[This lesson was introduced by a video presentation of a marriage situation entitled Courage for the Run presented by Paul and Nicole Johnson. Running time: 7 minutes and 53 seconds.]

A powerful, internal influence touches virtually everything we are and everything we do every day of our lives. Much of the time this powerful influence is so silent that we are not even aware it exists. Though it influences our thinking, our actions, and our feeling, we are more likely to deny that it exists than to acknowledge that it is there.

What is this powerful, hidden influence? It is our family of origin. In every day language, it is the home and family of our childhood.

  1. If you doubt the power of this influence, consider this.
    1. The most significant family in the Bible was Abraham's family.
      1. Abraham was the person God searched for to set His plan in motion.
      2. From Abraham came the nation of Israel, God's chosen people.
      3. From Abraham came Jesus, God's own son, who became the Christ.
      4. Because of Abraham, you and I can be sons and daughters of God through faith in the Christ.
      5. No family has influenced spiritual history as did Abraham's family.
    2. Consider the power of the family of origin.
      1. God promised Abraham that through him and his wife Sarah nations would descend and the Christ would be born.
        1. Sarah was as central to God's plan as was Abraham.
        2. Abraham is known for his incredible ability to trust God's promises.
        3. Yet, In spite of God's promise, in fear for himself, Abraham told people that his wife was his sister.
        4. Years later, Abraham's adult son, Isaac, in fear for himself said that his wife was his sister.
      2. Rebekah masterminded a plan to deceive her blind husband, Isaac, and urged Jacob to execute the deception.
        1. As a man, Jacob was a deceiver who achieved his goals by deception.
        2. Ten of Jacob's sons deceived him about the death of his son Joseph.

  2. The family of origin is the powerful hidden influence that touches every marriage in unexpected ways.
    1. When we marry, we do not anticipate that the person we marry will be so powerfully influenced internally by his or her parents.
      1. Clearly understand that I am not talking about the external influences that parents have on their grown children; I am speaking of the internal influences of parents on the person you marry.
      2. We say to ourselves, "I am marrying him, not his family; I am marrying her, not her family."
        1. Then, when we least expect it, we hear her mother in her voice or we see his father in his actions.
        2. Seeing that living, internal influence in his or her life astounds us.
        3. Sometimes that influence is good, but have you noticed how rarely we see and comment on the good influences?
        4. Sometimes that influence is distressing; it is then that we say, "You are acting just like your mother," or "That sounds like your dad."
    2. Why are childhood experiences in childhood families so powerful? Why does this influence continue to live in a husband or a wife even if the couple is a thousand miles from parents?
      1. Our parents give us the most important education of our lives.
        1. It is the most intensive educational experience we ever receive.
        2. It comes at the most impressionable, critical time in our lives.
        3. It comes in the most powerful educational circumstances we experience.
      2. The education, given us as we live as a part of our family, is a total environment education occurring twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
        1. In this environment, you are taught by instruction, by experience, by example, by observation, by consequences, and by rewards.
        2. You absorb this education as a whole life experience.
      3. The educational environment of the family is an environment of:
        1. Reasoning, good and bad, sound and unwise.
        2. Emotion, good and bad, responsible and irresponsible.
        3. Feelings, good and bad, constructive and out of control.
        4. Interaction, good and bad, in multiple relationships and an enormous variety of situations.
    3. What transforms the environment of my childhood home into such a powerful influence in my marriage?
      1. It is in my childhood family that I form my basic concepts and understandings of how a man interacts with a woman and a woman interacts with a man.
        1. How should a man treat a woman, and how should a woman treat a man?
        2. How does a man talk to a woman, and how does a woman talk to a man?
        3. What is appropriate for husbands and wives to discuss? What subjects should be discussed and what subjects should never be discussed?
        4. How do husbands and wives disagree? How do they seriously disagree?
        5. When you fight, how do you fight? Destructively or fairly?
        6. Should you forgive or should you hold grudges?
        7. Does control, manipulation, or deception play a role in husband and wife relationships?
        8. Is being open and honest with each other good or bad?
        9. How do husbands and wives express their anger?
        10. Should feelings be suppressed or expressed?
        11. How do husbands and wives show love? How do they express affection?
        12. Long before a person marries, these concepts and understandings are learned as absolutes that are not to be questioned.

  3. Some influences from our family of origin have a unique power.
    1. Some of these unique influences are healthy and help build solid marriage relationships. They include:
      1. The willingness to be open, to share thoughts and feelings.
      2. The willingness to be kind to your husband or wife.
      3. The willingness to be honest in marriage.
      4. The willingness to show love and affection.
      5. The willingness to encourage.
      6. The willingness to disagree in constructive, healthy ways.
      7. The willingness to compromise.
      8. An understanding of how to be unselfish.
      9. A healthy, positive self-image.
    2. Some of these influences are extremely unhealthy and create very unstable marriage relationships. They include:
      1. A negative self-image that screams internally, "You will never be good enough; you will always be a failure."
        1. In a struggle that the person commonly loses, he or she sees self in competition with everyone and everything including his or her spouse.
        2. He or she feels driven to prove something to self that does not need to be proved and cannot be proven.
      2. The inability to express and show affection.
        1. Sometimes the fear of rejection blocks affection.
        2. Sometimes affection is considered weakness.
        3. Always affection is dangerous because it makes you vulnerable.
      3. A sense of failure or worthlessness.
        1. "Mom or Dad always told me that I was stupid and incapable."
        2. "Nothing I ever did as a child was good enough."
        3. "I will never be successful."
        4. "I will always fail to meet people's expectations."
      4. A sense of superiority and arrogance.
        1. "Mom or Dad always told me that I was better than other people."
        2. "I am better than everyone else."
        3. "I deserve more than anyone else."
        4. "I am special and everyone should treat me special."
      5. A sense of selfishness and irresponsibility.
        1. "The world exists to take care of me and give me what I want."
        2. "My spouse has the privilege of being married to me and serving me."
    3. Your family of origin is the likely source of three realities that will powerfully affect your life and thereby affect your marriage.
      1. Your value system.
      2. Your attitude toward money.
      3. Your attitude toward responsibility.

What you believe your parents thought of you can exercise more power in your marriage than what your spouse actually thinks of you.

While our home of origin is a powerful influence, it does not have to be an enslaving, negative influence. If we will be honest with ourselves, we can nurture the good influences and learn how to reject the control of negative influences.

Remember, one of Jacob's son was Joseph. As a boy, he was treated as the favorite and became an arrogant, pride-filled, bratty teenager. But as an adult, he developed into a remarkable man of honor, honesty, and integrity. He became an incredible servant of God. He trusted God in extremely difficult circumstances, and he learned from his experiences. He dared break the cycle of behavior that had been passed from one generation to the next in his family.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 13 June 1999
previous next in series

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell