Healing the Generational Divide

“He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.” -Malachi 4:6

It’s no secret: There is a painful disconnect between the older and younger generations in America. It’s more than just a technology gap too. There seems to be a Grand Canyon sized chasm between their ideologies as well. The older generations carry more traditional, conservative American values in faith, family and politics, while the younger generations carry more liberal and global views. This split between the two has caused years of painful disconnection for many families across the nation, especially for parents and their children. Both sides staunchly hold their ground, refusing to budge even an inch in the other direction. In fact, the two often demonize each other, refusing to see any good in the other or recognize any flaws in their own thinking. Now, there are always exceptions to the rule in these types of generalizations, but a simple Google search of the statistics should validate that I am speaking to the majority in our nation. How many older Americans voted for President Trump? How many younger Americans voted for Bernie Sanders in both primaries? I think you get my point. As I mentioned last week, God is about to break down the barriers between the generations and bring healing. Many prodigals will be coming home, but after they’re home, then what? After the elation and celebration of their return, parents and children will be face-to-face with one another. Very difficult conversations will need to take place in order for true healing to happen. Simply ignoring all that’s previously taken place will only last so long, before an uncomfortable disagreement of viewpoints will arise. To help bridge this gap, I am sharing the insights I’ve received from observing this disconnect for years, so countless families can be healed. With courage and honesty, we can step into the unknown and experience true restoration.

A few years ago, God started speaking to me about his desire to heal and restore families. He told me he “will make a way where there is no way.” He spoke clearly from scripture that he would “turn the hearts of the parents to their children” and the children to their parents (Malachi 4:6), stating that he would restore their lost and stolen years (Joel 2:25). I believed him and prayed this would come to pass. Since then, I have already heard several stories of families being reunited, which has proved God’s faithfulness. What happens, though, after people are reconnected? The real work begins.

First of all, we have to throw away judgment! I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the older generations call the younger ones pathetic “snowflakes” and accuse them of “playing the victim.” At the same time, I’ve sat across from people in the younger generations bemoaning how “dysfunctional” and “unhealthy” (spiritually/mentally/emotionally) their parents are. While there may be a grain of truth to all of these assertions, judgment keeps them on either side of the divide and unable to genuinely love the other unconditionally. It’s time for each side to take a step toward the middle. Determine to focus on the good qualities of the other! They are easy to find if you look carefully enough. Of course, sometimes your parent or child has hurt or disrespected you in such a deep and seemingly irreparable way, you cannot see any good in them. If this is the case, maybe some healing needs to happen for you first before you are ready to reconcile with them. If so, that’s OK. Take the time you need and don’t force reconciliation until you’re ready. However, you can always ask God and he will show you each person’s best qualities if you are brave enough to ask him.

With judgment out of the way, hopefully our eyes will be clear enough to see the stick in our own (Matthew 7:3-5). Now hear me, I don’t say these things lightly or with condemnation. I am sharing truth from my own walk with God and the insight he has given me in order to facilitate the healing that needs to happen. I want to see families healed and restored, but it can only be done when we take an honest look at reality. We cannot ignore it any longer and expect to get different results. The truth is, both sides contain good and bad qualities. Part of what they carry is helpful and part is a hindrance to healing. The older generations want freedom without acknowledging their own brokenness. They don’t want to look at past mistakes, which keeps them chained to the pain of their past. This has created strongholds, so they are not truly free. The younger generations acknowledge their pain and brokenness, but they want to hang onto it without seeking freedom. Their pain has become part of their identity, so they are not truly healthy. They will not let go of their painful past and move into freedom. Why is this?

The older generations learned “you can’t change the past.” The past is in the past and you can’t change it, so there’s no sense in wasting your time dwelling on it. Therefore, they saw no other option than to just forget the past and move on the best they could. They never learned how to grieve properly and move through the pain to healing. In fact, they were told (especially the men) that crying and grieving were a sign of weakness. Still others, especially Christians, were told that it is a sin to dwell on the past, which shows a lack of faith. These are lies! Ignoring the pain, abuse and tragic loss from the past does not lead you into freedom, but into bondage. Instead of being free of the pain, it grows and festers, seeping out at every family function and holiday gathering. This punishes your loved ones and puts a spiritual and emotional barrier between you and them. The truth is, some of your pain has nothing to do with your children, but they still deal with the repercussions when it’s not dealt with properly. Maybe your pain is tied to abuse that happened to you before your children were ever born? How sad that this becomes a problem between you and your kids, producing unintended consequences. The good news is that Jesus can give you the courage to shine a light in those dark closets of your past, heal you and set you free! There is no need to be afraid of the dark anymore. Trade your false sense of freedom for the real thing. You will not regret it!

The younger generations learned that pain, trauma and abuse are really important to acknowledge and confess, and thus become part of your identity. They believe the ideas: “once a victim, always a victim” and “everyone needs a counselor.” Because their pain has become a part of who they are, they want other people to validate this identity as well. When others will not validate them, they feel unseen and unheard, which only furthers their pain. This pain blinds them, leading to blaming other people for not validating them. This leaves them struggling to take responsibility for their own actions and emotions, so they often demonize others and cut off from them. Many seemingly lack the ability to set aside their pain in order to keep a relationship. They have been told they will always struggle with their pain, abuse or trauma, no matter what. Many believe therapy and prescription medication are the only answers to help them cope. Many think this is healthy living and that further freedom is not possible in this life. These are lies! Your pain does not have to define you! Your past trauma does not determine your identity! While counseling can be helpful and medication could possibly be necessary for a time, you are able to move beyond these safety nets to freedom. A truly healthy lifestyle is walking in freedom from your past, not wallowing in it over and over again. Without forgiveness though, you are bound to your pain and to your oppressor. Every time you are around your parents and feel triggered by what they say or do, you can choose to take responsibility for your own emotions and choose to forgive them for hurting you. Forgiveness will set you free to discover who God truly made you to be! With this freedom, comes joy, laughter and love, which is what your heart truly craves!

I know what I’ve written will not be easy for some to hear, but I truly love each generation and long to see them come together in unity. Of course, keep in mind, there are exceptions to these stereotypes. Some older people have worked through their pain and have found true freedom. There are younger people who have left behind their painful past identity and are walking in true healing. For those who are currently in broken relationships though, some of this will ring true. Those of you who can relate to some or all of what I’m sharing, I’m leaving you with a path to resolution. In order to get where we want to go, sometimes we have to swallow hard truths. The two bitter pills these disconnected parents and children must swallow are humility and forgiveness. Both are needed to heal the divide. Neither are easy to accomplish, but God will help you do both if you ask him. Ask Jesus to humble you and open your eyes to your own mistakes. Where are the blind spots in your own life? Receive Jesus’ blood to cleanse you of all sin (1 John 1:7). You can also make the powerful choice to forgive those who have wronged you. Mark 11:25 says, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” This will change your life in the best way possible! It will set you free to experience a life of joy and healing. Parents, forgive your children for disrespecting you. Children, forgive your parents for hurting you. With humility and forgiveness firmly in place, you will be able to keep inching closer and closer to the center of the chasm. When you meet in the middle, perhaps you will be ready to lovingly embrace one another and sit down for a challenging, yet healing conversation… and who knows, maybe even a laugh!

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