Growing up my father had us convinced that we were the perfect family. We were the best. We were the standard by which others should measure themselves.
It’s a beautiful tale, until you realize it’s not true. Not that it’s not true because my father lied, but because there is no such thing.
When my father was a young boy, his father died. My father had to wall off vulnerability and doubt in order to be strong and take care of his mother and other siblings. There was no room for doubt. Certainly was strength and safety. That type of trauma can define you for life.
As a golden rule, pain that is not transformed into strength is transmitted to the next generation. Or as it’s been said, hurt people hurt people.
When I moved out of my parents’ home, to attend U.C. San Diego Medical School, I began to notice everyone carried pain. We would sit in groups and discuss our personal lives. There I met so many broken people. I met a brilliant Asian woman whose father had committed suicide, a Persian Jewish girl whose father was murdered during the revolution, a Russian Jew with Tourette’s syndrome, a Hawaiian man who was adopted with no known parents, and many children of broken marriages.
It was around the same time that I struggled with deep depression and in trying to survive school and in an attempt to claw my way out of that darkness, I realized that no one is perfect.
Throughout this process of self-discovery, I have found:
1- We are all children of broken marriages.
2- We are all broken.
3- We are all in broken marriages.
4- We are all children in adult bodies, still looking to be loved by our parents.
5- Most of us harm our children in one way or another, knowingly or unknowingly.
6- Many of us harm our children in exactly the way our parents harmed us, even though we promised ourselves never to make the same mistake.
7- Through acknowledging where we are broken, seeking therapy, asking for help and guidance from those who love us, and through community and prayer, we can become better people and heal our broken inner children.
8- Occasionally, but so powerfully, a person can overcome all the pain and transform it into love. Once transformed, this force breaks the chain of hurt and uplifts future generations. The person that can break the pattern actually becomes a true teacher and healer for others, not just his or her own family.
9- More than any riches, ballet or piano classes, or even latest Apple gadgets, children need the certainty of their parents’ love and presence. In those formative years, if a child feels abandoned or uncared for, that struggle with shame him or her for life.
9- Broken people, as we all are, still do beautiful things. We are all broken, but we are not broken all the time. In fact, most of us can still accomplish great things together and that is the power of family.
Parents who spend time with their children early in life, showing them love and being present, help heal wounds of the past and build stronger future generations to come.
The Jewish Bible has no perfect characters. Even Moses gets angry and is punished.
Still, we can be stronger where we are broken, even more beautiful if we only try.