Overcoming Your Family Legacy

In the Bible’s tales of generations of a single family, some striking patterns start to develop.

Isaac and Rebekah had each one a favorite son. So did Rebekah’s favorite son, Jacob. Each case of favoritism resulted in years of avoidable conflict, separation, and grief.

Abraham lied about being married to his wife (Gen. 12:14-20). Isaac did too (Gen. 26:1-11). Jacob lied to his father to get his blessing (Gen. 27). Jacob’s sons lied to him after they sold their brother Joseph into slavery (Gen. 37:31-35). The pattern of deception haunted them until they their conscience could no longer bear the consequences, that they admited their fault and asked for forgiveness.

The Bible describes God as “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Exod. 34:7). Thus it has always been. Abused children may grow up to abuse their own children, or simply withhold affection because they never learned healthy touch—leading in turn to children who turn to substances, sex, or other measures to fill the emotional void they grew up with. The children of alcoholics are several times more likely to become alcoholics than the average person. If they don’t drink, they may engage in other self-destructive behaviors.

You can likely think of things your parents and grandparents did that still hang over you, from abuse to repression to addiction. How can you overcome negative generational patterns and live a new life?