Several years back while teaching a Bible School class, I told the students that many young people rashly state that they will not be like their parents. The spontaneous laughter that erupted was evidence that many — if they hadn’t already said it — were thinking it.
The class took a more sober turn when I added that often people who make these statements are doomed to repeat the error of their parents. It’s not that this phrase has some magical properties that force the errors of one generation onto the next, rather, it is a principle of God’s word.
In Mathew 7:1-5, Jesus condemns judging saying that if we see a sliver in our brother’s eye, it indicates there is a log in ours. Jesus calls anyone who judges a hypocrite because they suffer from exactly the same problem.
When we judge our parents, it is a subtle indicator that we have exactly the same issues. But judging can also speak of unresolved issues between a child and parent.
More importantly, it may also suggest that the child hasn’t really forgiven their parents over these unresolved issues.
I had exactly the same problem. Though I resented the expectations that my father had put on me in sports, I repeated the same mistake with my son. The only thing that changed was the name of the game — instead of hockey, it was soccer.
I knew I had to stop, but I was a driven man and powerless to change. I was only able to break this cyclical pattern by forgiving my father for the expectations he put on me.
Jacob faced similar issues in his life. As a young boy, his father Isaac openly preferred Jacob’s older brother Esau. The Bible tells us that Isaac loved Esau and nowhere is a similar statement made about Jacob:
28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28 NASV)
Jacob was undoubtedly wounded by this rejection and perhaps harboured some resentment.
However, though he personally experienced the scarring rejection of favouritism, Jacob would — in his own uncanny way — make exactly the same mistake when he had his own family.
In an ironic twist, he reversed the process preferring his youngest son Joseph over the oldest:
3 Now Israel (Jacob’s new name) loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. (Genesis 37:3 NASV)
Perhaps through the preferential treatment he showed his youngest son Joseph, Jacob (who God renamed Israel) was subconsciously undoing the rejection he received as the youngest son of Isaac. But Jacob was doing exactly the same thing he resented his father for. He was favouring one son over the rest.
These repeating patterns in families are often subtle indicators of unresolved issues between a child and parents.
Only as we forgive can this pattern be broken.