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Second-hand Trash
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Second-hand furniture, clothes and books keep thrift stores in business and bargain hunters shopping. We recoil, though, at the thought of second-hand smoke or second-hand drinking water. Have you ever heard of second-hand trash?

On my walk this morning I set out armed with two plastic grocery bags, intending to pick up roadside litter seen on yesterday’s walk. Outbound, I picked up food wrappers, small plastic applesauce containers and used paper toweling. Crossing to the other side on the way back, I found a plastic drink bottle and some odds and ends paper trash. About half way on my inbound route I noticed trash on the other side of the road. “Strange,” I thought, “How did I miss that?”

Crossing back to the other side, I picked up the food wrappers and small applesauce containers. Further down the road I picked up some used paper toweling. Strangely, the same-looking trash appeared in a different place. Looking down at my bag I realized that, unknowingly, trash had been spilling out of the plastic bag without me realizing it, re-littering the roadside. Now it became necessary for me to bend over to pick up the debris for a second time.

Emotional Trash

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as second-hand trash in families. Our spouse and children are often the recipients of the spill-over of our emotional “trash.” When we don’t deal productively with our anger, bitterness, selfishness, moodiness, un-forgiveness, or any number of negative emotions or behaviors, we litter the landscape of our family’s environment and cause damage. We don’t intend to hurt our spouses and children, but because of the sin of selfishness or poor emotional hygiene we leave a path of hurt and pain.

Instead, as Christians, we are called to live in ways that bring grace and joy to those around us, including our family members: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

The antidote for second-hand emotional trash in families is a daily infilling of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to live out the fruits of His Spirit in your life. Ask Him to reveal the ways you may be littering the landscape of your family’s emotional environment with your “debris.” Confessing the sin of “second-hand trash” and asking forgiveness of those you have hurt will sweeten your relationships in powerful ways. God will help you find ways to bring beauty into your family’s experience in place of the trash you dropped along the way. As God transforms us, our families will become some of the most beautiful “real estate” on earth!

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By Nancy Gerard. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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