We inherit a lot more than our eye color from our parents. We inherit their stories. We become an extension to their stories. We become the next chapter of the story of their lives. What does this mean? Well, sometimes it means we become the next chapter of the pain in their lives. Their pain—wherever it came from—is passed down to us and now becomes our pain.
Sometimes our parents know what they’re doing. Because they’re hurt, they’re going to make sure everyone around them is hurting. They strike out like wounded animals and hurt anyone who dares to get close.
Most of the time, however, our parents don’t know they’re doing it. Remember, the dysfunctional family they grew up in was “normal” for them. It takes a lot of personal courage and hard work to break this personal cycle of suffering. Most people simply don’t have the courage to face it.
So, what do you do if you have inherited this family heritage of pain?
First, recognize that you are not a victim. You are not a prisoner to anyone else’s decisions or actions. In the power of the resurrection, Christ has given us the power to overcome. Our lives are defined by His love, not someone else’s anger. As Paul wrote in Romans, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…”
Now that sounds great, but how does it work in real life?
We begin by offering our parents a little mercy. Our parents, after all, are just human. I know, they should have done this or that, but sometimes, people are so wounded they just can’t. So, first, begin by trying to understand your parents’ story—how they became the people they are—and treat the moment with a lot of mercy.
Second, forgive your parents. I know this is hard, but let’s understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is releasing the person from the expectation they can fix what they did. Once you’re wounded, the pain is yours to deal with. No one can take pain out of your heart. You have to deal with it. The first step is forgiveness.
The next step is prayer. I’m not talking about “now I lay me down to sleep…” kind of praying. I’m talking about gut-level, down to the bone, honest prayer. The kind where you scream and weep and stomp your feet at the injustice and unfairness of it all. Where you cry out from the depth of your pain asking Jesus to heal you because you know Jesus is the only one who can heal you. This isn’t an easy process. Sometimes it takes days and weeks. How long it takes depends on the depth of the wound. (Sometimes a good counselor can act as a guide to walk you through this process.)
Then, you need to choose to become the person you want to be. OK, let me fine tune that…you need to choose to become the person Christ intended you to be. The world will tell us we can be anything we want to be. No, we can’t. But the good news is we can become all Christ intends for us to be.
But we have to choose to follow, regardless of what we’ve been through. It doesn’t matter where you start; we all have to choose to follow. In our choice to follow, we find our ultimate freedom, our truest selves, and the peace of knowing Christ loves us despite it all.
We can change our inheritance. We can swap our pain for an inheritance with Christ, but it all begins in our choice of what we’re going to do with the inheritance we already have.