I invited a younger friend to my home for a ‘talking’ lunch. I’d heard bits of her story before, but as additional chapters unfolded over our bowls of homemade soup that autumn day, I was impressed and blessed yet once again by another woman’s powerful journey of “letting go…”
When I asked my friend to choose a pseudonym she’d like me to use in telling her story, with no hesitation, she said, “Hope.” “Yes, I’ve always thought it would be nice to have the name Hope.” A more perfect name couldn’t have been chosen. The story she told brims over with hope!
Hope recalled pages of her story from childhood. All the significant people in her world while growing up, she told me, were women. She remembers they were women who were beautiful, kind and loving to Hope and her older sister, Faith.
By the time Hope and Faith were nearing adolescence, they began to understand something about their family. Not one of the women who were so important to them enjoyed a healthy relationship with a man. Instead, there had been multiple relationships and marriages, marred by divorce, abuse and even prostitution. Their own gentle, beautiful, loving mama had been the victim of domestic violence—not at the hand of one husband, but two.
The young sisters began to realize unhealthy relationships with men typified several generations of women in their family.
Hope told me that during one difficult family period, she and her older sister lay talking in the double bed they shared in the upstairs bedroom of their grandma’s home, which is where they were living.at the time. During their conversation, the two pre-adolescent girls locked their little fingers together and ‘pinky’ swore that someday they would marry good men. They would raise children who would never be exposed to either abuse or divorce.
More than 25 years have passed since those two little girls made that solemn pledge. Both married ‘good’ men—men committed to Christ, marriage and family. Both couples are raising beautiful, active, talented, emotionally and spiritually healthy children.
The roots of our family trees run deep. In Hope’s family of origin, the women cherished one another. Love and support abounded. Those same healthy roots are deeper than ever in Hope’s and her sister’s current families. Unhealthy roots also existed. Abuse, harmful perceptions about men, and detrimental interpersonal and sexual relationships with men kept the women in Hope’s family entrenched in destructive patterns of behavior. In order to create new health in their family tree, those roots needed to be excised. For Hope, Faith and their yet unknown families, the excision began when two little girls ‘pinky’ swore.
I’m not well acquainted with her older sister, but I’ve observed Hope’s deliberate attempts to identify and align with older women she admires. I’ve watched the way she’s studied women’s journeys and then has chosen what behaviors she wants to emulate in her own. I’ve called Hope a daughter of my heart, and I know other women think of her in that same way. My heart bursts with pride as I’ve observed her naturally loving and gracious spirit mature. I know there are many younger women observing and emulating Hope’s journey. That’s what happens when we determine to grow healthier family trees.
As one who is forever in the process of people watching, I’ve observed that healthy generational patterns—when nurtured—strengthen in subsequent generations. I’ve also observed the reverse. If not recognized and dealt with, unhealthy patterns become even more harmful.
Identifying unhealthy or dysfunctional family conduct doesn’t mean we don’t love or that we’re disloyal to our family of origin. Rather, we choose higher levels of health for ourselves and those whose lives we will impact.
Discerning and then refusing to perpetuate destructive generational behavior patterns doesn’t mean we dishonor our heritage. Rather, we commit to make the diseased parts of our family tree healthier.
The reality is most families have both good and not-so-good characteristics. God’s gift of free will allows us the responsibility and the privilege to make our own decisions—decisions that will impact not only our life but also the legacy we leave for future generations.
That thought surely seems like cause for HOPE!
Listening on YOUR Journey:
- What are some of the healthy characteristics of your family of origin?
- What are some of the unhealthy characteristics?
- What steps have you taken or do you need to take in order to either change unhealthy characteristics or promote healthy patterns?
- When will you begin this process?
While looking for a picture to use with this blog post, I ran across photos from our daughter, Sarah’s, wedding. Weddings—occasions filled with hope! But, marriage is the time when two people bring together the characteristics—healthy and unhealthy—from two families of origin. This often sets in mot interesting and often challenging family dynamics. The photo of Brandon trying to convince Ron to relinquish his precious daughter to her new hubby is one of my favorites. I also love the photo of Sarah with her two adorable flower girls, Mia and Lexie, who are now blossoming into lovely young women.