Editor’s Note: Young or old, just about everyone today thirsts for acceptance. Whether from a boss, a spouse or close friends, we all long for someone to reinforce our worth. For most of us, this longing begins early in life with our desire for a parent’s approval. Some of us received it; some of us didn’t. Yet we all want it.
Meeting this need for affirmation doesn’t have to be difficult. One way is to do what we call “the blessing.” This blessing has five distinct elements to build up your loved ones and friends and to help them understand their worth before God. Those elements are appropriate and meaningful touch; words of love and acceptance; attaching “high value” to the one being blessed; acknowledgement of a special future; and genuine, active commitment.
But what if you missed out on this blessing as a child? What now? Continue reading to learn more.
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Helping a child receive and accept the blessing from his or her parents is of tremendous importance. But perhaps you have come to realize that you grew up in a home that withheld the blessing, and this realization has left you feeling hopeless. If so, take heart. You have the wonderful opportunity to overcome the past by one day extending the blessing to your own children. But first let’s take a brief look at how missing out on the blessing may have affected you.
Life Without the Blessing
Let’s examine a little more closely the ways that being deprived of the blessing can show itself later in life. Without the blessing, children can become:
Seekers are people who are always searching for intimacy but are seldom able to tolerate it. These are the people who feel tremendous fulfillment in the thrill of courtship but may have difficulty sustaining a relationship of any kind, including marriage. Never sure of how acceptance feels, they are never satisfied with wearing it too long. They may even struggle with believing in God’s unchanging love for them because of the lack of permanence in the blessing in their early lives.
These are the people whose lives are deeply troubled over the loss of their parents’ love and acceptance. Fear, anxiety, depression and emotional withdrawal can often be traced to missing out on the family blessing. This unhappy road can even lead a person to the terrifying cliffs of suicide.
Like 2,000-pound sponges, these needy people react to missing their parents’ blessing by sucking every bit of life and energy from a spouse, child, friend or entire congregation. Their past has left them so empty emotionally that they eventually drain those around them of the desire to help or even listen. When this happens, unfortunately, the smotherers understand only that they are being rejected. Deeply hurt once again, they never realize that they have brought this pain upon themselves. They end up pushing away the very people they need so desperately.
As long as people are angry with each other, they are emotionally chained together. Many adults, for instance, remain tightly linked to their parents because they are still furious over missing the blessing. They have never forgiven or forgotten. As a result, the rattle and chafing of emotional chains distract them from intimacy in other relationships, and the weight of the iron links keep them from moving forward in life.
Quite a few children who have missed out on the blessing use the old proverb “Once burned, twice shy” as a motto. Having lost the blessing from an important person in their lives once, they spend a lifetime protecting themselves from it ever happening again. Keeping a spouse, children or a close friend at arm’s length, they protect themselves, all right – at the price of inviting loneliness to take up residence in their lives.
In this category, line up extreme perfectionists, workaholics, notoriously picky house cleaners and generally demanding people who go after getting their blessing the old-fashioned way: They try to earn it. The thwarted need for affirmation and acceptance keeps these driven people tilting at a windmill named “accomplishment” in an illusory attempt to gain love and acceptance.
Like their driven counterparts, these people throw their time, energy and material resources into the pursuit of anything they hope will fill that sense of emptiness inside. But instead of focusing on achievement, they look for social status, popularity, attention and plenty of “toys.” They never quite understand that the blessing is a gift that cannot be bought. Only counterfeit blessings are for sale – usually at an exorbitant price – and they last only as long as the showroom shine on a new car. These folks are constantly feeling the need to trade in one fake blessing for another.
Many people who have missed out on their parents’ blessing look to fill their relationship needs in all the wrong places. Unmet needs for love and acceptance can tempt a person to sexual immorality, trying to meet legitimate needs in an illegitimate way. Substance abuse and other compulsive behavior can also fall into this category. A drink, a pill or a behavior is used to cover up the hurt from empty relationships in the past or present, and an addiction can easily result.
Hope for Healing
Do any of these descriptions sound even a little bit familiar? Perhaps you or someone you love has struggled to cope with the feelings or behaviors we have described – or someone else has pointed them out to you. (Sometimes it’s hard to see in our own lives what is abundantly clear to others.)
If any of these scenarios ring true (or partially true), don’t worry. There is hope and help for anyone to leave the ranks of those above and join the ranks of “the blessed.” In fact, every missed element of the blessing can be regained. Rather than being locked into repeating the past, we all can find freedom to grow into the people God wants us to be.
We’d like to suggest some important steps that can begin the healing process. We are not offering a simple formula nor guaranteeing an instant cure. However, in counseling men and women all across the country, we find that many who have started with these principles have received hope and healing.
In our experience, the road to blessing begins with the very difficult first step of being honest with ourselves.
Honesty: The First Step Toward Healing
Many people will try to explain away or put off admitting the obvious in their lives. Drawing imaginary pictures of their pasts or denying the real problems that exist can often keep them from honestly facing their pasts and their parents. By protecting themselves or their parents, they effectively block their own healing.
When we refuse to make the painful acknowledgment that our families have serious problems, we often end up suffering even more. People who put off coming to grips with their pasts often reap the same kind of harvest, a harvest where pain is multiplied and sorrows doubled, all because they refused to face the legitimate pain that comes with facing the truth.
Shining a Spotlight on the Past
John 8:32 is a Scripture verse that we require our counselees to memorize. It records the words of Jesus: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (NKJV). The truth about which Jesus speaks in this verse refers to knowing Him in all His purity. Christ offers no cover-ups, no denying there is a problem when there really is one. When we know the truth, we walk in the light that exposes darkness and shows the way to freedom.
Many of us need to turn on truth’s searchlight and shine it on our pasts. Only then can we be free to walk confidently into the future.
We can’t stress how important it is to be honest with your feelings – to your parents, siblings and others – regarding missing the blessing. It is the important first step to healing and restoration.
The Gift of Understanding
The next recommendation for anyone who has missed out on his or her family’s blessing is to understand as much as possible about his or her parents’ backgrounds. Following this one bit of advice can free many people from wondering why they never received the blessing.
In the vast majority of cases, parents who do not give the blessing to a son or a daughter have never received it themselves.
If we will stop and take the time to look beyond our parents’ actions during our childhoods to their pasts, it will be time well spent. We may even come to realize they need the blessing as badly as we do. And that realization can be the catalyst that frees us to seek the blessing from a more dependable source.
We shouldn’t look down and lose hope if we grew up without the blessing. We should look up, instead, to the incredible provision of a blessing that can leave our lives overflowing, the kind of blessing that can even replace a curse with contentment.
Jesus Christ is the one person who can change our lives and the lives of loved ones who are struggling without the blessing by providing us and them with God’s spiritual family blessing – a blessing that is not just for parents and their children but can enrich marriages, intimate friendships and relationships within the church family.
Excerpted from The Blessing, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. Copyright © 1993 and 2011 by John Trent and Gary Smalley. All rights reserved. Used by permission.