Your parenting skills, marriage skills, and the ways you relate to your loved ones in general were greatly influenced by your environment as you grew up. Both negative and positive “family traditions” were deeply ingrained in your personality. They overflow in the way you teach your children, respond to your spouse, and communicate to other family members.

By traditions, I am talking about the unique things made your family into your family.  The way Dad talked to Mom. The way Mom looked at Dad. The way they talked to you. Meals. Holidays. Birthdays. Saturday mornings. Graduations. Death. Sicknesses. Bedtimes. Report cards. Shouting. Whispering. Slamming doors. Retreating into silence. Drinking. Pouting.  The million things that made up your daily life. Your emotional computer picked it all up, and try as you might, hitting the delete button hasn’t worked.  Let’s look at some ways to break negative traditions in your home. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.

First, identify the negative family traditions. Sometimes this is more apparent than others. A hint would be when your spouse says, “You sound just like your father [or mother]!” Among Christians especially, trying to see the faults that were passed down may seem dishonoring to them. If we understand our parents reacted the way they did because of what they learned from their parents, it is easier to understand where the negative traditions came from. If we don’t identify them in our parents, we’ll rarely see them in ourselves. Pray that God will help you to remember the negative as well as the positive patterns. Be specific when you identify problems. If the past remains unresolved it becomes the present, demanding your emotional focus. What happens to you when you are emotionally focused on anything––consciously or unconsciously?  You take on the characteristics of whatever you dwell on.

Second, refocus. Make a list of how you would like your family members to remember you.  What specific behaviors do you want to model? One pastor said he wanted to be remembered by his children as one who laughed. Of course, he listed more than that, but he is working daily on keeping a light heart with his spouse and children. Pray through the qualities that are on your list.  Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of them as you walk through each day.

Third, take responsibility for your choices without blaming. When you let others in your past dictate your choices, you give them a great deal of control over you. They are pretty much mastering your life. That isn’t what any of us want. There is only one Lord and Master whom we obey and serve.  Stop making excuses for the choices you have made.

Fourth, seek a positive role model. Find a person who can show you what a healthy, Christian family looks like. If you are a man, find a Christian man whom you have observed honoring his wife and children, and spend time with him.  If you’re a woman, find a godly woman who respects her husband and loves her children, and spend time with her.  You know what you’re doing? You’re being remodeled. Remember that the original modeling took years and years, so remodeling can’t happen over a quick lunch with someone. To use a computer analogy, it’s more like slow reprogramming. If we were left to the mercy of how we were programmed in our homes, most of us would be in bad shape.  But God, in His grace, has given us a way to reverse negative patterns. Jesus Christ is greater than any tradition. The God who adopted you into His forever family knows how to make earthly families work.

The principle for having a healthy family is the same for having a healthy Christian life. You don’t have to do it alone. The life of Jesus flows through us to enable us to do God’s will (John 15:4-5).

Make everyday “Valentine’s Day” by showing your family, friends and yes, even strangers, what it truly means to Love One Another through Jesus Christ.