Be the change you wish you had seen in your own family. Break the cycle!
It’s so easy to allow life to just happen to us. Purposeful living is just the opposite of that. Purposeful living is living with intention. Doing things purposefully – for a reason – to attain a desired positive outcome. How much of what we do every day is just something that we have always done, maybe without even really thinking about it? Or maybe it’s just the way we were raised, or what we have known since we were young? How much of what we do every single day is done with little or no intentionality or planning on our part?
A cycle (according to Dictionary.com) is “a round of years or a recurring period of time, especially one in which certain events or phenomena repeat themselves in the same order and at the same intervals.” The way I interpret it, for purposes of the following thoughts, is that a cycle is a behavior or pattern that we repeat, probably with little thought or conviction about intentionally positively making it different.
We complain about things in our families, things we saw in our parents that we didn’t like, things that maybe go on even with our own spouses or children, but we just aren’t willing sometimes to be the one to put forth the effort to try and change them. We end up just repeating the same thing that we had wanted to change, over and over again.
Over time our lives become filled with various cycles. Most of our cycles are probably rather unintentional, but not all cyclical living is bad. We might repeat some cycles that are good. We might be good parents, because we had good parenting skills modeled for us when we were younger and much more impressionable – whether it was from our parents or just someone we saw interacting with their children.
We might be financially responsible, because our grandparents taught us through their example that you shouldn’t buy anything unless you had the cash to do so and they lived out that principle the whole time you knew them and you saw it over and over.
But, we might end up repeating some of the cycles that we disliked about our parents or other loved ones – which seems absolutely crazy doesn’t it? Why would I knowingly, willingly repeat something that I know to be bad and something I don’t want to have as a part of my life?
How often though do you see people that hated that their father was an alcoholic, but they end up just like him – out drinking instead of being at home with their family? How sad is it when you hear about someone that witnessed their mother in an abusive relationship and then they end up in a relationship just like their mom? What about sexual promiscuity? That’s an easy cycle to break, right? You grow up seeing mom or dad with a different “partner” every week, you know it is not what God intended, and for some reason you end up the exact same way.
What about divorce – that’s a big one – how many people were children of divorce, hated what it did to them as children, have seen the effects of it on other children they know, but still end up getting a divorce themselves?
Why Repeat Negative Cycles?
Why is that? Why do we repeat cycles that we know are harmful and destructive in our own lives? Why do we allow the cycle(s) to continue?
- It’s what we know. It’s familiar. It’s the people closest to us that we emulate, whether we like it or not. You’ve probably heard, and I believe it to be true, that you are a combination of the people closest to you. You want to know what you are like? Look at the people you are around. Unless you live an intentionally different style of life than those people, you’re likely to repeat what you see. Maybe we haven’t been taught anything better. We know there is better. We know it isn’t something we want to repeat, but maybe we really just don’t have positive examples in our lives.
- We are not intentional in our living. We just allow life to consume us, to pass us by without our input. We repeat instead of change. It’s easier to “just live” than to live purposefully. Which sounds easier to you… Is it easier to repeat a pattern that you are familiar with even if you know the negative consequences that will ensue or is it easier to live intentionally, purposefully – to make a plan to live differently – to focus on conscious positive decision-making? The latter sounds like a lot of effort – a lot of forethought. It’s easier, upfront, to live unintentionally.
- It’s nice to have an excuse for something that we actually want to do, but know we shouldn’t. Take the living promiscuously example – maybe we actually do want to sleep around and have a different sexual partner every week. We know we shouldn’t, but if we could blame it on the poor example we had growing up… then we could get away with it. People would lower their standard of expectations and then we get to do what we know is bad, but want to do anyway. Whether we use an excuse to tell someone else to rationalize some poor behavior or habit or we use that excuse to lie to ourselves – having a scapegoat is easier. It might even ease our own conscience for a little while.
We Blame Others
We can blame anyone for anything…
- We can blame our parents for just about any of our negative characteristics that we end up with – like our short temper, our pessimistic outlook, our lack of religious interest.
- We can blame our spouses for our unhappiness or for forcing us to live a life that wasn’t true to who we really were.
- We can blame our kids for our stress which causes us to need a drink or two.
- We can blame the dog for eating our homework.
- We can blame our bosses for forcing us to put work before God or family.
- We can blame our co-workers for our poor performance at work, for sabotaging us or making us look bad.
- We can blame our kid’s teachers for how poorly our children do at school.
- We can blame the guy that cut us off in traffic for our poor attitude when we get home after work.
- We can blame credit card companies for our overspending and debt problems.
- We can blame our church family for being hypocritical when we want to excuse some imperfection in our own lives or desire to make a change that we know isn’t right.
- We can blame society as a whole – that’s just how society is – why should I be any different?
- We can blame the devil – the devil made me do it!
We can blame anyone for anything!
We Blame God
You know what’s even sadder though? Some of us even blame God from time to time for the bad cycles we repeat in our lives. After all, He is the Creator – He made me this way. Surely we wouldn’t do that would we? We wouldn’t blame God for making us do something sinful would we?
We blame God when bad things happen in our lives. Remember the story of Job and how he had all those bad things happen to him? What was the advice he got from his friends and wife? “Curse God and die.” It’s God’s fault. God gave me a parent that abused my mother as a child, so <fill in the blank with the bad behavior you want to excuse>. God took my baby from me. He allowed my spouse to get cancer and die young.
We can blame God for just about anything and we think that allows us to excuse ourselves from making conscious, positive, intentional decisions in our own lives.
Break the Cycle!
Let’s stop, ok? Let’s stop blaming others. Let’s stop living unintentionally. Let’s stop playing the part of victim! Let’s definitely not blame God for our bad cycles. From the numbered section above, here are just a few corresponding thoughts on how to break away from repeating negative cycles. I know, it is much easier said than done, but it’s up to you and I believe you can do it.
- Seek out positive examples. If you grew up with nothing but bad examples in your life, seek out some good ones. There are so many good people out there that will be willing to mentor you, but they may not know you need the help. Seek them out! Don’t expect to be anything different if you don’t know anything or anyone different.
- Live intentionally. You are in control of your life. We sometimes pretend that we don’t have any control or that we don’t make decisions every single day that could either repeat or end our cycles. No one else controls you. Eventually you need to decide to just own up to it and make the change! The cycle is not going to break on its own. You must purposefully break the cycle!
- Stop making excuses – do the “tough stuff.” It’s not someone else’s fault that you keep making bad decisions, that you want to excuse some poor behavior, or that life just hasn’t been fair. to you You know that. You know that life just stinks sometimes, but don’t blame it, don’t blame other people, don’t blame God. No more excuses!Eventually someone has to break the cycle! Don’t make this something your children have to worry about later. Be the one that made the change! Decide today – it stops here! I will not allow this <fill in the blank negative behavior/situation> to continue. My family won’t be impacted the way I was, because I am breaking the cycle!
You have the power to break the cycle. You have the ability to make the necessary change. I have faith in you. God can and will help you! Be the change!