If you came over from Encouragement for Today, welcome!
My mom just turned 74 this month. Isn’t she beautiful? That’s my sister on the right, my son-in-law, grandson, and daughter on the left. I’m the one peeking over mom’s shoulder.
We are not a perfect family, but we are a family who has experienced God’s healing. It is a family that I love like crazy.
I share our story in my book, The Mom I Want to Be, because there are others who are in the same place who desire to find wholeness. It’s hard when your family is fractured by dysfunction, addiction, or abuse.
But it’s also amazing to see how God can give you and I a fresh start.
But what about me, you might ask. Is there a fresh start for me when the people in me past are still broken? There is, when you. . .
Grow even if others are not willing or ready
How many times do we remain stuck. Mired in anger. Stopped by hurt. We point to the person who hurt us and say, “God, I’ll let go of this when she changes.”
But what if she doesn’t? Are you willing to spend the rest of your life waiting for her transformation, only to miss your own?
I love the story when Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”. I imagine what my response would be. It would be yes, right? Except there have been too many times when I, like the man in the story (John 5:2-9) offered up an excuse instead.
God, there are things in the way. That obstacle is too large. That person gets in my way.
God was offering this man wholeness, and he failed to see it.
God is offering you wholeness. Don’t let the brokenness of others or the past keep you from all that God is offering you.
Set boundaries, as needed
Don’t you hate that word? It sounds like punishment, or harsh actions. It’s none of those. Instead it simply means: doing what is in our power to have as healthy a relationship as possible. It looks like this:
If your family member is an addict, you won’t keep them from natural consequences (which means you won’t lie for them, you won’t provide a way out of their consequences, you won’t invest more in them then they are willing to invest in themselves). But you will love them. You will pray.
If your family member is abusive verbally to you or your family, you will share your needs. Not in anger. With clarity. With clear consequences. You might say: Dad, when you lash out like that it makes me feel sad, and it confuses the kids. Unfortunately, we’ll have to leave when that happens. I do want to spend time with you, but it can’t be in those times.
And then you follow through. It won’t be easy at first because there is a pattern in place. It’s like a dance. He lashes out. You react. He guilts you for your reaction. You retreat. You apologize. No one wins. No one changes.
Setting boundaries removes the anger (yours) from the situation, the manipulation (theirs), and leaves room for everyone to grow, if they are willing.
You get out of the sick crowd
When Jesus approached the sick man (John 5:2-9), he asked him to walk out of the crowd. It had to be hard. He had been stuck in the sick crowd for a long time. It was familiar. All he knew.
Standing meant that he would see a new perspective. He would go in a new direction.
We can get trapped in fighting. In endless drama. In enabling. In a sick crowd mentality that says that you harbor bitterness, or unforgiveness, or retaliate with words or actions because someone hurt you.
Are you willing to change the way you think? The way you respond. Are you expanding beyond the crowd of sick people to view life a different way?
You give grace as they change
I love moments like these. To point out who my mom has become and is still becoming. She is more than my mom. She’s my friend.
Are you willing to acknowledge the steps they have taken? The victories that might seem small in light of the past, but that are huge in light of grace?
Do you need a little extra support as you live intentionally free? Please join me daily in the FB community Live Free. Five days a week I share a brief Live Free encouragement, a scripture, and one small step we can take that day to live it out.
Dear Suzie, Your book helped me so much. I was verbally abused by my stepfather. I am 60 and have suffered for years thinking I was not good enough. That is what I always heard him say. I have bought and given your book to my niece and others. I thank God for your honestly in your book and your blog. Sometimes I feel so sad when I am in my bible study and people talk about their life growing up with christian parents. My parents don’t go to church and honestly my dad makes fun of christian people. I feel like my friends who had the kind of christian life don’t get it when people like me just never had God’s love by example shown to them.
Anyway, thank you for being so honest and helping people know that in spite of your childhood, you can grow up and be the person God intended you to be. I certainly try to do His will every day and am soo grateful He loves me like I am.
