#DailyProverbs Jeremiah 32:17-19: "Sovereign Lord, you made the earth and the sky by your great power and might; nothing is too difficult for you. You have shown constant love to thousands, but you also punish people for the sins of their parents. You are a great and powerful God; you are the Lord Almighty. You make wise plans and do mighty things; you see everything that people do, and you reward them according to their actions."
Being just, and being righteous, doesn't always seem to equate with being "fair." Or, and least with being fair according to humans. And it doesn't seem very fair that the children pay for the sins of the parents. However, it goes deeper. It IS deeper than that. It's not just linked with accountability for yourself and your own life... it's about the legacy you inherited and the legacy you leave for the future.
So often when we deal with difficult people, it's easy to form judgments about them based on their behavior or attitudes. And actions and attitude are all that I can see about a person, so, that's a natural progression: if you act in a manner, I'll associate you with that manner based on the only evidence I'm given. But, aside from that, have you ever stopped to wonder what has made that person so disagreeable or foolish? Do you know people with "good hearts" but that behave atrociously? When the Bible says God "repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children" (v. 18), it is speaking about generational cycles of sin. Notice how some people are broken in ways you cannot fathom, and they act out accordingly. In fact, unless someone in the family line makes a deliberate choice to change, sinful and dysfunctional behavior will be passed from parent to child for many generations, and it's not just what you "teach" your children, it's what they watch, learn, and absorb. If you are a constantly anxious mother, you'll likely have a constantly anxious daughter. If you accept abuse, you'll teach your daughter to accept abuse. If you are an abusive man, you'll teach your son to be an abusive man. Your sin, your behavior, and your general outlook will pass to the next generation.
This is really just a confirmation of the principle of sowing and reaping. We pass down standards for conduct, our religious beliefs, our standards for living and the character traits that we received from our parents. Those can be wonderfully traditional and create family bonds for generations. Or they can create horrible and terrible family traits. If we are unwilling to change our sinful habits and attitudes, they will, almost always without fail, find their way into our children's lives. Look at drug abuse and alcoholism, children that hate how their parents acted on drugs, will eventually find a way to experiment and see what the big deal was about. Children of alcoholics generally become drinkers, or even heavy drinkers.
What is true for sin is also true for wounding. When a child is emotionally bruised, or even broken, in the home, his and her behavior and character will be negatively affected. So, think about that when you encounter difficult people. What hurts do you think shaped his or her life? A heart of compassion originates from a willingness to empathize with those who have been wounded. This doesn't excuse someone's sin, but it does aid in opening our hearts toward the individual's plight, and need for compassion. Kindness goes a long, long way.
What about you? What childhood wounds contributed to who you are today? How have they affected your life? How are they affecting the lives of those around you? Are you lashing out at others because of what you inherited? Are you hurting others because of what you learned? If you haven't dealt with them, you'll probably pass similar hurts down to your children.
With God's help, you can break this cycle and begin a new one that will benefit, instead of harm, future generations.