The surest path to having healthy self-esteem is to have positive relationships with your family of origin. This posting offers the most important reason why you need to make up with your mother, father, brother or sister for your own well-being and inner peace.
When I run my First Rule Inner Peace course, I invite participants to focus on one peace-robbing relationship. The majority of the time, it is with a sibling, parent or adult child with whom things are either very distant or in high conflict. The story line is often strikingly familiar. One family member has a acute and uncanny knack for pushing our buttons and driving us crazy. No matter what we do, the pain returns and swells. Eventually, we throw up our hands in frustrated failure and become estranged.
One woman hadn’t spoken to her siblings in several years. She described their relationship as toxic, bringing her down each time they connected. Her aging mother bemoans the incomplete family gatherings. However, years of failure stand as towering obstacles to trying one more time.
Another person’s brother has an arrogance that guiles her. He makes her feel stupid and insignificant with his know-it-all attitude and terrible listening. Virtually every person I meet knows someone who isn’t speaking to a close family member. Being Christian seems to make no difference, and might even make things worse!
Many adults struggle with how they feel when they “go home” to visit one or both parents. They feel like a little child again in spite of their adult success and position in life. Something strange happens when they walk through that door. What is that cloud and how do we get rid of it?
My father had this effect on me for nearly twenty years. I typically left family gatherings feeling bad about myself and angry about his lack of interest in me and my life. My ex-wife had similar feelings when she left her parents, upset at her mother’s depressed state of mind and her own inability to fix or help her mother do something constructive.
Family of origin relationships are complex and deep. They are also God’s fastest way to heal your inner pains, fears and insecurities. These are the imperfect people from whom we first learned the meaning of love – good, bad or ugly.
My experience on the inner peace mission is that God’s healing love is buried deep in our soul, underneath many layers of protective walls that we put up ourselves over the years. These walls shut out God’s healing love because love only exists when we are vulnerable. You know this is true because you experienced it when you fell in love. You let your walls down and felt joyous, heady love! If your lover later broke trust with you, you put those walls back up and soon your love diminished.
The deepest layers are the ones you unconsciously put up to protect yourself from feeling rejected, attacked or abandoned by your mother, father and siblings. You were at your most vulnerable stage as a young child. When you heal a damaged relationship with a member of your family of origin, you are going straight to the core of what robs your peace – your own heart. This the most important reason to heal your family of origin relationships.
Layers and walls are part of the mask we construct to win the approval of others. Over time, we lose consciousness of our mask. We think we are our mask. In reality, the mask is our ego. Our real self is buried behind it. We need to remove the mask and see what psychologists call our ‘dark side’ or our ‘shadow.’ Our irritating loved one is the doorway to admitting we have faults we can’t see. I call this spiritual blindness. Jesus teaching in Matthew 7:5 offers us a clear and specific solution.
How do we experience the spiritual healing? By seeing our own role in the breakdown of the relationship and owning it. We need to do the most basic of Christian duties – seek forgiveness for our role in the relationship. This requires humility and faith. Otherwise, our ego will shirk and shrivel at the mere thought of doing this. I wrote another blog on this that explains how to do this called The Best Way to Forgive.
You need to be brave to face someone close to you with whom you have had years of animosity. You need to prepare yourself for the moment. Jesus’ First Rule of Inner Peace is the best spiritual tool I know of to do that job. You want to enter the conversation feeling neutral, grounded and prepared for the worst while believing in the healing power of the Holy Spirit. This is what my coaching and courses are designed to do.
You do this for your own healing, not to fix or change the other person. A broken relationship with a member of your family of origin is God’s way of knocking LOUDLY on the door of our fragile heart. Once healed, our soul reveals new levels of love. We become more compassionate towards our selves, let alone others. We experience Jesus, spreading his love, peace and joy as we grow in faith on our lifelong inner peace mission.
In my family of origin where I have three younger sisters plus my dad, we treasure our loving, positive relationships. We don’t take them for granted. We see the fruits of our efforts in our young adult children who grace our family gatherings by eagerly wanting to join us at every birthday, holiday or other excuse we find to get together. My family is a rock in my life. This joy is available to you, but not without having the spiritual courage and wisdom found in the Serenity Prayer.
Peace be with you and yours,