Karen and I have wonderful parents and in-laws, but let’s face it: No parent is perfect. The imperfect parenting individuals experience while growing up leads to baggage that can harm our marriages.
The two most prominent types of baggage are iniquities and inner vows.
Iniquities. Exodus 34:7 tells of how God inflicts “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Though God proclaims His mercy earlier in these verses, He also reveals the long-reaching impact of iniquity from parents to children.
In the original Hebrew language, the word we translate “iniquity” is avon. It means “to bend.” If you’ve ever seen one of the sparse trees that grow naturally in the Texas Panhandle, where I grew up, you’ll notice that these always seem to lean to the northeast. That’s because the prevailing winds blow from the southwest.
When the wind constantly blows from one direction, the tree grows under that influence. They bend and twist. That happens in our lives, too. God’s way is straight, but sometimes people grow up bent.
We twist in a certain direction due to the pressures inflicted upon us by our families and parents. We do what they do. We learn what we’re shown. Sometimes this is positive, but other times it may be an iniquity—a generational sin.
Maybe it’s a quickness to anger. Maybe it’s substance abuse. It might be chauvinism, sexism, or racism. It might even be physical or sexual abuse. Family systems pass these negative traits down from generation to generation.
I’ve never met a person who didn’t have iniquities from following the unbiblical example of previous generations. The only way to break this chain is to deal with it.
First, recognize the problem. Instead of getting defensive about your family, call it what it is: Sin. Take responsibility for your behavior. Then, forgive your mom and dad for passing along that iniquity to your generation. Forgiving your parents is the biggest issue in straightening out the places you are bent.
Inner Vows. While iniquities are passed along from parent to child, inner vows are self-directed. These are promises we make to ourselves in response to difficulty or pain. Everyone has made these at some point in their lives:
I’ll never treat my children like that.
I’ll never be poor again.
I’ll never let another man (or woman) talk to me that way.
No one will ever hurt me like that again.
The problem with inner vows is that it assumes personal control over your life. When you make yourself a promise, you make yourself Lord over that area. James 4:15-16 says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
Inner vows are evil and keep Jesus from ruling an area of your life. At the same time, they prohibit normal learning and growth. Rather than protect us, inner vows become our highest loyalties in life and end up making us a little crazy. They make us unteachable. They take us to dangerous extremes.
As with iniquities, we need to identify inner vows, admit the negative effect they have on us, and repent of them to God. Then we must forgive the person who hurt us and caused us to make the vow in the first place.
You’ll never be free from the mistakes of your parents until you forgive. Take that issue to Jesus and move on from harmful iniquities and inner vows.