Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Find a Good Roommate?
“Without roommates, there’s no way I could have served as a full-time evangelizer and paid rent and utilities.”—Lynn. *
WHEN young ones leave home, they are often shocked to find out just how much it costs to live in the ‘real world.’ For many, a way to cope with the high cost of living is to share expenses with one or more roommates.
But as a previous article in this series pointed out, rooming with someone—especially a perfect stranger—can be a real challenge. * This is true even among young Christians who are rooming together in order to serve as full-time evangelizers. Whatever your particular situation, if you are thinking of rooming with someone, it only makes sense for you to use “practical wisdom” in choosing that person. *—Proverbs 3:21.
The Danger of Bad Association
Many young adults turn to bulletin boards, classified ads in newspapers, and the Internet to find potential roommates. But for young Christians, such sources have serious pitfalls. They will likely lead to your meeting individuals who do not share your faith, morals, or standards. Is it narrow-minded or antisocial to want to room only with someone of the same faith? No, it is the course of wisdom. The Bible itself warns: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Consider a young woman named Lee. She was not yet a baptized Christian when she began living in a university dormitory. “It was a dangerous environment,” she recalls. “Some of the girls would come home and find their roommate having sex.” Living there soon had a negative impact on Lee’s spirituality. “I missed most of my Christian meetings,” she admits. Not surprisingly, her conduct steadily deteriorated. “One day, I found myself cursing, and one of the girls said: ‘Does Jehovah approve of that?’” How humiliating! Fortunately, Lee got out of that unwholesome environment and began to make spiritual advancement. But her experience illustrates the danger of living with people who do not respect your standards.
Finding Suitable Roommates
Where, then, might you look? Begin with your own local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Interestingly, those who are full-time evangelizers often meet other spiritually-minded youths at various schools and meetings that are held especially for full-time preachers. * Parents, local congregation elders, traveling overseers, and others can also be helpful; they might know of some youths who would make suitable roommates.
Word of mouth can also be a powerful tool. The more people you let know of your need, the more likely you are to get results. (Ecclesiastes 11:6) Above all, ask Jehovah for help in finding a roommate, and look to him to bless your efforts.—1 John 5:14, 15.
Checking Things Out
Having found a potential roommate, you may be eager to get together soon. But it is wise to do some checking first. Is that person “well reported on by the brothers” in his or her congregation? (Acts 16:1, 2) Perhaps you and your parents can speak directly with spiritually qualified individuals who know him or her. You might ask: ‘What reputation does this one have? Is this person stable emotionally and spiritually? Does he or she share in preaching to others and in commenting at meetings? Is this person known for upright conduct?’
Remember, “he that is walking with wise persons will become wise.” (Proverbs 13:20) “My roommate is very spiritually-minded,” says David. “That helps keep me going spiritually.” Renee, who has had a number of roommates, similarly says: “Some of my roommates would suggest that we read a chapter of the Bible together every night. Since my folks weren’t Witnesses, we never had a family Bible study. So being able to have ‘family study’ with my roommates was just awesome for me!” Yes, having a roommate who shares your love of spiritual things can be a real blessing.
Talking Things Out
Next, get together in person and discuss matters. Such conversations can help you determine if your personalities are compatible. Interestingly, a study reported on in the journal Communication Research Reports revealed that roommates who are similar in their communication traits “reported the highest roommate satisfaction and liking.” So if you are the open, sociable, expressive type, you may run into problems rooming with someone who is reserved, quiet, or inclined to be a loner.
While you don’t want to turn your discussion into something akin to a police interrogation, it may be helpful to discuss the immediate goals and plans of a prospective roommate. Is he or she pursuing spiritual advancement or perhaps simply interested in escaping a tense situation at home? Lynn points to another problem that can arise: “I had a roommate who was dating, and her boyfriend was there all the time, staying till late at night.” Lynn found their displays of affection to be inappropriate and disturbing. Such problems can sometimes be avoided, though, if some ground rules are worked out in advance. For example, says Renee: “We had a rule that boys could not stay past a certain time.” It would also be good for both roommates to agree never to be alone in the room or apartment with one of the opposite sex.
Also worthwhile to discuss may be such things as hobbies, preferences, and tastes in music. “I’d like to room with somebody who likes the same kind of things that I do, who has a similar personality, who likes to do the same things,” says Mark. Of course, having different tastes doesn’t necessarily rule out rooming together. The real issue is, How flexible are both of you? Are you willing to tolerate differences and make adjustments to accommodate each other?
Lee suggests: “You should also ask what the other person expects out of the arrangement. Some people expect you to be their best friend and best buddy. But that’s not what I’m interested in.” David likewise says: “I like a roommate with whom I can do things but who doesn’t feel he always has to tag along whenever I want to do things with other people.” Along similar lines, find out if the person is interested in being your partner in the evangelizing work or if he or she has something else in mind, such as serving in a foreign-language congregation.
Finally, make sure you don’t ignore such issues as cooking (do either of you know how?), the sharing of household chores, the use of personal appliances, closet space, furniture, storage space, and pets. Talking such things out can prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Says Proverbs 20:18: “By counsel plans themselves are firmly established.”
“Decently and by Arrangement”
Another helpful principle is found at Luke 14:28, where it says: “Calculate the expense.” Yes, try to figure out what your living expenses will be. How much will have to go for rent? Food? Utilities? Will you share a telephone? If so, how will you split the bill? “I would definitely make sure that a girl can handle her share of the expenses before taking her as a roommate,” says Lynn. The on-line magazine The Next Step rightly observes: “Roommates who don’t kick in for rent or food . . . or incur high utility bills give you stress that no one needs.”
“Sometimes the issue is not how much,” says Renee, “but when!” She explains: “Our rent is due on the third of the month. But sometimes a roommate will take off for the weekend before she has paid her share, and I have to apologize to our landlord.” Clearly, it’s wise to do everything “decently and by arrangement” and not leave important matters to chance. (1 Corinthians 14:40) Often, it is wise to put agreements in writing.
Being careful and prudent increases the likelihood of your finding a roommate who will be a blessing to you and not a source of distress. However, what if problems and personality conflicts develop? A future article will discuss these situations.
^ par. 3 Some of the names have been changed.
^ par. 5 See the article “Why Is My Roommate So Hard to Live With?” appearing in our issue of April 22, 2002.
^ par. 5 In view of the fact that many today live together for immoral purposes, we should stress that this article discusses roommates of the same sex who live together for reasons of economy and convenience.
^ par. 10 Full-time evangelizers have the privilege of attending Pioneer Service School. Meetings with full-time evangelizers are also held in conjunction with yearly circuit assemblies.
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There are dangers in rooming with individuals who do not adhere to Bible morals
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Before agreeing to room with someone, get together and discuss important issues