The Teacup Principle

I get to spend more time with my mom lately, which I am greatly enjoying. The surgery on her shoulder, not so fun, but driving her to her physical therapy appointments and long talks, priceless. Yesterday we had the chance to reminisce about the Teacup Principle.

In the “It’s all about Me” society that we live in today, it is very easy to take any perceived slight – personally. I remember how I felt when my mom visited me in my first home after I got married and she took a glass out of the cabinet and rinsed it before she would use it. Excuse me mom, but you did teach me to wash dishes and if it is in the cabinet, it is clean. I didn’t say a lot, sometimes hinting, asking why she rinsed the glasses before using them. It hurt. New wife, setting up her first home and even her mom has to rinse the dishes before using them.

At one point, I had the courage to tell my mom, this isn’t just an annoying habit, but it really hurts my feelings when you do that. She was shocked. That was not her intent at all. She was used to living by the Teacup Principle. Her grandmother, my great grandmother had an interesting way of washing dishes. She would suds everything up and get it all nice and clean, then load it into the dish drainer. After all the sudsy dishes were loaded in the drainer, she would take a teacup full of rinse water and pour it over the dishes in the drainer. That was how great grandmother washed dishes.

A Teacup full of rinse water for an entire drainer full of dishes (glasses up side down mind you), meant that most of great grandmother’s dishes were full of soap. One glassful of soapy water, milk or juice, and you quickly learned to rinse out a glass before using it. What my mom didn’t realize was that she had carried the Teacup Principle over when visiting other peoples’ homes, including mine.

We laughed about it again yesterday. Mom knows she doesn’t have to rinse the dishes when she comes to my house. I know she wasn’t personally attacking my ability to keep house as a new wife. It was just the Teacup Principle.

There is a story behind just about everything we do. Instead of getting miffed at what you may perceive as a personal slight, take the time to see if the other party may have a Teacup Principle in their life. And take a look at your own dishes, relationships, obligations and commitments. Is there a chance you are giving out only a teacup full of water, when to get the job done well, you need to immerse yourself?

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