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How to grow in virtue when you live with roommates

ROOMMATES
YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV | Shutterstock
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Living with others isn’t easy. Here’s some great advice from St. Therese, who learned how to let it make her better.

Do you live with someone to save on rent? Maybe you have a roommate or you have a few housemates. Or maybe you’re in a college dorm and counting down the days until you can live somewhere on your own. Either way, you know intimately the joys and sorrows of sharing space with others. Some roommates are very considerate, and some … are not. Some roommates are very tidy, and some … are not. Some roommates pay their share of the rent on time … and some do not. If you’re having trouble with roommates, today’s saint may be just the person you need to read about.  

St. Therese of Lisieux had a lot of experience with living with others. She was the youngest of five girls growing up. And then, she lived with many women in a convent for the rest of her life. St. Therese’s childhood is a bit unusual, as she was born and raised in a family by two parents who are also canonized saints, and a sister who is in the canonization process. Talk about a holy family! One habit that one of St. Therese’s sisters taught her was to use beads to keep track of little good deeds throughout the day. So, any time she was kind to a sibling, or did something she didn’t like without complaining, she would move one bead. At the end of the day, she would see how many she had done. (This is generally the idea of the sacrifice beads, if you want a visual). 

This practice came in handy when St. Therese entered the convent, as there was one sister in particular who was rude to her, and whom St. Therese did not naturally like at all. But, after realizing she would have to live with her for the foreseeable future, St. Therese worked on never speaking rudely to her, and instead just smiling when she wanted to complain. She did little acts of kindness for her, even though the sister was always rude to her.  

If you’ve ever lived with someone who completely rubs you the wrong way, you know what a feat never speaking rudely or complaining about someone is. And even if you generally get along with your roommates, the people you live with will inevitably annoy you at one point or another. When that happens, it is a great time to practice loving them in little ways. 

In honor of St. Therese’s feast day, here are some suggestions for ways to show your roommates you love and respect them, even if they aren’t easy to love right now. 

  1. Close your mouth instead of responding sharply or sarcastically to your roommate when they do something that irritates you. 
  2. Watch a show that someone else wants to watch instead of insisting on your preferred show. 
  3. Clean up your roommate’s mess without him or her knowing. (Another saint, St. Catherine of Siena, was the youngest in a big family. She would sneak upstairs when everyone was asleep and clean as a way to help out.) 
  4. Make a snack or meal that you know your roommates like, and leave some for them to eat, or share it with them.
  5. Leave an encouraging note of affirmation for your roommate to find when he or she wakes up tomorrow. 

We’re stuck with our roommates at least until one of us moves or the lease or school year ends. So, let’s show them some appreciation today, St. Therese style. You don’t have to clean the whole house or buy all of their groceries; you can just do one little act of kindness for them. Ready? Go. 

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