Your parents are probably better people today than they were when raising you. But for some, it wouldn’t matter if they were saints today, they’d still hold bitterness toward their parents and resent them for past grievances.
Grandpa and Grandma Jeub (the gray-hairs somewhere in this pile of grandkids) were once my mom and dad, doing the best they could with what they had, just like Wendy and I are now.
If you have a heart of bitterness toward your parents (i.e. your children’s grandparents), we have some advice for you to take to heart. If you want your home to be healthy and loving, you’ll heed our advice.
1. Your parents are different today than when they were raising you, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve had this talk with a friend, but he has been too wrapped up in his bitterness toward his father to understand. “You don’t know how bad it was growing up with him,” he insists. He has given me details (some fairly awful, others petty). He can’t get his mind off his father’s shortcomings. The result? He continues to despise his dad. He carries it around and can’t seem to get it off his mind, leaving an awkward anger about him.
It’s unfortunate. I’ve met his father (he’s still alive), and he’s really not that bad of a guy. My friend insists, “But he’s a much different man now than he was when I was growing up.” My answer: “Isn’t that a good thing?”
Fact is, time changes people. The parents you knew as a child are much different people today, probably better people than decades ago. Who knows, if you didn’t like them as a child, you may enjoy them as an adult. But as long as you hold on to the outdated opinion of your parents, there won’t be much hope for your relationship. If you let go of these prejudices, you may be surprised to find that your parents are pretty neat people, better people than when they raised you.
2. Love overlooks shortcomings; bitterness knit-picks at weakness.
Adults carry baggage. They point to painful childhood memories and reflect on them. Perhaps your parents had the power to take away your childhood pain, but didn’t.
Don’t let such focus define you as an adult. Whatever negative story you have about your parent, the loving thing to do is give it up. Give it up to God. He can take it. We’re mandated to forgive our neighbor (Matthew 6:12) and even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), so don’t you think we should forgive our own parents? When you can honestly forgive your parent for whatever, you will find healing.
Granted, there are evil-parent stories out there, and perhaps estrangement is the best for you. I’ll bet, though, that your story is not like this. Most fall under the “My parents weren’t perfect but they should have known better” category. They knit-pick at shortcomings, feeding unfair bitterness in their hearts, while all-in-all their parents weren’t that bad.
Those that insist on bad-mouthing their children’s grandparents are pushing love from their homes. Instead, parents have the opportunity to show a trait of love. “[Love] does not dishonor others…it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13). Failure to overlook shortcomings, especially petty ones, fails at this most important commandment.
3. Never, ever talk of your parents’ past shortcomings to your children.
I don’t care how bad your parents were when you were young: Don’t ever bring up the details to their grandchildren. Not only is this dishonoring, it is usually hypocritical. I’m certain you have behaviors in your parenting that you are ashamed of today. Would you want others ranting about these low moments to your relatives? Especially to the young, impressionable ones? I think not.
Perhaps you are a better parent than your parents, but you will have your moments where you lose your temper, say things you regret, and create unloving situations that you will want forgiven. You know what? Unless your children know you to be a loving, welcoming parent (which dishing on your own parents shows you are not), they will become your biggest critics.
Trust us on this one: Don’t dis’ your parents to your children. This is a bond you want to break. Your bitter words today will likely come back at you in a decade or so.
4. Love your parents this Christmas, and every time you get together.
We’re spending Christmas Day with my parents, the first time in over a decade. We are looking forward to it! We’re looking forward to the invigorating conversations, the feasts of good food, the joy of having them around for 3-4 days. We will have a most excellent time.
Some couples would rather not spend the holidays with their parents. Perhaps this is how you feel. We challenge you to just love your parents. Even if they are prone to upsetting you, just love them for who they are and have fun with them through the holiday season. Make the best of the time you have; it is the loving thing to do.
The day will come when your children are adults. They, too, will have to figure out how to include you in their family. You will want Love in the House, not judgment. Love will make for the best family reunions.
Does this post strike a chord with you? Use the comment fields to explain. It is likely others feel the same way.