Why You Should Break The 10 Commandments: Building a Better Future
Not the Brady Bunch
In a perfect world, the family you grew up in would be a place of joy, freedom, and unconditional love. You would learn how to rightly express yourself with grace and truth and communication would be direct, clear, and rooted in love.
In the real world, most of us experienced something a little less perfect—or a lot less perfect. Even those of us who came from "good" homes still experienced disappointment and hurt. Despite our parents' best intentions, none of us could have emerged from our families of origin without some type of damage.
How the 10 Commandments Messed You Up
You've probably heard of the 10 COMMANDMENTS, right? Well, my guess is that they did a lot more damage than good in your life. I'm not talking about the 10 Commandments given by God to Moses. I'm talking about the 10 Commandments of your family. They may not have been chiseled in stone and hung in your family room; in fact, they were probably not ever clearly articulated, but they were there. They are the sometimes spoken, but more often unspoken, "rules" by which your family lives.
Maybe you grew up in a home where anger was "evil" and therefore never allowed to be expressed. If this was the case, your family likely did not recognize the positive benefits of anger rightly understood and expressed. If anger was "not allowed" in your home, does that mean that you just never got angry? No! You came up with coping mechanism and alternate ways to deal with your anger. If this was a rule in your home, it is likely that you became passive-aggressive and learned to "express" your anger in hidden, quieter, more "acceptable" ways.
On the other hand, perhaps your family valued direct, clear, and honest communication no matter the cost. If this was the case, then arguing and yelling may have been a common event in your home. A visitor might have been bothered by it, but your family wasn't. To you, it was "just how we communicate."
Scenario 1 Plus Scenario 2 Equals PROBLEMS!
Now, imagine what the relationship would be like if a young lady from Scenario 1 and a young man from Scenario 2 fell in love and married each other. Yikes! He's constantly yelling at her (and this terrifies her, by the way) to try and communicate with her and all the while she is storing up and internalizing hurt, fear, and resentment. She does little things to "show" him how she feels but when he confronts her she typically responds with something like, "I don't know what you are talking about—everything is just fine."
Is there hope? There is always hope! The first step is to recognize the 10 Commandments of your family of origin. Take some time and think through what your home was like growing up. Maybe you can only come up with 5—maybe you can come up with 20! But the first step is recognition. Next, identify which of the rules you had to live by as a child are rules you would choose to live by as an adult. Maybe some of your family's commandments were beneficial and you want to keep them. Weed out the ones that are unhealthy and replace them with healthier guidelines by which to live. You may need to find a friend to help you with this activity, as we sometimes think something is healthy when it is not because it's the only thing we've known. It is important to replace a negative habit, attitude, or response with a positive habit, attitude, or response. Otherwise, you will just default to old ways of thinking. This may take some time and you may feel like you are being "fake" at first, but eventually the new guidelines will become automatic and be much easier to do. And don't beat yourself up if you fall back into old ways of thinking and responding, at times. Just redirect yourself and keep moving in a positive direction.
Break the 10 Commandments in Your Important Relationships!
If you are in a relationship, this is a great activity to do with your significant other. It can help you to better understand the world in which your significant other grew up. I would recommend that you do this activity the first time by yourself. See what you can come up with on your own. Then, share your family's commandments with your significant other. Many of us have "blind spots" so I would encourage you to give your significant other the freedom to speak into your life about what he/she sees that you do not. Don't be defensive. Listen and take your significant other's perspective into account. Humility and teachability always prospers a relationship more than pride and defensiveness. Next, decide as a couple what you would like the 10 Commandments of YOUR family to be. You will probably need to be willing to be a bit flexible here. Do the hard work of coming out of agreement with "what you know" and coming into agreement with "what you want." It will be worth it!
Visit the Past but Don't Resurrect It
My last bit of advice is do NOT call up your parents and start yelling at them for the ways in which they've damaged you. Often times, parents really do the best they can and if they knew a better way, they probably would have chosen it. Decide to forgive them for any damage or hurt done and let it go. I agree with the adage that says, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies." You don't need to verbally tell them you forgive them (unless you feel that it would be beneficial for the relationship). You can just forgive them in your heart. Blessings to you in your journey!
Many of the ideas in this article were inspired by Peter Scazzero's book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. If you liked this article, you should check him out. His book was a lifesaver for me!
* Check out this article that offers practical advice on how to deal with your own anger or that of a loved one.
* Marriage is a dance in which there are intimate moments of closeness and also times of stepping on the other person's toes. Check out this poem that portrays the Marriage Dance of becoming one.
* How do women want to be treated? Here's an article that might help decode some of her needs and desires. Find out what Women Really Want!