Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation where the response that spewed out of you was far from desirable. In fact, it even made you wonder, “Where in the world did that just come from?”
And it didn’t take long for you to answer your own question, as you were able to mentally look at yourself in the mirror and see your parents and their responses and actions oozing out through your own.
You know, those things they did that you said you’d never repeat, yet you actually find yourself inadvertently responding in the exact same way. Maybe in the area of criticism, anger, impatience or resentment. Or maybe it’s simply a certain phrase, gesture, or quirk.
What you didn’t realize…
Think for a moment about the marriage you’ve been given and the marriage that you’ve ultimately created between you and your spouse. When you stood together at that wedding altar with nothing but love and bliss and made those lifelong vows to each other, what neither of you realized at that moment was that both of you were carrying an invisible suitcase with you into your marriage that day.
This was a suitcase that neither of you could see, yet it’s contents were very real. So real, that you would spend the rest of your married life unpacking them.
You were vowing to love each other through all of the contents that you would later unpack in the months and years to come… for better or for worse. Things that would affect your communication, the way you respond to hurt, your tone of voice in an argument, and even the way you relate to each other in the bedroom.
Someone’s been filling your suitcase…
All of us learn how to live life by having seen how our parents lived it. They may have done a lot of things right, and they certainly did at least a couple of things wrong. And every day of your childhood, they were planting seeds and packing things into this invisible suitcase that you would carry with you into the rest of your life, affecting every area of your life, yet all the while, unbeknownst to you (yes, I really did just use that archaic word).
You are a product of your parents, like it or not. But that doesn’t mean that you are destined to repeat their mistakes. In fact, one of the greatest ways to learn anything in life is from the mistakes of others. And if we don’t, well the saying holds true, that “history repeats itself”, even in family life.
The good news…
The good news is that the contents of your suitcase don’t determine the destiny of your life. The seeds that were planted into you during childhood are just that – seeds. Yes, they influence the shaping of your future, but they don’t determine it. You get to do that. Seeds only grow if they are watered and nurtured, but don’t have to grow unless you let them.
You see, while your parents shape the person that you become, it’s not ultimately your parents that determine the person that you are:
- Because even a child who has “perfect” parents can allow sinful seeds and choices to ruin their future.
- And just as much, a child who is raised in terrible dysfunction can actually turn out to be a very functional adult if they simply make different choices.
Marriage starts at birth…
I recently heard this statement that has stuck with me… “Marriage starts at birth.” And it’s so very true. None of us can escape the influences that have surrounded us and shaped us from the time we started this thing called life. But each of us have the choice as to which ones we will allow to define us.
Just because your parents didn’t do certain things that they should have doesn’t mean that you can’t do them. (show physical affection, say “I love you”, give praise for doing things right, etc.)
And just because your parents did certain things that they shouldn’t have doesn’t mean that you’re destined to repeat them. (losing their temper, being physically or verbally abusive, failing to show up, etc.)
If we’ve been watering seeds of our past by making excuses like, “It’s just who I am,” or “That’s just how I was raised”, it’s time to stop making excuses and start taking responsibility by unpacking our suitcase of the bad, and start packing it with the good.
It’s time to start packing the right things that we want to pass on to our children. Because one day we’re going to hand them these suitcases that we have packed by our own choices.
Yes, we are the products of our past to a certain degree, but only to the degree that we choose to be, for either the good or the bad. In your invisible suitcase… Keep the good. Get rid of the bad. Add some positive contributions of your own. Then pass it on with pride to the next generation.