Please pray for my daughter in law as she was not brought up in any church, and has a mother that didn’t always show the best example. Her mother has ocdc,and very hyper. My son is being mentored by his church and friends, and is praying for and hoping his wife will accept and follow Jesus. Right now, she is working from 8-6 everyday, with the girls in day care, and recently told me she would not ever move if my son was transferred in his job. I said “you need to pray about these decisions, if they ever occur. She just doesn’t do that yet. I pray for my son and his family daily. Please would you? Thank you
Thank you for writing this. It made me realize I am not alone in this struggle. As a Christian leader, there are many times when I want other people to think I just instantly give everything to God and through His grace it will all be ok. Admitting however, that I am still angry over the past and feel the unjustices will never be made right, through both my parents who hurt me, financially and emotionally, I know I am a work in progress. My mother who has mental issues and who has played the “victim” card for 20 years, lies alot and it’s always someone else’s fault, is exhausting to deal with and I truly believe that boundries are a must. I thank God every day she is 4 states away! Thanks for sharing your struggles and the insight of the scriptures. It feels good to know that I am not alone in dealing with a dysfuntional family, while trying to represent Christ.
Thank you so much for this! I needed it today! I was raised in a very dysfuntional home. It was my goal to never allow my children to go through the things that I went through when I was younger. My husband and I have worked hard to create a good environment, although not always perfect. Last year we had to set boundaries with my parents that were difficult but the best for our children. Last night was a rough night with my family because my daughter (age 8) questioned the boundaries we had set, which she does every now and then. It is hard for her to understand why we made the choices, even though it is in her best interest. Her questions caused me to question our choices, but this helps me to know that we are doing what is right for our children, even though it isn’t easy!
Thanks for your post on Proverbs 31 today. I so needed to hear these words as I still hold on to hurts from the past in my family. I would love to see them grow and mature in their relationship with Christ (but that may never happen!) and see them healthy and free. So, I entrust them to God and start loving them for who they are today, not the one that hurt me and continues to hurt me. It’s not a perfect walk every time, but I, too, am imperfect and trying to view them with the eyes of Christ and forgive with some distance and lack of trust at times, but want to be in relationship with them, so still try!
Appreciate your words and telling part of your story today!
God’s blessings on you, your family, and your ministry,
Thank you for sharing your story on Proverbs 31. It has encouraged me to hear that God has healed your heart and allowed you to move on.
I appreciate so much what your wrote for today. It touched me very deeply. I cam from a very dysfunctional family and parenting was very hard for me. Life as very hard in general for a variety of reasons. I attempted suicide because I just had no more energy to figure it out. Depression haunted me.
My husband was chronically ill and we had two sons who are now grown. I remember the day when I realized there was something very wrong. I sought help at a group called Parents Anonymous. I wasn’t abusing my kids, but I just didn’t know how to be a parent. I learned this came because I had parents who didn’t know how to parent. My mother grew up in a home that had dysfunction, as well as, my father. By making this choice, I had begun to change that dysfunction. God has been with me on this journey.
One of the hardest obstacles I have had to overcome has been that people perceive me to the same as I was years ago. They still remember what I used to be like versus seeing beyond the stigma. It is as if they shut down before they can see the new behavior. Granted, there are many people who never see their dysfunction and change, but there are people who do. Also, it is possible to learn skills to relate to dysfunctional people. I realize that can be hard, but it is possible.
Thanks for your article and I will have to look into your book.
Praising God for releasing you from the past and giving you a very special relationship with your mom. Thank you for sharing.
I just bought your book last week, and am reading it now. I feel like Aimee and I have the same mother! Unfortunately, my mom lives only 20 minutes away. What complicates things even more is that she claims to also be a Christian, and frequently will throw “the Bible says to honor your parents” when she doesn’t get her way with me or my children. I hope your book addresses this topic- how to honor toxic parents. Right now, it doesn’t feel possible to do , but I know God can help me do anything in His will.
I thank you for this blog. I am dealing with feelings of resentment against my ex-husband because I finally realized how little I was loved within the marriage from the beginning. I’ve tried to have a normal relationship with him but his response is always inappropriate. I was just asking God how I could move on from this. I don’t want to continue to be stuck another 11 years. The idea that I can not let his bad behavior keep me captive to the past is so helpful. Therefore, I will not let that be an excuse that keeps me from healing and freedom in Christ any longer.Jesus is calling me to walk away from the mire of anger, resentment, fear and mistrust. I will pick up my mat and follow him.
most everyones responses here are so cheery, but mine is not…
my mom is not sorry for what she did…and the day I came and forgave her for the past she didn’t even look at me or acknowlege that I had said anything at all. she continues to be mentally abusive and childish……I feel all alone alot of times….
I struggle all the time with the unrealistic guilt that I should do more or if this or that….
This past Christmas I finally put my foot down to no more of her childish abuse with Christmas presents. Well at least separate my family from the abusive and non productive atmosphere at the usual family holiday gathering. I said we’ll come see everyone the day after Christmas. It was better…mom never showed or one of my sisters following deeply in her path, but still the gifts were there that she did with spiteful imaturity.
