My daughter and I visited a museum during a trip to America several years ago. It was very busy with barely enough space to explore, so when we found a room that was almost empty we were very happy. As we walked in, I noticed an elderly couple in the room. They were holding hands and clearly enjoying each other’s company. That’s so sweet, I thought as I smiled at them.
A few seconds later, a young lady holding a baby stormed up to me and demanded: “Did you see that?” She was African American.
“Er, see what?” I asked tentatively, looking around the room curiously.
“Did you see those white folks? Did you see how they walked out when we came in?” We, being she and I.
I looked around again and then realised that she was referring to the elderly couple, who were white and had now left the room. Then she went on an angry tirade, shouting at no one in particular: “This is our city!” “No white folks are going to run us out of our city!” “These crazy white people think they own the place!” etc. I just stood there staring at her, open-mouthed and slightly embarrassed by what I considered to be irrational behaviour.
Now, there’s no doubt that racism exists in America. Nor is there any doubt that there are white people out there who will leave the room if a black person enters. But here’s my point: on the surface, this lady and I were almost identical. We were both black, both with a small child, and both young. But we had completely different internal configurations due to our separate backgrounds:
- One was raised Nigerian, the other African American.
- One was raised in an environment where racial discrimination was a non-issue. The other had likely dealt with undertones of racial inequity all her life.
- One saw, admired and shared a smile with a lovely couple – not white, not black. The other saw WHITE people that were trying to run her out of town.
Same situation, different perspectives.
FACT: Our experiences shape our perspectives and outlook on life. We react to situations and make decisions based on patterns of thinking forged by the relationships we have been exposed to. The bible says “Abel though dead, still speaks.” That is, there are relationships that are long gone or no longer have a consistently strong influence in your life but are still speaking.
Parents, teachers, siblings, friends, ex-boyfriends/ex-girlfriends, etc…Every meaningful relationship, no matter how brief, has left a print – good or bad – on your consciousness that if left unchallenged will continue to influence how you view the world and more importantly, how the world responds to you. This is how we replicate the mistakes and failures of the past. There really is no African magic or “generational curse” to it.
That is why you sometimes find yourself behaving exactly like your father (or mother or a mentor etc.), even though they never deliberately taught you to behave that way. They may have even tried to teach you the exact opposite! It’s because internal images are predominantly formed by observation. PARENTS, it is “do as I do,” not “do as I say”.
Take me, for example. I had a child out of wedlock like my mother, and her mother before her. Growing up, I was afraid it would happen to me and I made a conscious and determined effort to keep myself super-chaste. I really wanted to be different. And I was raised to be different – in a loving and disciplined home. But the ingrained image reproduced itself nonetheless. I was aware of it, but I didn’t know how to overcome it. I discovered that willpower, determination, or even a strong desire cannot stop an ingrained image from reproducing itself. I was a Christian, but I lacked knowledge. Thank God I have come a long way since then.
Now consider your own life. Do you recognise a trend of undesirable familial or cultural traits that are being passed down from generation to generation? Then you owe it to yourself and to your children to destroy those unhealthy, limiting beliefs. It will require deliberate action, using God’s word – his untainted, beautiful thoughts towards you – to challenge the “old” mind and replace it with a new one.
I had to do it. Do you?
Author’s note: I am putting together a resource on using God’s word to destroy unhealthy habits, behavioural patterns and familial traits (aka generational curses). If you are interested or know someone that might be, please email (email@example.com) and I will share it with you once it is complete.
2 thoughts on “Is the past still controlling your life?”
Olawunmi, I love this post. Please share your resources once finished. God bless you.
Thank you so much Tolu. I have some resources I can share with you now if you will send me your email address: Olawunmi@marriedlifetoday.org