Issues

Recently, the topic of having ‘mommy and daddy issues’ has been greatly explored in mental health spaces, as more people seek to heal from traumatic childhood experiences. Childhood abuse, abandonment/neglect, parental narcissism, generational curses, etc. are the main culprits of this discussion and are revealed to be more common in our society than not. As people struggle to forgive the transgressions of their parents, they may find themselves in war with the true nature of God. Believe or not, the relationship we have with our parents has a tremendous impact on how we perceive God. More specifically, a broken family construct can cause us to compare God’s nature to the character and choices of our parents. Do you have trouble trusting God because you were abused or neglected by your parents? Do you see God from the pain that was inflicted upon you as a child? There are times when we mistakenly place God on the level of our earthly parents instead of Him reigning above them. Misplaced trust often tricks us into thinking that it is God’s fault that we have suffered pain by others. This often creates a false feeling of being abandoned, unloved, inadequate, and overlooked, which keeps one from experiencing the fullness of God’s goodness and grace. Indeed, let’s take a deeper look into these after traits of ‘mommy and daddy issues’ in biblical context to understand how they impact our relationship with God.

Abandonment

Abandonment

As a child you may have experienced rejection from your mother and/or father. Your parents may have given you up for adoption due to poverty, mental health concerns, or simply refusing to accept parental responsibilities. Or your parents have disowned you because you did not adhere to their lifestyle, beliefs, or standards. Whichever the situation, there lies a sense of abandonment that often carries over into your relationship with God. Because your mother or father has rejected you, you believe God has rejected you too. This mindset keeps you from seeing the goodness of God, opening a door for the enemy to convince you that He is either unreliable or simply nonexistent. However, the bible helps us to overcome this deception by giving us Psalm 27: 7-10, which says that:  

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;

be merciful to me and answer me.

8My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”

Your face, Lord, I will seek.

9Do not hide your face from me,

do not turn your servant away in anger;

you have been my helper.

Do not reject me or forsake me,

God my Savior.

10Though my father and mother forsake me,

the Lord will receive me.

The story of King David is one biblical example of someone feeling left out and abandoned by one’s family. His father seemingly overlooked him as being one who could be anointed as king of Israel, which may have left a feeling of rejection. I believe this scripture plays on those feelings as David airs out his pain of being rejected by others. But the main element to take away from this scripture is the conflicting nature we have with measuring God’s grace with human fickleness. David goes back and forth pleading to God to not reject him, which shows he feared that God would forsake him in the way that his family did. But that is NOT God’s nature. God looks after us even more when we are forsaken by our family. The bible says that “The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” He gives us unconditional love and protection despite the lack of care and support from our parents.

Feeling Unloved

Unloved

Feeling unloved is a narrative that can also complicate your relationship with God. This may come from the experience of living in a home where there was a lack of peace, love, and respect for one another. Therefore, you may have a hard time believing that God loves you unconditionally. We can’t choose our parents, so at times, we question God’s motives as to how He would allow for one to have parents who mistreat their children.  Well, because humanity has free will and is stricken by a fallen nature of sin, it is inevitable for us to be born in sinful and chaotic environments that are the opposite of what God intended for us. God does not intentionally give us away to parents that are broken and struggling to love and guide us. But he sends us here on earth as His children to fulfill our unique purpose and to glorify God’s kingdom.

Let’s examine the biblical example of Abraham, Sarah, their maidservant Hagar. Abraham and Sarah struggled to produce offspring for many years. However, God promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations, despite his and Sarah’s old age.  Due to lack of patience and unbelief, Abraham and Sarah decided not to wait on God’s promise and used their maidservant Hagar as a surrogate to their first-born child Ishmael. After Ishmael’s birth, Hagar began to antagonize Sarah, which causes her and Ishmael to be removed from Abraham and Sarah’s home.  Genesis 21:14-18 says that:

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.
17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Genesis 21-14-18

Both Hagar and Ishmael may have felt unloved and unwanted when they were forced out of Abraham’s home. Similarly, some of you may have experienced the exact same situation, where you were rejected by a parent because of adultery, a new relationship or remarriage. But just like with Ishmael, God’s love doesn’t end because of the disobedience or sins of the parents. God can still build something great within you to show the world that something good can come out of a troublesome situation.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism

You may have grown up in a home where your mother and father often ridiculed you about your personality, your looks or your abilities, and therefore you have grown up to be a perfectionist as an adult. With this, you may have this false notion that God will only love you and bless you if you are perfect. Whenever you mess up you think that God is going to strike you down, just like you parents did when were a child. You see God as this strict, cold and authoritarian figure, because your parents often hammered you with rules and legalistic ideals. Maybe your appearance doesn’t fit the standard of your peers, where you were criticized about your attractiveness, skin tone, your weight, or your hair.  This type of infliction lowers your self-esteem and makes you feel inadequate in the presence of others, even God.

