The houses we build (Untucked Column #13)

I recently heard a story– the story of The Carpenter’s House -- that I want to share with you. A highly skilled carpenter who had grown old was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire.

The employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter agreed to this proposal but made sure that this would be his last project. Being in a mood to retire, the carpenter was not paying much attention to building this house. His heart was not in his work. He resorted to poor workmanship and used inferior materials.

When the job was done, the carpenter called his employer and showed him the house. The employer handed over some papers and the front door key to the carpenter and said "This is your house, my gift to you."

The carpenter was in a shock! What a shame! If only he had known that what he was building was his own house, he would have done it all so differently and made it better than any other house that he had ever built! Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

The carpenter could have been resentful at his boss for not disclosing what he was building but the issue was that he put forth less than his best and would have been trying to take it out on a gracious boss. How many times have we tried to blame someone for choices that we have made? How often have we played the victim to circumstances that we have created?

Have you ever built something that you never wanted to out of guilt? Obligation? Shame? Pressure? Impatience? Trying to please someone? Then one day, you just snap. You realize that you are just not happy and maybe even miserable. All hands should be raised because we all have. There is good news, though.

If you take stock of what you have built and don’t like what you see, you have the ability to make renovations. Is your house filled with clutter? Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – its anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living. You no longer have to be or play the victim. The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.

We have to be mature enough to understand that we have toxic traits too; it’s not always the other person. A situation that brings humility is better than an achievement that triggers arrogance. With this in mind, give yourself some grace, space, and time to make moves in a better more healthy direction.


Imagine a little baby taking his first step. He’s joyful and chubby and he’s been balancing in place without holding on to the coffee table for weeks now. Finally, he takes his first steps from the safety of the side of the table, then wobbles across the living room rug to grasp the edge of the sofa. He gets there and looks up at you with elation and pride and so much excitement.

Would you look at that baby and say: “that’s great but why aren’t you running by now?” You wouldn’t! But yet we do this to ourselves all the time. We compare our progress to that of everyone around us - we engage in negative self-talk and believe the lie that we should be further along because of someone else’s journey. Don’t minimize what you have accomplished. Pay attention to the tiny steps you took across the living room carpet on wobbly legs. Celebrate the small moments. They’re important. Those little steps will still get you to where you’re supposed to go.

Your greatest opportunity is in the place of your greatest opposition. If it were not hard it would not be worth fighting for, would not be worth surviving for. Growth hurts and change is challenging. But the greater pain is in deciding to stay stuck where you no longer belong. It’s not a fear of failure that keeps you in this place, it’s a fear of what other people will think of your failure. Every storm eventually runs out of rain. Where you’re at in life now is only a season, not a life sentence.

Steve Sauceda