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Parent Out of Purpose, Not Pain

I recall only one painful moment at the hands of my parents, my mother actually. She called me snotty. I don’t remember what I had done, but I remember the crush in my spirit when my mom called me a name. There may have been other times, but they haven’t stuck with me.

Overall, my parents encouraged me, provided materially well for me and gave me a good moral foundation. They were good parents. My dad has since passed and was only able to see me parent the first of his grandsons. My mom has seen my husband and me in action, up close this year for the six months she lived with us. Without going into detail let me just say she has tried to impose her parenting methods on me, and some of her comments have been painful. She has even caused me to question my parenting skills.

I can only imagine what impact the pain on those of you who grew up with abusive parents has had on your psyche and all your relationships, including your parenting one. I empathize with you; my childhood painful moment still stings a bit and my adulthood painful moments are still fresh. But in all of your pain and mine, one thing remains true: Jesus died to set the captives free. This is more than us being loosed from Satan’s bound but includes us being loosed from our broken hearts, our setbacks, and our letdowns (Isaiah 61:1-3). We know Jesus is the remedy for all our pain, helping us to parent out of purpose instead of pain.

In order to get to Jesus we have to wade through our flood of destruction to see what damage our parenting from a place of pain and not purpose may have caused:

Inner vow—When our parents hurt us we may have vowed to ourselves “I will never do that to my children.” While it should always be our goal never to abuse our children, making a promise to ourselves causes us to operate based on that vow and not the leading of the Holy Spirit; often has us judging our parents and not forgiving them; and has us striving to be a perfect parent (Matthew 7:1-5).

Unreasonable expectations—Being a perfect parent, even in one area, is unrealistic (1 John 1:8). Parenting out of pain causes us to also place unreasonable expectations on our children. Maybe our parents with their abuse made us feel we could do little right, including being good parents. But if our children are exceptional, we believe they can be proof of our perfect parenting.

Strained relationship with children—Children soon understand that mom has unreasonably high expectations and they may cower in fear to try to meet them or rebel to get far from them (Colossians 3:21). When the children don’t meet our expectations, we may respond harshly toward them, falling into the same pattern of abuse that we vowed to escape. We may become unforgiving toward our children because they don’t meet our expectations and unforgiving toward our parents because ‘they caused me to be this way’ (Matthew 7:1-2).

Detachment—When we are in pain we may seek to alter our reality. So that we are not in a position to hurt our children we may detach from them, using alcohol, drugs, work, church and a clinical interaction with them to keep us from getting close to them. The Bible calls this way of dealing with our children an “unnatural affection,” one that threatens God’s intended affection that parents would have for their children (2 Timothy 3:3; Psalm 127:3-5).

We are all responsible for OUR actions and are obligated to deal with our pain to get healed from it so we can parent from a place of purpose. Jesus died so we could have a relationship with Him and access to all the power we need to succeed. He wants us to be good parents so He will guide us to the right counselors, scriptures, disciplines, friends and whatever other resources we need for our healing.

When we dwell in pain that is what we have to give. But if we dwell in our purpose—chief being to give God glory, then that's what we have to give. Our parenting purpose is to raise righteous children by bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Everything we need to strengthen their bodies, souls and spirits is in the word. To get us rooted in this, I want us to respond with purpose and not pain when we get ready for the day. As we get our physical selves ready to present to the world, we should get our spiritual selves ready to present to the world. We are expected to put on the full armor of God to stand against the tricks of Satan, but we also have to ready ourselves against ourselves. To do that let’s:           

Put on the mind of Christ—Take on the form of a servant, like Christ did, by humbling ourselves to serve Jesus by any means necessary (Philippians 2:5-8).

Eat the Fruit of the Spirit—Whatever we consume shapes us. If we consume the Fruit of the Spirit, we will be shaped by the Fruit of the Spirit. The more we consume the healthier our souls become and we automatically live by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26).

Walk in the Spirit--Whenever I lose a lot of weight I forget how to walk. I'm used to carrying heavier thigh weight so I tend to lift my legs more like I'm marching than the slight lift that is now needed to get me from one point to the next. When we lose our spiritual weight of parenting from pain, our spirits become lighter, no longer having to carry the weight of pain and insecurity, though we may still tend to try to carry that weight. But when we walk in the Spirit, remembering that we have crucified our flesh, we no longer have to cater to negative emotions but can allow the Spirit to empower us (Galatians 5:16).

We can parent out of purpose and not out of pain when we seek to put the Kingdom, and not our flesh, first.

Reader Comments (4)

We should always pick the battle that best suits our situation. I don't think that snotty was a hurtful word nor do I think that you could empathize with real people who have been mentally, physically, and emotionally abused. Some indiviudals need to own up to their behaviors and just apologize. Expectations. From what I have read, you have amazing parents and we have to know that we are resilent people. Words are words.

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise


Words affect people differently; I'm sure you know that. So while you don't believe snotty was a hurtful word it was to my 10-year-old self whose mother had never called her anything but her given name. You are right about me not being able to empathize; I should have said sympathize which I and others can do even if we haven't been through the same abuse, just as 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) tell us: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (emphasis mine).

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRhonda J. Smith

Perception of pain is relative. While one person's pain may be of a father sexually abusing her, another can be significantly milder, yet painful. I have touched a utensil left on the eye of a stove, and yelped, "Ouch"! It burned, even if though I removed my hand quickly and did not require ice to heal it. I have also experienced second degree burns all over my hand from lifting a top off a pot, which melted the skin off my hand: I screamed for hours and required emergency treatment. I believe that we can say something hurt us and mean it in various ways and in various intensity.

October 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRenee Carr

I hear you Rhonda, to this day my mom likes to point out my faults and I (like the little girl I was) still think of her as a queen! I always wanted her approval, but I remember the sting of a remark she liked to make. She'd say 'stop walking like a boy, walk like a lady'. While that sounds 'light' it made me feel like she didn't 'like' me or accept my little quirks, and that was so hard. We still have a complicated but close and loving relationship. In my opinion, as parents we have to be careful of bellitling our kids' feelings and emotions or else they will not trust us with more intense issues when they grow older. With due respect, @Denise reminds me of people who erroneously tell depression sufferers "snap out of it". While 'snotty' today may not offend Rhonda, for a little girl who did not like to displease her parent, being labeled hurt. I do not advocate spoiling kids or trying to shelter them from every insensitive remark, but they don't grow a thick skin just because they experience torturous pain. And I do not sense that Rhonda is being ungrateful toward her parents, there are complexities especially in mother/daughter relationships that require understanding, patience, forgiveness and sensitivity.

October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammi

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