I’m convinced some company could make a killing if it had the guts to market dysfunctional greeting cards.
Most birthday or holiday cards gush with flowery sentiments, like, “To the Greatest Father in the World,” or, “Mom, you are my best friend.”
Yeah, well, what if they weren’t?
What if your dad was an angry jerk and your mother abused you? What if your brother backstabbed you and stole the inheritance?
Where are the greeting cards for reality?
Just once I’d like to see a card that reads, “Mom, you blew it . . . but I love you anyway. Happy Mother’s Day.”
It’ll never happen.
Even if such cards existed, few people would have the cruelty to send them. So instead, we shop at Hallmark and do our best to stay positive. After all, on some level, we all deserve to open dysfunctional envelopes since we each contribute our own defects to our families.
Another option is to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that family member doesn’t exist. No easy solutions.
Normal is What You Know
Most children grow up seeing their dysfunction as normal. Multiple divorces, sibling cruelties, hush-hush affairs, recurring abuses, and parental favoritisms make up the experience of our childhoods.
Even if we were blessed to have a home in which our parents stayed together and where peace (not perfection) generally existed, all it takes is a glance at a cousin, an uncle, or a grandparent to see dysfunction written large in all its raw reality. We cannot escape it. We all know it on some level.
All this to say, normal is what you know—even when it’s abnormal.
We are Hard-wired to Repeat Our Programming
We seldom outgrow the memories that brand such pain on our hearts—even after God brings healing. Most kids have seen enough relational carnage that they make some bold promises to themselves. I will never be like my parents. My family will be different. Or more dramatically, I will never marry.
But regardless of the extreme oaths we make in moments of frustration, example trains us all to be like our parents. We are hardwired to repeat the failures.
Only God Can Help Us Change
It takes more than promises to break the cycle, to unravel the knots, and to dislodge the dysfunction. Sometimes, it takes even more severe measures.
That’s where God steps in—often removing us from the situation in order to rebuild our lives. In addition, it takes years of intentional, brutally challenging work on our parts.
Believe me. It’s worth it.
Here are some resources that might help:
- Dale and Juanita Ryan, Recovery from Family Dysfunctions: 6 Studies for Groups and Individuals. Life Recovery Guides (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 12–13.
- David Mains, Healing the Dysfunctional Church Family (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1992), 145–46.
- David Field, Family Personalities (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1988), 153–54.
- Jim Conway, Adult Children of Legal and Emotional Divorce: Healing Your Long-Term Hurt (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 127–240.
- Nancy LeSourd, No Longer the Hero: The Personal Pilgrimage of an Adult Child (Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 1991), 173–74.
List taken from this download.
Question: What helped you live differently than your parents? Please leave a comment.