Love the broken without living in brokenness

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Facebook is an amazing connector. Old friends. Family members. It’s also a snapshot of the inner workings of a person’s life, if you look close enough.

Through FB, I’ve been connected with several extended family members. . . and a snapshot of my family tree has emerged. One with deep roots, woven through generations, across miles, and in the lives of people who I’ve never met, but with whom I share DNA.

It’s a thread of dysfunction. 

Addiction, for some. Instability in others. Some who have absolutely changed their lives, but whose parents marked them. . . hard.

It makes you wonder.

Where did this thread begin? 

And how do we end it for our own families?

The above is a question I’m asked a lot. Usually after someone shares their story of an addicted parent, or a family member who says damaging words to their tender-hearted child, or who hurt them as a child and doesn’t understand why they are protective.  

It becomes more complicated when they look around and you see friends whose parent(s) or family members wrap around them with support, with fun, with family memories that make them long for their own.

What am I supposed to do, Suzie? 

That’s their question, and maybe it’s yours as well.

There are a couple of things we’ll explore together this week, but let’s begin with this:

Ask God for compassion for their brokenness, but the strength not to live in brokenness with them.

That will look different for each of us, but it’s foundational to healing, especially when you are still in relationship. It’s key that we remember that we’re not looking at fixing anyone else. That’s not our job. It doesn’t lead you anything productive.

So, what does this look like?

This means that we don’t purposefully place our own children in harm’s way. If a parent is addicted, verbally abusive, unstable, then they don’t get the chance to harm an innocent child. Not on our watch.

But let’s balance this: compassion, with strength to not live in brokenness.

We work with what we have. For some, that means that you can set up play dates (with you along) for an hour at a park. Or it means that if a parent is sober, she can stop by and help you make cookies or sit in the floor and play. It may mean that you love from a distance, praying for this parent/grandparent, knowing that in all of their brokenness that they are valuable to God.

It means that your child never hears you tear down your parent. Yes, you are honest about addiction, or what is appropriate or not, but your child sees what strong love looks like as you pray for her, and refuse to engage in behaviors such as constant criticism or vengeful words or actions.

It means that you don’t make excuses or enable their behavior. That you’re not constantly pulled into fixing their messes, while they careen down a path that ultimately ends in further brokenness, if they don’t face their own consequences.

It means that you allow God to fill up the places in your heart that you wish they had. And He’s willing. He’s able. 

It also means that you celebrate the steps they take to be whole, releasing the bonds of the past if they have changed, or are changing.

I don’t have all the answers. But there’s value to be found in looking deeper and growing together.

This week, as we get closer to our study of The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places, we’ll look a little closer at what it might look like to be compassionate for the broken, while discovering the strength not to live in brokenness with them.

What might that look like for you? 

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Comments

  1. This is a hard one for me. I made mistakes in raising my children, I was especially hard on my daughter, my first born, in not being sensitive to her needs. Yes, I provided all the physical things she needed and she got to participate in many activities while growing up, but I lacked in teaching and providing the spiritual and emotional nurturing that she needed. I didn’t know how to do it, I didn’t receive it from my mom and was so unprepared to be a mom. I’m not trying to make excuses, but what ended up was my daughter not relying on me, not sharing things with me. She got the wrong advice from people she considered friends, she made wrong decisions, and learned to not take responsibility, she ran from problems, and put blame on others. My daughter is now approaching 36 this year, and is in the middle of a divorce. She lives in a different state than I do so there are thousands of miles between us. She only gives me bits n pieces of whats going on. I’ve never seen her so heartbroken, and she is having a very hard time, emotionally and financially. I know she loves me, but she too has a hard time showing it. I’ve given her help financially, and have tried to be supportive emotionally. But there is still that keep at arms length relationship between us. I have in the past bailed her out of some financial problems before she got married. I find she continues to make the same mistakes financially and with the same type of men that she has been attracted to. I have released her into God’s hands. There are times I feel so guilty. I never abused her, she was a strong willed, extremely bright child and knew how to manipulate me. lots of times I found myself yelling at her, or giving in to her, because I didn’t want to fight. I wasn’t consistent in my discipline so she learned to manipulate. I love her dearly, she is a good person and has a compassionate heart, and I see how others have taken advantage of her goodness. I am so looking forward to what God will reveal to me on forgiveness -forgiveness that I need to give and that I need to receive from Him. It seems like I always come back to the same thing over and over again. Satan sure knows how to attack me.

  2. Thank you Suzanne for this much needed post. A lot of my struggle is with forgiving my father. Since I really don’t know how to do that yet, I find my self just pushing him away. Now I see that I don’t have to do that either.

  3. Tough subject, great advice. These are lessons that took me a long time to learn but I pray that my kids have broken the cycle. Thank you for your wise words.

  4. These are great guidelines for those who deal with shielding their kids from addicted parents and such a great reminder that we’re not responsible to fix anyone, nor to cover up for them. I look forward to your next posts. (And yes, sometimes facebook kind of gets it all “out there.” I just say a prayer and try not let things burden me unduly.)

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