For next year I’m going to tell everyone not to buy me gifts and instead donate to the local Angel Tree. At least their focus would be on doing good for others and not on being childish and spiteful…well one can hope.
I may even decide to host a big game day before or after Christ..orrr the thought came to mind just now to perhaps invite my sisters and their families down at separate times to do this.
I will say my dad said they did read from the bible and light a advent wreath. My nephew Kyle spoke about his faith in God. So sometimes I think I am making a difference, just the devil tries to keep me from seeing that.
For the past couple years I buy everyone in the family a devotional suited to each person and a few small personal items at Christmas.
So I’m sad about my mom but I have to go on with my life and make a better one for my own 2 wonderful young adult children and my 2nd Husband who is the best dad ever to them for the past 15 years.
I read your blog today and I can relate to your family situation. My parents “remained married” their entire lives, but were in bitter enmity the whole time. Dad would drive Mom to church but never join her. He had a stroke that left him unable to speak more than 3 or 4 words at a time. A little later he came down with cancer and wasted away quickly. Just before he died, the assistant pastor from her church went to visit him in the nursing home. When I visited with my dad later he told me “I finally got it!” I took that to mean that the Holy Spirit had opened his eyes and that he had accepted Jesus as his savior.
Mom was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and died a couple of years later, also of cancer. I believe I will see them both in heaven, but the way we were raised marked me and my siblings deeply. I’ve forgiven and learned that healthy boundaries are very necessary in all relationships.
Dear Rose, What an opportunity to love your sweet daughter-in-law, especially if the relationship between her and her own mother is strained. Look for the good in her. Tell her often. Praise her for what she does right. Pray for her, but also tangibly love her with words and with action.
Hi Aimee, It’s a balancing act sometimes to love a person who does all the wrong things. Loving them does not mean that they are allowed to do things that will damage you or your family, which is why I shared about boundaries. Boundaries aren’t punishment. They are simply an acknowledgement that there are issues that need to be addressed in a healthy way. They remove the resentment that come when a person buries feelings and just keeps staying in the same old patterns, because instead you share your needs (in a clear, concise manner) and you also put into place an action plan for when the loved one doesn’t honor that. Now, it’s important to understand that the guidelines apply to both of you. if your need is that a parent not disrespect you in front of your children, then you don’t get to disrespect them in front of your children. Have you shared your needs, sis? What is your action plan?
Lauren and Lisa, Celebrate any small steps they may take. Acknowledge those as they happen, and if they don’t acknowledge that you are moving forward for your own sake, and for that of your children. You sound like strong, amazing women and moms!
Chris, What a powerful question. You are right. It’s hard to honor someone who is toxic. And for those who may say, “that word is too harsh”, it applies if you have a parent who is addicted, who is verbally or physically or in some cases when God is in the mix, spiritually abusive. The word honor doesn’t mean to take abuse. Again, that goes back to the boundaries, which is working toward the healthiest relationship that is possible. That won’t look the same in different families, but honoring and loving them will as you pray for them, and respect them with your words and actions.
Mimi, I sent you a private note, but I’m proud of you for picking up your mat!
Hi Lesley, One mistake we can make is to think that forgiving and letting go is for the other person. It may not change your mom or her response. She may not get it. She may not be in a place where she’s able to receive it. But it’s a step of freedom for you. And for your children. Though I don’t understand fully about the Christmas gifts, and don’t need to, it sounds like you are trying to remove a hurtful situation with positive alternatives. That’s so powerful. Again, it may not change her, but it’s a healthy way to respond. Thank you so much for sharing your heart, and your story. I love that you are taking active steps to give your children something greater. I pray that God wraps you close, fills the gaps in your heart, and eases your hurt.
I was raised by a verbally abusive mother. She did some things right, but some things wrong, as we all do. I had to come to terms with that. I have tried to never repeat that cycle, but failed often. I have an adult daughter who is in an abusive relationship, and because she harbors so much resentment towards me, refuses to hear the truth about her boyfriend, and is distancing herself from me, and drawing closer to him. The whole family is worried for her welfare, and I’ve even spoken to the police because he has physically assaulted her. I am trying to let go and let God, but that seems like I don’t care. I’ve always been very hands on, controlling, and I want to tackle problems. Please pray for me and my family. I don’t worry that she will ever be abusive, but rather she will allow abuse in her home.