A Cross to Bear
By Bernadette A. Moyer
Did you ever have someone in your life and all you ever wanted was the best for them?
Yet in spite of it, and no matter what you did to help them, they just continue down a destructive path? It could be a friend, a family member, a colleague and you did everything humanly possible to help them and still the outcome was always the same. Their determination to hurt others, to fail and never come close to their God given potential outweighed anything that anyone else could do to help. They just wouldn’t do what was necessary to turn their life around. At some point, all you can do is pray for them, let them go and save yourself.
One of the largest growing groups in our society today, is family estrangement. There are numerous adult children that literally walk out the door on their families, and they never again return to their family of origin. For the parents that loved and supported their kids, it can be devastating and yet so many of the kids think little or nothing of it.
Earlier I read a heart wrenching post from a mother who stated at one point she had thoughts of suicide, she couldn’t imagine moving forward in her life without her children. I could feel her pain. I know what it feels like to invest so heavily in another human being.
So many parents take it in and on themselves, they blame themselves. It took years for me, to step back and take a clinical look at my own family relationships and the generations and generations of estrangement. One could easily deduct it was learned family behaviors.
When I was younger, I knew a guy who was estranged from his mother, his father died before we ever met. In that relationship, I stood by him, it had to be his mother. It wasn’t until after he died and time away allowed me to look at him. He was an alcoholic and always playing the victim. His behaviors seem to have lived on in his children. The alcohol abuse and the estrangement, have carried forward into the next generation, so is it in the gene pool, genetics? His children were mere infants when he left their life and yet so much of his behaviors are now present in his adult children.
A colleague was talking about his adult daughter that he put through college and graduate school. He was heavily invested in his daughter and paying her way to help ensure her future success. Imagine the sense of betrayal when he learns a year after the fact that his daughter has married? Not only didn’t he know of the marriage but he wasn’t invited to be there. How does he just get over this and continue in a loving relationship with his daughter, when he feels such betrayal?
We all have people in our lives that we love so easily, others that we tolerate and some that almost make it impossible to embrace them. Ann’s daughter left home as a teenager, shortly after abandoning her family she has a baby. The baby is several months old before her family learns of his birth. More than a decade later, it’s not Ann’s daughter but the baby’s father who reaches out to Ann to apologize for keeping her from her grandchild. He is sorry and now that he is a father for the second time, he fully appreciates the magnitude of his teen behaviors. Ann’s daughter, decades later is still locked in her teenaged anger.
Jim has a wife and three daughters, he is friended by many in his religious community where he is an active working member in his church. Jim also has a history of being unfaithful to his wife and abuses alcohol. He was well supported for decades by his family, his friends and his church community. One day Jim went too far, the hurt that he bestowed upon his wife and friends made it impossible for them to keep Jim in their life. As a group, they decided it was finally time to let Jim go and to save themselves. It wasn’t an easy decision but for them, it was a necessary one.
Everyone has some kind of cross to bear in life, it could be a disability, or an inner brokenness or relationships that don’t go the way that we had hoped and planned. We all experience some kind of hurt and loss in life. Every cross that we bear, allows us to grow and to go deeper. Each experience adds to our life, when someone lets us down, we have the choice to learn forgiveness or to live in anger, we have the choice to focus on what we lost or we can concentrate on all that we have.
Letting go only feels like losing if we stop moving forward. Loving acts attract love, just as hate attracts more hatred. We choose if someone else’s behavior defines us or not. We get to choose what we will do with every lesson learned. Will be become bitter and blame others, or will we pick ourselves up and move forward with the desire to fill our lives up with goodness and gratitude.
One of my favorite Lou Holtz quotes is, “The secret to a long and happy marriage is a short memory.” Any time that we are in a long term relationship with our spouses, our family our children there is going to be times when we are disappointed and feel let down. It is our choice if we focus on that disappointment or make the choice to remember all that is good.
In my life, I have forgiven everyone, everything, and I didn’t do it for them, I did it for myself. Whatever they did to me, real or perceived, I didn’t want to carry that cross and so I let it go. I don’t want to be defined by those hurts and in some cases by those people. Lou Holtz, “You’ll never get ahead of anyone as long as you try to get even with him.” Letting it go is what you do for yourself.
My favorite religious sent me a prayer card inside of a card, it arrived just yesterday, A Prayer for Mothers and it reads;
“O God our Creator, pour forth Your blessings on those with whom You have shared the gift of creation. Hear our powerful pleas for the women who loved us into being. Intercede for all mothers this day, so that they may learn to draw their children to You. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even their sons and daughters who have gone astray. Bless our mothers with good health, long life and reward the eternal life in Your Divine Presence. Amen.”
We all have a cross to bear, what we decide to do with that cross is what makes all the difference in the quality of our life and in the happiness and peace in our lives. Today I am thinking about so many that are hurting from my support group, from my friends and my family. With Easter in my head and in my heart all I can say is try and take the lessons learned and leave the rest behind. There is so much love and goodness all around us, but first you have to let go and then you have to be willing to see it!