Healthy Healing

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As parents and grandparents, it’s natural that a big part of our goal in raising kids is to avoid doing things that were painful for us in our own childhoods. I’m not talking about the things like disciplining kids, teaching them about perseverance and sticking with things, or about the rules that are necessary in order to help kids get enough sleep, avoid overeating candy and junk food, or get them to finish their homework. Those kinds of rules might feel painful to kids at the time, but they will eventually see the logic behind them as they grow up.

Instead, I’m talking about the painful experiences of being made to feel “less than” or like you just never measured up. Or being made to feel afraid of abandonment or extreme anger from your caregiver. Or having praise and encouragement withheld unless you did something absolutely perfectly. Or of being left to fend for yourself at too young of an age. Or of having to be the caregiver to the adults around you when you needed care yourself. These are the kinds of things that create long-lasting wounds. Even when they heal, some of these experiences leave scars that continue to have an impact on your life decades later.

Even if you had great and loving parents, there is a very high likelihood that you had at least a couple of moments that you can still vividly remember because they were so painful. Maybe it was a word or phrase said in a moment of anger. Or a misunderstanding that led somebody down a road of hurt and they lashed out in that moment.

As parents, we all want to avoid creating one of those memories in the lives of our own children. But we’ve probably all heard of the idea that “hurt people hurt people.” If you aren’t familiar with that idea, it’s getting at the reality that when a person is not in a good place themselves, they are much more likely to say or do something that then hurts the people around them. Franciscan Friar and author Richard Rohr says it this way: “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” He’s getting at the kind of thing that we sometimes call “generational curses” or things that we have a “family history” with.

Do you see some trends when you look back at your own family life with this perspective? Whether it’s anger, anxiety, infidelity, emotional or physical abuse, belittling, cutting sarcasm, unwillingness to be emotionally open, or any number of other things, my guess is that you will probably notice some sort of negative pattern that plays out over the decades. And I don’t mention this because I’m wanting people to focus on the negative or to encourage people to air out “dirty laundry.” I mention this because the first step toward healing is acknowledging that there is a problem in the first place!

If you are thinking back over the generations and you’re noticing the trend of a specific kind of pain playing out in family after family, then you’ve likely identified the hurt that needs to be healed so that it doesn’t just keep getting passed on. Once you have identified the hurt, then it’s time for the hard work to begin. Please reach out to a counselor or coach who is trained to help walk with you through this process. It will be a painful process, but I can assure you that it will be worth it!