As a psychotherapist, I know it is common to pass down coping behaviors and ways of thinking to the next generation. You can even see the similarities from multiple generations before. It is why we often use a family genogram to diagnosis issues. One of my prayers and hopes for my two daughters is that they would not repeat the problems and issues I’ve had to deal with in my life. It has been one of the motivating factors, which inspires me to change. I started this process with psychological principles that were helpful in the area of coping and managing my feelings and issues, but did not bring me freedom from the issues. Many of my issues were rooted in my past, but were affecting me in the present.
According to Mirriam-Webster.com, the definition of leg·a·cy is:
“something (such as property or money) that is received from someone who has died or something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past.”
Legacy can be passed on intentionally or unintentionally, but one way or another, our past effects our present. We tend to deal with life and handle relationships unconsciously based on what we inherited. Here are some typical ways our past impacts our present…
• How we settle conflict.
• How we discipline.
• How we communicate.
• How we handle change.
• How we give.
• How we receive.
• How we forgive.
• How we love.
• How we view God.
For example, you might have learned how to deal with relationships by manipulating people to like you or your ideas, by telling them what they want to hear, or avoiding difficult truths or conversations. As a result, you are unable to be transparent or authentic with the special people in your life, and ultimately are hiding from yourself and God. That sets in motion a pattern of behavior that will likely be passed down to your children. This is what they are seeing and experiencing from you. Eventually, you may find yourself with a child who is not honest with you and tells you what they think you want to hear, instead of what is truly in their hearts. Then as a result they miss opportunities to really figure out who they are and what really matters to them, and more importantly they have not developed good coping skills to navigate relationships.
Over the years of counseling, I have encountered many people who were determined to not repeat the past mistakes of their parents/ancestors and then much to their dismay they are sitting in my office because they are doing exactly what they thought they would never do. Whether your legacy was positive or negative (for most it’s a combination), you will naturally hand it down to your children unless you intentionally change.
This is how legacy affects us.
Along my personal journey, God showed me how He could change my legacy. It’s not easy, but it is definitely possible. He showed me what He could do with my problems and issues when I gave them to Him. He renewed my mind (changed my way of thinking) and healed my broken heart (resolved some deep seated hurts/sensitivities). God’s healing, was like fire to dynamite; it was the power that allowed all I had done before to lead to true transformation which was life changing! The result was a closer relationship with God, which brought freedom and purpose to my life, a healing in my marriage and ushered in a new legacy for my girls. That’s some good stuff!
God’s promise in Ezekiel 18:20 “The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins,” came alive and became real in my life.
Stop for a second and read Isaiah 61:1-8. What an amazing passage that is full of truths!
It talks about the promise of God to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives (the hurt and pain from someone else’s sin) and prisoners (our own sin) free. The passage describes those that allow God’s healing are then called “oaks of righteousness” planted for His glory. They will go on to rebuild and renew areas that have long been devastated. In verse 7 God promises: “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.”
Does that make sense? Think about it. When we allow God to heal our hearts and renew our minds, then we display His glory and His healing impacts our inheritance. When you allow God to transform you, you are choosing life. Scripture indicates that what you choose effects the generations to come. That allows us to turn and help others renew and rebuild their lives. How amazing is that? You have the choice of how you will affect generations-positively or negatively.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (NKJV). Deuteronomy 30:19
Parents often ask me how to help their children. I tell them, one of the best ways to help them is to take care of your own issues. Whether you have your own biological children or you are a spiritual parent, allow God to help you break those old habits that aren’t working and have never worked! This is a gift to all of God’s children. 1 Corinthians 12:27 states “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it”.…A NEW legacy that they will carry on for generations to come!
Do the tough stuff today. Let God deal with your own heart and break the old generational legacy… “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17