I just recently heard of the Broken Windows Theory for the first time. It is an academic theory that was proposed by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, using broken windows as a metaphor for disorder within neighborhoods. Their theory linked disorder and incivility within a community to subsequent occurrences of serious crime. It was a progressive approach because for the first time, instead of focusing on the crime in isolation, they saw serious crime as the final result of a lengthier chain of events. They theorized that crime emanated from disorder and that if disorder were eliminated, serious crimes would not occur.
To me, this theory has further reaching applications than neighborhood crime, though. I think it also applies to the choices we make, and how those choices can then lead to bigger problems, both personally and in regards to our relationships. And sometimes, our actions may create broken windows that convince others they have certain ungiven rights into our lives.
What if by being disorderly in our lives we are creating even more chaos and problems down the line?
This “what if” struck a chord with me. I have personally noticed that whenever my house is becoming a real mess (and by that I mean every room being out of order), there seems to be a chain of events that follows. My messy house snowballs into unorganized days where no one can find what they are looking for. Clothes, paper work, a favorite toy… it all gets lost in the abyss. That, in turn, affects being on time for other activities, because if you can’t find what you need before leaving the house, you won’t likely leave on time. Frustration piles up, leading to a big blow off of steam that leaves us all feeling emotionally empty.
What if by letting ourselves go physically and emotionally, our relationships are being affected?
If we do not take care of and respect ourselves, perhaps others find it easier to be disrespectful towards us.
Our broken windows convince them that’s what we deserve.
According to this theory, little things can make a difference in creating big changes quickly and with minimal “expense.” After all, it is far simpler to attack disorder than to attack the bigger problems that disorder creates.
So perhaps it’s time to start thinking about repairing your own broken windows and attack your personal disorder before it becomes a bigger mess.
Share with us which area of your life are you planning to start with?