Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Breaking the Harmful Cycles From Your Past - part 1

I celebrated my birthday recently! And no I'm not telling you my age. Most people think I still look quite young, however. Unfortunately most of those people also have 20/600 vision. Nonetheless I'm truly thankful for the years God has given me and for a generally healthy and normal family in which to grow and thrive.

However, we all have things in our past and present that we would like to change, right? There are no perfect families and many of us have faced some pretty awful circumstances or been treated poorly by dysfunctional and hurtful people.

The good news is that the cycles of hurt, pain, shame and inappropriate relating you perhaps experienced do not need to continue. In fact, you can and must change them for the generations to come. Sadly, many families stay in generational orbits, meaning that how they related and functioned in the past continue un-phased into the present . However, like the space shuttle when it returns to earth, we must add some new power or energy from somewhere to get us out of orbit or nothing will really change.

That implies that we will have to start acting and functioning in our homes in strategically new ways. We must learn how to act fundamentally different with our spouse and/or our children so that harmful attitudes and actions from the past are not replicated in our situation. At the same time we must intentionally pass on those things that are important, the spiritual and moral truths that we do not want our children to lose or the healthier ways of acting and relating that we know are best.

Psalm 78 wisely challenges with these insights. . . . "We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done . . . . So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children . . . (and) they would not be like their forefathers."

So where do we start? I would first suggest making a list of the most important truths, habits and attitudes that you want your family to embrace and exhibit. You may think these would be obvious but chances are they are not necessarily on your radar or at best you've not been very intentional about developing some of them in your home. Then take inventory and ask yourself and/or your spouse how you are doing. Prioritize your goals and determine which ones you'll work on first and with the greatest passion.

Next, start considering what moving toward those goals would look like. What would need to change if certain things were going to be emphasized and practiced more in your home? What needs to be stopped? What can be worked on? What have other families done to teach or heat up certain values in their home. Learn from others. Ask around. Read.

Of course, you can't protect your family from every negative influence but you can make those influences less impacting by highlighting the positives and healthy ways of living every day in your home. Sometimes we may need to lessen or even quit our involvement with certain people in our families who continue to be negative and hurtful models. That's something you will have to decide while getting wise counsel from others.

But please do not be casual about this. Don't assume that your church, school or youth group will teach these important truths for you. And don't expect that things will be different just because. As the well-used time management adage suggests, We don't plan to fail, we just fail to plan. As I mentioned earlier real change, change so that the past doesn't repeat itself, will require intentional and planned energy and effort.

So next, start somewhere. Pick your most important goal and do something to move you and your family in that direction. Take small steps but don't be paralyzed. If for example you want to start seeing more positive affirmation and encouragement in your home then begin by doing that yourself.

At the same time you can perhaps try a new game at some of your meal times where everyone has to share something positive they have seen or appreciate in the other people around the table. If you want to raise the value of saving money then help each of your kids to open a bank account and begin saving in some way from their allowance or odd jobs.

If you want to help people learn to be more honest with each other then make honesty a high priority in how you and/or your spouse speaks to one another and the rest of the family. Attitudes aren't taught or developed in a day, week or month. They are seen, acquired and practiced over long periods of time.
Start now and the dividends will be great later.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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