Family lessons and legacies

family treeI’ve been sleuthing for the mysteries of my family. In our small nuclear family of four (now three) we knew nothing of my Dad’s paternal line, and even less on Mother’s side. So when I began digging into the family history after my father died, it was like beginning a journey of discovery for all of us. You might think there wouldn’t be much to find, with such fragmentary information to begin with, but in fact the search is yielding some unexpected, and sometimes moving, results.

It’s true what they say: some things run in families — and not just DNA, disease, and family resemblances. Attitudes, values, and perspectives tend to make their way down through the generations, of course. But behavior patterns and their consequences also show up. Emotional wounds, psychological coping mechanisms, and just plain quirky habits, run like an elusive but definitely present thread (now you see it, now you don’t) through both sides of our family tree, right down to where they meet and mingle in my generation. It has caused me to pause and think.

We receive and benefit from the best that our families give us. We also receive and suffer from the worst they pass on. But even if all they have to pass on is dysfunction and pain, we don’t need to be the victims of our families. We are imprinted with the patterns of struggle that the family passes on, with the nurture (or lack of it) that we receive, and with the sorrows and strengths that each generation has found within themselves. But are we indelibly imprinted? Or are parts of our inheritance malleable? Can the legacy be transformed, healed, or in some other way amended? I believe it can. That’s the story of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures: healing and hope. Healing and hope are meant to be part of our story too.

Some families inherit and pass on great love, blessing the next generation with healthy patterns of loving and commitment. Some families inherit a more difficult legacy. Most families pass through great suffering in one form or another and are faced with challenges not of their making. But in every generation, I see people doing the best they can, sometimes with very little help, wanting to be good. Wanting to love and be loved, and sometimes just not knowing how.

In the process of thinking about the people who have gone before me, I’m finding some singular blessings: growing understanding, a new birth of compassion, a new sense of connection and rootedness. But more than all that, I’m beginning to think more clearly about what kind of legacy I may be leaving behind.

I’m thinking that I want my legacy to be one that has healing in it. It will not go to my children, of course; I don’t have any children. But we each pass on something to everyone our lives have impacted. And I know that most of us need some help to heal from the wounds of living and from the judgments that are made about us. I know that healing begins in forgiveness, whichever side of the wound we are on.

I want to breathe forgiveness into this world so that someone, somewhere, can breathe it in as freedom and peace and then pass it on. That’s my hope.

Thanks for listening. Blessing to you in whatever hopes and dreams you are holding today!

Author: Linda Robinson

Writer, Christian contemplative, concerned citizen.