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How to Overcome the Destructive Cycle in Your Family

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  • Updated Jun 06, 2017

I love my family. I love my family so much. Growing up, I even believed I had the closest family to “perfect” you could possibly have in life. My parents loved me well, had a passion for the Lord that inspired me, and brought me up the best way they knew how — with tenderness, with wisdom, and with trust.

And yet, as time turned and the years went by, that image of “perfect” became burned away…leaving in its place a sad ash-heap of brokenness, pain, and questions. And despite my best efforts to avoid everything I saw wrong, I felt myself falling into the same, subtly destructive patterns. And so the questions continued:

Where did it all begin?
Where was it supposed to stop?
And if even the most loving family couldn’t avoid these kinds of issues…how could I possibly overcome them??

But in the darkest season of my bitterness, the Lord began putting truth back into my heart. Truth that helped me realize I wasn’t somehow psychologically or spiritually bound to repeat the same mistakes.

1. “Every family is a broken family.”

In his piece, “Why We Really Need to Stop the Blame Game and Turn Our Hearts Downriver”, Gary Morland shares his personal struggles with his own family’s brokenness. And you know what? It’s a story we all share.

Yes, my family was broken, but so was everyone else’s. It seems like embracing brokenness would run the risk of bringing more brokenness…but somehow, it isn’t so. Embracing the inescapable reality of sin enabled me to stop pretending. And by not pretending, I could be real and vulnerable and let go of what I realized were unrealistic expectations. Or the feeling I was “owed” something. And that was the first step to forgiveness, healing, and a reliance on God’s beautiful grace.

2. “Don’t try to decipher what runs deep.”

I realized we were a family with issues that went deep. Really, really deep. Issues that I came to learn were connected to their family issues, which were connected to their family issues…and on and on and on. These were issues too complicated to decipher, fix, or even understand. My job wasn’t to unravel the tangled threads. It wasn’t even to try to get my family to see the tangled threads. My job was different:

3. “Don’t fix…don’t blame…just love.”

Morland writes, “Most of us probably don’t consciously blame previous generations for how we turned out. But it’s a very subtle temptation because it gives us an excuse for our faults and failures.”

That’s right. And by turning our eyes away from the real issues, blame subconsciously sets us up to repeat the very things we’re blaming others for.

But love? Love is the one thing that enables us to move past the blame and see things clearly. Our parents are broken people with broken parents who, despite their best efforts, led broken lives. And our job is to love them through that. Why? Because we’re each leading broken and mistake-riddled lives that God is actively loving us through. My job was to love my parents the way that God was loving my through my own messes. My past ones, my present ones, and my future ones. Unseflishly. Unconditionally. Unrelentingly.

4. “Though we’re broken…we’re not trapped.”

Though we’re broken, we don’t have to be stuck in our destructive cycles. Morland shares, “Our family was not destined to a straightline repetition and payment for one person’s sin. Your family isn’t either.”

“It is helpful to understand the things that have contributed to your story, to what happened in your family upriver. These things may help to explain who you are today. But it is your fault alone if you allow those circumstances to keep you from being all you can be. You can stop the chain reaction.”

“Accept your family (or lack of one) as within God’s overall will for you” Morland writes, “and accept His ability—and promise—to use it for good. Then let Him.

It’s not an easy battle, but it's one the Lord wants to fight by our side. Daily. So through the struggle, the pain, and the brokenness…may you rely on His grace and love in a new way. For it’s for freedom, after all, that Christ has set us free.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash

Publication date: June 6, 2017

Cristina Rutkowski is the editor of