I’m not sure if you’ve caught the craze yet, but there is a new TV show that is sweeping up viewers left and right. It is a show that easily captures your emotions and resonates with the real pieces of everyday life. The show is called This Is Us.
NBC has created a show that is equally emotional and funny. A show that is deeply intentional in the writing of its characters and in the arc of the storyline; an aspect I have only noticed recently.
One of the main characters, Kate (Chrissy Metz), struggles with being overweight. But, she is not like other characters you see in other shows who are overweight. Her character’s storyline isn’t focused on making fun or making light of her weight issues. Kate actively struggles with her weight. It is a refreshing look at a real struggle that affects so many (myself included).
In both seasons of This Is Us, they focus heavily on family issues, relational struggles, and real-life difficulties. In the current season, this was portrayed in a scene between Kate and her mom, Rebecca. Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is beautiful, thin, and is a fantastic vocalist/performer. From the beginning of the first season, you see that Kate has always struggled with weight issues and insecurity—causing Kate to struggle with comparing herself to her mom.
In this scene, Kate has just finished her first performance in front of a live crowd. She intentionally did not invited her mom or her fiance, but her mom shows up anyway. You can feel the insecurity in the room when Rebecca walks in and Kate sees her. Regardless, Kate performs beautifully! As she is coming off the stage, her mom and fiance meet her.
I remember watching this episode with my wife. When Kate said, “You existed!” I was like, “Whoa! That got real!” It got me thinking about family of origin issues—where we come from.
Each of us has an origin story; a story about our life and our upbringing. That story, in many ways, is dictated by the culture, structure, and family in which we were raised. In the clip of This is Us, we see that Kate was raised in a critical, pressurized household with a mom who wanted the best for her daughter, but maybe wanted it a little too much.
This led me to think about my family of origin: the Winsor’s. What do I carry around in my life and in my heart that creates issues in my day-to-day life? What wounds and traumas are still in my emotional closet that trip me up and cause me more pain today? What can I do to address and overcome these wounds, these issues in my life?
When I say Family of Origin, what do I mean? I mean the culture that shaped who I am, how I behave, and how I respond to life. Regarding Family of Origin, Lisa Brookes Kift says:
“I have repeatedly found (in life and with my clients) that a range of emotional and relational issues that can be connected to the one’s family of origin experiences with parents, primary care-givers and/or families in general. Anxiety, depression, anger, fear and recurrent relationship problems are often tied up in these unresolved issues. What springs out our earlier experiences are core beliefs about who we are and whether we can safely rely on others.”
Lisa Brookes Kift, "What Is Family of Origin Work?"
Our family of origin is the family, culture, atmosphere, and environment that we grew up in. All of this shapes us into the type of person we are today. Example?
I grew up in a family that loved Jesus very much. We were committed and dedicated to following Jesus, attending church, and being a holy family. As some of you know, that type of household can become one of “rule following.” Following the guidelines that God gives us is obviously the right thing to do; but it can easily become a legalistic, pharisaical culture—a culture where you are loved to the degree of your performance.
Now, my parents didn’t intend for our household to be one that taught this perspective, but at times, it was very much this way. It taught me that I was often a disappointment and didn’t measure up to the standard. This is one of my biggest wounds in life: it is what pushed me to find a way to medicate my pain through sexual addiction and pornography.
It is so important to know where you come from—without this awareness, as you grow into adulthood, you will recreate the same culture, environment, and atmosphere that you grew up in.
So why is it important to identify your family or origin? Because they are you: they are where you come from; who you share common characteristics and behaviors with; they made you.
What problems does your family struggle with? You’re likely to struggle with those problems too. How does your family handle conflict? Don’t be surprised if your conflict resolution style looks similar.
Your family is YOU.
Are we destined to relive the same struggles as our family of origin? Are we powerless to change the issues that have plagued our family?
Simply put, no.
We can change our family of origin issues. We have the power to reclaim our future and reshape the culture we create around us. The power to change is in me; it is within all of us.
Awareness is an incredible key to unlocking much more understanding in life. Someone who is aware of their environment—aware of what is happening around them—is a great person to be around. Someone who is self-aware is usually an easy person to have a relationship with and a great friend. When we are self-aware, we know our own junk. We don’t have delusions about how messed-up we are and our issues. We all know people in our lives with blind spots (areas they clearly struggle in but don’t see). We all struggle with blind spots; those areas where we can’t see the struggle we have or the affect it has on others.
