If you are like us, many of your vacations this summer will involve time, sometimes extended time, with family members you don’t regularly see. In fact, this past week, we were with some of our family and soon we’ll be with other parts of our family.
It’s always fun to see them. Especially if it has been awhile. But often, memories of childhood come up. “Do you remember when…?” or “Do you remember Miss or Mr. …?” or even “Do you remember when we lived over on…”
Sometimes only one person remembers much about the memory being brought up, but most often, with a little jogging, the other person remembers too. Frequently, there is an “Oh, I’ll never forget…” and the conversation takes a jaunt into stories from years and years ago and memories of people you hadn’t thought of in along time.
Often, we remember times and people and smile and laugh, remembering wonderful people and joyful times with stories.
Many of the memories are very happy and we smile as we remember those stories and people from long ago. At other times, one person’s happy memory is another person’s awful memory. It can be a person who treated one of you well and another of you poorly. Or in bringing up a situation, place or person, you have no idea that their memory is so different from yours!
Often with brothers and sisters, we assume their experience was the same as ours. But their teachers were different, our family was having different struggles at a different stage of their development than ours, they had different friends that also affected how they coped with a variety of situations that came their way and of course, their perspective (including personality) was very different as well!
All these factors affect their and our memories. For some, the sadness feels worse, the joy feels greater and the fear feels more dreadful than for others. The rejection can feel more harsh, the hurt more crushing than for others. Into that scenario come all the buckets, full of memories. That is only one of the issues that can affect family vacations. Our children can tire of hearing the same old jokes, stories, complaints, and arguments.
How do we manage difficult memories that arise?
The challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to remember with forgiveness and without all the resentment. Often, hearing a certain memory that plays over and over in our heads, from another person’s perspective, can be helpful. As we hear their view of what happened, we can get a fuller explanation of what actually happened. It can provide an avenue for forgiveness that wasn’t there before. It adds a depth of reality to the situation. We may not have remembered that our sibling was actually ill when we were feeling so lonely and unappreciated. Because of our age or any number of other factors, our memory didn’t include the fact that our parent was preoccupied with something that was going on with our sibling…or even a health issue they were struggling with.
However, that hasn’t always happened. Sometimes, I have learned the other person’s perspective and learned that something more sinister and more evil was going on than I was aware of at the time. How do I deal with it when the other person isn’t around any longer and has passed on?
I still need to forgive. It won’t help to be resentful. That helps no one! It can help to comfort the person who was wronged. But ultimately, I have to go to GOD and ask for Him to help me forgive the person who wronged that person…and may have wronged me in similar ways too!
I don’t do it superficially and ignore the pain of the hurt they caused, living in denial. Instead, I acknowledge that what they did, was painful, it did hurt and I need to think about the areas where I experienced the pain, putting it into words…and help the one who was hurt as well, to begin the journey of forgiveness…if it is appropriate. At the very least, I need to use words that put salve on a wound rather than inflame it.
Sometimes, we can even help each other by encouraging each other to let go of our resentments. Forgiving is not natural. It is a miracle!
The other aspect of memories is helping each other to forgive the evil done to us while asking GOD to remove the resentment we are so tempted to hold closely to our hearts. We can be honest about the hurt and pain done to us while still realizing we can’t hold onto resentment. It will only harm us.
Getting rid of resentment when evil has been done to us, takes a miracle. It is a work of GOD that has to happen. The part we have to play is in wanting to let go of that resentment we hang onto so closely. It’s a lot like a pet alligator. But if we feed it and allow it to grow, it will turn on us and destroy us!Getting rid of resentment when evil has been done to us, takes a miracle of GOD! Click To Tweet
We can’t remove our memory of certain events that took place in their historical context. They happened and there is no denying it. But we can ask GOD to help us forgive, to take away our desire to feed resentment, to not feed those resentful thoughts day after day.
Those are purposeful things we can do and in the end, we will find, one day, that the resentment is gone. There may even come a time when we are able to see some of GOD’s good purposes in those evil events as GOD brought good from them and changed us for His glory. We might never want to experience them again, but we can see how He worked through them to change us for good.
A simple way to test how you discuss family memories
- Have your children or grandchildren heard stories about good characteristics/aspects of some of the people you talk about negatively?
- Have they heard about any flaws in the people you discuss that you remember positively and loved.
- Have they heard stories about what you learned from difficult/painful times you went through?
- Have they heard stories about what you learned from times of plenty or relative ease?
- As you think about opposite sides of your stories, remember that often the weaknesses of a person are often their strengths gone awry…and vice versa.
- Your children need to hear both sides to these stories so they can understand that people who grow up and have wonderful strengths, also have weaknesses that GOD uses…just as we see in so many of the people in the Bible. Most children who have had any kind of parental discipline are well aware of their own weaknesses. Often they don’t think they will ever amount to anything like the people they admire because of their awareness of their own weaknesses and sins. This will help them.
In these family discussions of memories, are we able to see GOD’s purposes that came out of them?
Sometimes, it takes many, many years. That needs to become part of the discussion as well for the benefit of our younger family members.
As we process GOD’s working in our lives with and through our families, let us trust our GOD to bless even the processing of our memories to bless our children and grandchildren. Not so they think everything turned out “perfect.” But so they will understand that GOD is good and can be trusted to bring glory out of a mess!
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander
be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV
**I planned to put this up the first day of our vacation but ran out of time before leaving town. At our hotel, I was never able to get access to the internet that was supposed to be available! Then our vacation, the part with family, was cut short because I got sick. I still wanted to share this with you to enjoy and use what is helpful. Blessings during your summer breaks!