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The Overflowing (vs. Competing) Home

One of the fundamental laws of Home Economics is the Overflowing Principle. That is, the best way to achieve something outside of the home is to put so much into the home that its goodness overflows to the outside world.

First, if your home is not overflowing (i.e. getting what it needs), no other outside efforts can be justified. It is the first duty of any leader of a family.

Second, approaching life in this way keeps a healthy subsidiarity in force, making sure you take care of your obligations closest to you first, before venturing out beyond. If you want to achieve anything beyond the home, the best way to do it without skipping past or cheating your family/neighbors/community is to do so by the home’s overflowing.

In other words, when you consider how to allocate your limited time and energy to serve the world, don’t think of each part as an independent bucket competing for a limited resource:

(Don’t think like this)

Instead, think of it like this:

It’s simple. Fill up the top (home/family) first. Once that’s full, both its fruits and its leftovers spill over to the next level, and on and on it goes. There is a synergy from one level to the next. Each part does not compete with the other, but rather depends upon it.

Just as loving your spouse doesn’t compete with loving God (you love God through loving your spouse), so it is with the home and anything else you feel called to do in this world. If these are ever in competition, something has gone wrong. To overflow your home is to ensure that every part of it, and each person within it, is fulfilled in every way possible (this is the “minimum” responsibility of every parent). Work is not only a part of doing that, but it is a chief purpose of work. So do that first.

A full home fills you up and empowers everything else you are called to do. It is the foundation. If you steal from the foundation to build the towers, both crumble. The greater the heights you are called to climb, the increasingly stronger the foundation must be to support the ascent. Therefore, if you aspire to great things—and want to achieve them without cheating your family, neighbor, and community—build first a great home.

If you want to change the world, the most ordinary and yet most fulfilling way will be by overflowing your home. It won’t be with social media posts or writing a book or running for office or inventing something. You may do those things also, but make sure you do them out of the abundance of an overflowing home. Then they will not only be better, but you’ll have fulfilled your primary duty to your family in the process.

Make your home so good that its fruits bubble over to your neighbors. Make it bubble over with children who become saints who create great homes that do the same. Make your home bubble over with a spirit that changes each person who enters it. Then you will have something worth giving the world. Then when you go out to meet the world you bring balloons, not baggage—lifting it up rather than weighing it down. In a world more anxious and depressed and medicated and stressed and distracted than ever before, this is the gift needed most. Not utopia, but somebody with something extra to give. Extra time. Extra care. Extra grace. Extra joy. And that can only come from an overflowing source.

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