and always will ratchet the problem up in your mind to a global scope. Once you are disposed to see the negative, it will be difficult to see anything positive at all.  So reconsider your use of these words. She seldom picks up her stuff is probably more accurate.

Often when you are under a pile of petty grievances, the real issue at the bottom is your own discontent. What you see as your roommate’s problem has caused a sinful attitude in your own heart. Discontent chafes and fusses, recites its grievances over and over, justifies itself, and then starts over again with the fussing. Discontent makes the heart miserable, robs it of all legitimate joy, and fogs the vision. Discontent won’t help you see the situation clearly at all. It skews everything, slanting it to support your own case.

So the best way out is to change your own heart, since you cannot change your roommate’s heart or behavior. Thank God that He is sanctifying you, and thank Him that He is using your roommate to reveal some of your own fleshly tendencies (things like a short temper, a critical spirit, a lack of love, self-justification, to name a few). When you see her justify herself, let it be a sermon to you to never behave that way. When she fails to do her duty, you will be qualified to call her on it if you are not out of fellowship yourself.

If you just don’t like your roommate, there is no law that says you must be best friends. But you do need to treat her lawfully, with courtesy, as a Christian sister. That excludes backbiting, gossiping about her, rejoicing when she meets with hard times, or attributing bad motives to her. Living with someone difficult is actually one of the most humbling experiences because it reveals how much we need the grace of God. In ourselves, with our own resources, it is impossible to live in a way that is consistent with what we believe and know to be true. So rejoice that God has not just shown you your own neediness, but rejoice that He promises to supply these needs Himself.

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4 thoughts on “Roommate Troubles

  1. Nancy, you have a way with words that just always hits the bullseye! I’m not at college, but this was a great reminder to me to be the kind of ‘roommate’ to my husband who is a pleasure to be around!

    Thanks also for not mincing your words when you talk about contentment. I need to hear it that way. 🙂

  2. My first year at college I was rather appalled at my roommate. She was much like you described. I was lamenting to my older sister about it and she asked if I’d filled out a questionnaire about my living habits before coming to the dorm…”why Yes! I had!”
    So she told me that that was what they used in assigning LIKE roommates…Ummmmm OH dear! What a revelation!!!

    Really, the only difference between us was I don’t think she EVER made any unkind remarks about my poor habits…

  3. Good words for all of us. I’m long past college, but see the same things in myself and others at home and at the office. Your words provide a clear lense for seeing those things more clearly – many thanks!

  4. But Nancy, you just don’t understand how hard I have it! I mean, my roommate is the sort of person who would pick me for a roommate! How can I possibly endure living in proximity to someone with such a deep character flaw???

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