Have you ever said, “I sound just like my mother?” Did you ever wonder why you turned into your mother (or father) even though you were determined not to?
The answer to this question is pretty simple, really. The members of our family have a large impact on our lives. The family system is our most important childhood influence simply because of the close, continual contact in this system. We all grew up in some sort of family system.
Some of us had a large family, while some had a small family. Each member is connected to every other member. When one member does something, every other member is affected.
As the diagram illustrates, each family member is connected to all the family members. Each one of us learns from each of the others. We can learn from modeled behavior (behavior that we observe) or from pointed behavior (behavior that is directed at us).
The beliefs that we learn affect our behavior, which in turn affects the whole family system. God, as the designer of the family system, has standards for how the family should operate. Each family member should love and respect all the others. Sometimes the family meets these standards and sometimes it doesn't. Each member of the family learns beliefs from watching the other family members—including the father, mother, and children.
Proverbs 22:24, 25. “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” NIV
What is the principle we learn from these verses? We become like those with whom we spend time or with whom we associate. We need to understand that if our family and close friends modeled to us certain actions, reactions, behaviors, emotions, etc., which are not in accordance with God’s Word, we could easily and naturally repeat the same behaviors. Many times, these behaviors bring negative consequences, which make us suffer. Many of these negative consequences impact our lives and the lives of future generations.
So, now for some good news. There is a way we can change our belief systems and learn to live in a way that brings good consequences and honors God. How can we do this? We begin by examining the beliefs we learned from our family system. Identifying the lies we believe is the first step in breaking free from the bonds of generational sin and finding a better way to live.
The following exercise will help you to identify the beliefs learned from your family system. Try to see both the godly and ungodly beliefs that have been learned. For example, even if you grew up in a non-Christian home, you may have seen your father respect your mother; or you may have had positive support in some areas from your parents. As you work through this chart for yourself or with someone, you will find that you can put any of God’s commands in the left column and then work through the chart. This is a great tool to help you identify the areas of your family life and examine what behavior was modeled and determine the belief you learned from it. From looking at the beliefs learned, you will be able to see the truths and lies that you believe.
Let’s look at an example:
Ephesians 5:22-6:4 tells us God’s standard for families:
All: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
Husbands: love your wives just as Christ loved the church
Wives: submit yourselves to your own husband as you do to the Lord
Children: obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right
Fathers (parents): don’t exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord
This exercise was very helpful to me as I worked through the restoration process. It helped me to see the positive aspects of my family as well as the things that I needed to change.
It is my prayer that God will give you insight as you do this exercise. I encourage you to pray for honesty as you fill out the profile. Facing some of the realities of your family may be difficult for you. It is my prayer that as you go through this process, you will seek out the support of those around you. Having the support, prayers and encouragement of a trusted friend, counselor or support group during this time will be very beneficial to you.