Living in the Shadow of Your Parents

Most of the people I have conversations with at Church love their parents. Sure, there are a few cases of ugliness and neglect, but most people love their parents. They speak highly of them and their influence on their life. All parents cast a long shadow over the lives of their children. Recently I noticed two reactions in the lives of people as I discussed their parents.

1.There is a tendency to embrace some issues without question. Because our parents love us, then what they taught us must have been correct. The way they disciplined us becomes the way we deal with our children. The way they handled spiritual matters becomes the way we treat spiritual issues. The list goes on and on.

This is not always easy for us to see. Sometimes it can be an attitude that gets repeated. Dad was always angry, so that is my first reaction. Mom was a loving spirit to the whole neighborhood, so I see all the people around me as friends, some of whom I just haven’t met yet. Our actions can be directly influenced by our parents but so can our attitudes.

2. There is another tendency to reject my parent’s behavior entirely. In one conversation a man told me that his father loved him but was always busy by himself. His response is to include his family, especially his kids, in everything he does. Still, another spoke of his parents’ divorce, and he vowed to never walk away from his marriage, no matter what happens.

This also can be reflected in our attitudes. My parents were this way so I will be the exact opposite. My parents made me feel this emotionally so I will make sure my children never feel this way.

Why do I tell you all of this? If this is true, there are three things you should do:

1. Do a self-examination. It will be worth your time to sit down and totally evaluate your life. Are you influenced more by God and his word than you are by your parents? That is a profoundly penetrating question. I have come to learn that many people’s treasured beliefs about issues are the result of being like their parents or being the exact opposite of them.

2. Do a spouse evaluation. If you are married, ask questions about what your spouse learned from their parents. Then compare that to what you learned from your parents. Many of the marital conflicts I see are the result of issues from the family of origin. In other words, what I learned from my parents is different from what you learned, and neither of us wants to change our views. How did your spouse’ childhood shape both his attitudes and actions?
*Note – If you are not married, you need to be sure and include this type of discussion into the process of finding a mate. (You can thank me later)

3. Keep this in mind with every person. I know this is difficult, but every person you contact is carrying their own baggage from their childhood. Their reactions may be less based on facts than personal experiences. Be sure to ask big questions and leave room for there to be differences of opinion. Some convictions have been ingrained since childhood.

As a Church leader, I am beginning to see that God shapes our lives in many ways. One significant way is through our family of origin. We need to think these issues through in our marriages, but also in all our relationships. It is possible that your experience could be different from mine and we could both be right.

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