As I reflect on these scenarios, I am reminded of the biblical story of sisters Leah and Rachel. Now this story in itself is not about parental concern, but you can infer the issue of perfectionism in Leah. The bible says that Jacob sought to marry Rachel, who “had a lovely figure and was beautiful”, but her sister Leah had “weak eyes” (Genesis 29:17). In other words, Rachel was the more desirable companion because she was more attractive. Leah was not. Jacob finds himself in a conflicting situation where he marries both Leah and Rachel, yet only Leah was blessed to bear his children. Now, the difference in attractiveness affected Leah’s self-esteem in her marriage to Jacob, in which her ability to bear his children became a path of perfectionism in her need to be loved.

Genesis 29: 31-35 reads that:

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben,[a] for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.[b]
34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.[c]
35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.[d] Then she stopped having children.

Genesis 29:31-35

Leah seemed to feel unloved by her husband—and it is safe to say that she may have felt this way as a child. Having siblings or others in the family that your parents favor more can cause this overwhelming sense of inadequacy that causes you to go over the top to prove to others that you are worthy of love. This can show up in your relationship with God as well, as you may feel like if you don’t pray enough, fast enough, attend church enough, etc. then God will not love you like He loves others. It may also be the belief that because you don’t look a certain way or have certain talents/gifts then God will not use you to glorify Him. This is a false idea of God’s nature that contradicts His sense of justice and unconditional love for His creation. God shows us this through 1 Samuel: 16:7 when Samuel is commanded to anoint David over his older brothers:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God does not show His love for us based upon our appearance, skills, status, accomplishments or whether we have perfect, sinless behavior. God gives us His love because He himself is love and has an immense amount of compassion for His children, particularly those who are overlooked and ostracized by others.

Insecurity

Insecurity

In addition to the issue of perfectionism, one could face the issue of insecurity as the result of parental favoritism. This can create an inferior complex where jealousy and/or envy rear its ugly head. You may find yourself having a hard time accepting when God blesses others, thinking that He loves them more than you. You perceive other people’s success as someone taking something that belongs to you, so you find yourself sabotaging the lives of others. This toxic mindset relates to the story of Joseph.  We often talk about Joseph being the hero that overcame the betrayal and jealousy of his brothers. But the other side of this is that Joseph’s father Jacob showed more favor to him than his older brothers. I can imagine that the favoritism shown in this family dynamic played a major role in how Joseph’s brothers viewed themselves and their self-worth. According to Genesis 37:3-4, it says that:

 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

The favoritism towards Joseph provoked his brothers to jealousy, leading them to fall into sin and betray him into slavery. Although their actions are not justifiable, it is understandable that they would develop insecurities around the thought that they were not as worthy as Joseph. But, unlike man, God does not show favoritism to some of His children and not others. God is not partial. Acts 10:34-35 says that:

34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

God is just in everything that He does and does not choose people based on worldly attributes. He favors ALL of us that seek Him and glorify Him.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the purpose of this discussion is to help us confront the after traits of having ‘mommy and daddy issues’ and to understand that these issues can limit the depths of our relationship with God. This post is not used as a crutch to condemn parents and their mistakes, but to point out the areas that we, as their children, need to forgive them. Our parents were once children too who may have experienced the same trauma that they inflicted upon us. It is a cycle that continues for generations until we break it through healing from wounds that were sent by the enemy to destroy our perception of God. God is beyond human understanding and cannot be compared to flaws of man, specifically our parents. As we learn to overcome the pains of our family wounds, we can see the goodness of God and the purpose that He has always ordained for us to have in this life.

Post Author: Cie W.

Baltimore-native blogger and creative writer who is passionate about God's Word, self-development, fashion and travel. Cie W. has recently earned a master's degree in communications and is striving towards developing future projects in content creation.

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