But, a person who is aware of their own tendencies and issues is likely to be a person who gets rid of those blind spots more quickly. A person who is aware of their own issues is able to identify how their actions negatively affect others.
Recently, when I spent some time with my family, it raised my awareness of some family of origin issues. I noticed some things that annoyed me and I wasn’t sure why. My family is a fun, upbeat, passionate bunch. We love hard and we love deep, and one of the biggest loves in our family is MOVIES. We love them, watch them all the time, and critique the snot out of them.
I recently went to a movie with some of my family. Right after the movie, we all sat in the car and I listened to my family critique the movie. I normally partake in this discourse, but for some reason I didn’t feel up to it. Nothing wrong was said and nothing sinful was happening, I just didn’t want to critique the movie.
Well, it got me thinking about why I didn’t want to jump in and tear the movie apart. God revealed to me that I am a critical person. I critique, dissect, and pull apart everything I come in contact with. Whether it’s the way Harrison Ford acted in a movie or how my wife folds our clothes. I AM A CRITICAL PERSON.
Why am I saying all of this? In the car with my family that night I saw where I came from and the critical culture I grew up in. I saw where my critical spirit comes from.
You see, it isn’t just that I am who I am in a vacuum. I am who I am because of the family and culture I have. We need to be aware and self-evaluate why we are the way we are.
Where did you come from? It’s important to figure out. After some prayer and self-evaluation, I understood what God was trying to tell me.
When you discover this level of awareness, it can be very easy to start the “blame game.” You know? The game where you start to point the finger at your family for all of your personal problems or struggles. Sadly, this is not a game you are allowed to play. Let me tell you why.
4 words: YOU. ARE. NOT. PERFECT.
If you are perfect, you probably didn’t have to read any of this blog. But if you, like me, are one of the many people who are not perfect, you need to be understanding of the imperfect people God has put in your life.
Your family is not perfect, obviously. Neither are you. So be understanding. The truth is, you will screw up and you won’t be a perfect parent or spouse. You will be the reason that your kids have issues and struggles. This is important.
With the knowledge of our own imperfection, we can give grace and kindness to our family; to our parents. Be understanding in that your family never set out to mess you up with their own issues. They never intended to be the core of some of your wounds. They never woke up one morning and thought, “I can’t wait to traumatize my kids today.”
Give grace. Don’t blame. Be the change you want to see.
You need to actually do something with this awareness and understanding. Awareness and understanding don’t change hearts and minds, it’s the application that brings about change. It’s allowing awareness and understanding to play out, in community, that brings change.
Honesty with yourself and with your family is key to making changes and finding healing. You have to verbalize and openly communicate the issues you have, the tendencies you’ve picked up, and the culture you grew up in.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you just blow up your family with accusations. Remember, we must be understanding. But, if we don’t communicate the issues we see in our families and how we feel, nothing will change. Honesty is the key to change.
The question to ask yourself is this: am I communicating in order to make myself feel better or am I communicating to bring about restoration and healing in my family? How you answer this question will identify whether you should communicate anything to your family or not.
We must be willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable about these struggles, issues, and topics. If we are not honest and open, nothing will change. Relationships won’t grow or develop without candid honesty.
Be aware. Be understanding. Be honest.
Whether you’ve had conversations like Kate and Rebecca’s, or you’ve never had a tough conversation with your family, you still need to process through your family of origin issues—we all have them!
Be aware of the struggles you have and where they may come from. Don’t let your mind and heart idly move through life. Be alert and make awareness a key part of your daily life.
Be understanding to the imperfect people that God has placed around you. Understand that God is working on them just like He is working on you. Don’t expect God to always move at the same speed with everyone’s development and growth. Know that you’re not perfect and allow that to motivate your grace and mercy toward others who are in-process just like you.
Be honest about the things you see and the convictions God lays on your heart. Be real and vulnerable about your struggles and the experiences that reinforce them. Be gracious as you talk to your family about how you feel and how you’ve held on to past experiences.
Be aware of your family of origin. Be understanding of your family of origin. Be honest about your family of origin. Know that this isn’t just me, it’s us.
Trevor is the Communications Manager at Pure Desire Ministries. He has been in ministry leadership for 8 years in the areas of Worship and Student Ministries. Trevor has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and is passionate about people finding sexual and emotional health.