How many times have you heard someone say – ‘I don’t want to be like my mum’. Maybe you have said it yourself. So why have you ended up like your mum!
No man whose dad treated his mum badly enters a relationship with a lady and thinks ‘I will treat this lady just as my dad treated my mum.’ So why are you behaving in a similar way?
The chances are that you don’t even recognise that you are following those patterns – because that is your norm. Of course there are many exceptions to this – and many parents do provide positive role models – but it is helpful to realise that we have been shaped in ways that we take for granted.
These family patterns can be wider than parental influence. We have all heard such statements as ‘she suffers with nerves just like her great aunt!’ What does that really mean? It means that there are family patterns that are destined to be continued in some shape or form if we don’t stop, understand what we are doing and deliberately set out to change.
Let’s take those three words – stop, understand and change:
Sadly the words ‘you’re just like your dad’ are often used to hurt or even insult someone who has frustrated you. The response is nearly always defensive, but maybe, if that is said to us, we should stop and ask if there is truth in the statement. Better still, why not have a constructive conversation with your friend, husband or wife and talk about your parents and wider family, positives and negatives, and how they have influenced you – which leads to our next word:
Coming to know God through Jesus gives us a new beginning. We are forgiven for our part in family struggles so we are free to look back at patterns within the family. There is nothing to be afraid of. We are also secure, so we can be objective about our parents and their role in our upbringing – thankful for all the good things they did for our lives and kind and forgiving for the things they got wrong. We can look at the wider family – grandparents etc. - and gain further understanding of the particular struggles that our parents had to contend with.
If we find ourselves following negative patterns, it will be helpful to understand our temperaments (link), to understand the temperaments of the family member we are most like (e.g. parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle) and to look objectively at what they have done with who they are, what we have done, and, above all, how we can…..
Firstly, we have to decide what is right for us. It may be that Dad never put the rubbish out but that doesn’t mean you can’t. There will be behavioural patterns that you can work out together in your relationships.
Secondly, be aware of your emotional responses. Just because you always switched off in the past to show that you were hurt doesn’t mean you have to now. That might be how the men, or women, in your family responded but you don’t have to. Learn to be objective about how you are responding emotionally to people and situations. Catch yourself – and change.
Thirdly, we will only truly change if we change in our introvert. Tidying up the extrovert isn’t enough. Real change involves a deep breaking free from past patterns and present negatives. It is a fundamental restructuring of attitudes and outlook at the deepest level.
Take all that was good from your upbringing; leave behind the patterns that damage you and others and live in the knowledge that, in Christ, you are free to make good choices.