If the title of this post got you a little steamed up, then you’ve come to the right place. 😛
Please note: Before all the parents out there (myself included) start feeling defensive, let’s just put it out there that this post was written in the spirit of healing and restoration, not blame.
So, who here has ever blamed their parents for something? Maybe you were that awkward preteen who had to change schools during the middle of the year because your parents wanted to move? Or you were the kid who never attended birthday parties because your parents were overprotective? Or you’re the adult who has spent years in therapy trying to move past the emotional and/or physical wounds you received from a broken family?
Let’s face it, there is a lot of hurt in the world, and too often those hurts originate in the place that hits closest to home – our families. I’ve seen it from both sides of the counseling chair, so I know the reality of it. Even in the most loving and healthy of homes, people get hurt. In families which have gone through abuse, divorce, neglect and addiction, the pain is magnified even more – much like your reflection is multiplied in the presence of numerous mirrors.
And who do children end up blaming for their hurt?
It would be easy to sit and dwell on all the ways your mother and father failed, neglected, hurt, disappointed and wronged you. It would be even easier to sweep those painful memories under the rug and not think about them. But choosing either of those ways will only leave you broken and battered and bruised inside.
The only way you can heal is to move on from blaming your parents.
How in the world do you do that?
First, by grieving your losses. The attention you wish your parents had given you. The acceptance and support you needed when you made mistakes. A childhood without fear. Whatever areas there were that your parents fell short in, acknowledge them. Mourn the could-have-beens and what-ifs – the ways in which your life might have been different had your parents raised you differently. Place those lost parts of your life in a casket lined with your anger, resentment and tears and bury them.
The step after grieving is acceptance. Accept your parents for who they are: imperfect human beings. Despite their “job title”, they are not experts at life, much less parenting. They don’t have it all figured out. They are likely products of faulty parenting themselves and have parented you the way they were parented. They have struggled and may still be struggling with depression, low self-worth, anxiety, guilt, resentment or perfectionism. Despite their best intentions, parents are sometimes not sensitive enough, patient enough, understanding enough or loving enough. They do not always meet our needs or even have the capacity to do so – that is the unfortunate truth. But when we can accept our parents as the imperfect people that they are, we will stop keeping an account of all the ways they have hurt us and perhaps be able to forgive them – not for their sake, but for ours.
It is quite possible that your life could have turned out very differently had your parents made better choices. It is also possible that they did make the best choices they were able to make given the circumstances at the time. But the fact of the matter is that those choices have been made, but you have a choice now to make: Will you continue to blame your parents or will you choose to move on from the blame?
I spent many years as an adult trying to untangle the emotional cobwebs of my childhood. In my quest, I have placed blame, kept my list of wrongs, studied counseling and been to therapy … but I still remained stuck in the past. Ironically, it wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I felt free.
Because I now understand how hard parenting is. And I know that despite my best efforts at being a good parent, I will never be a perfect one.
And in seeing my imperfections, I see my parents, and all parents, in a different light. A light in which I can bask in the freedom to extend grace and forgiveness. To adjust my expectations. To hope for change. And ultimately, to see that God can take even the stickiest, most entangled webs in our life and redeem them for good.
The song for this post is Carrie Underwood’s “Wasted”. The lyrics are a good reminder to not waste time on the past.
What hurts are you holding onto from your family of origin? What steps can you take to let them go?