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Crippling effects of conditional parental acceptance

Heal/ Emotions
We experience a deep rest and peace in our souls when we feel fully accepted. As adults, we can weather most types of rejection. It is the perceived lack of total acceptance from our own parents that is possibly the hardest to overcome.


Conditional acceptance from our parents

Conditional parental acceptance is a subtle form of rejection that also has similar harmful long-term effects as outright abandonment.  It is the lack of affirmation for who we intrinsically are as a whole. We are told that some parts of us are acceptable but other parts are not. We will lack validation as complete individuals with individual giftings. 

People whose parents constantly pushed us beyond our natural gifting or frequently compared us to other children growing up will develop an inner voice that says, “I’m not good enough.” A child who brings home a hard-earned sports trophy may encounter a parent who says, “Why didn’t you break the record too?“, “Why didn’t you do as well as your cousin?” or “Why don’t you do well in maths and science instead?”

We may intellectually understand that our parents care deeply for us, yet won’t feel fully accepted or loved unconditionally. 

When repeated, such childhood experiences can create an inner frustration that develops into a sense of insecurity, injustice, jealousy, anger, grief and even depression. Some of us may judge, curse or hate our parents without realising this leads to our spiritual death (curses).

Leviticus 20:9 ESV  For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

This lack of wholesome parental affirmation tends to get passed down the generations and is common in ultra-competitive cultures.

Our parents are our first relationships

Every human being is wired to connect with other people. Brain researchers have shown that our brains send signals of joy when we connect and bond with one another. On the other hand, social rejection (real or perceived) can lead us to feel emotional pain that can be as intense as physical trauma.

We first learn what it means to connect with people from our fathers and mothers. They are the primary people to “teach” us whether we are worthy of connecting and how to gain approval and acceptance.

If we repeatedly experience unintentional, mild or aggressive forms of rejection from our own parents, we can pick up the wrong “lessons” from young. Many of us end up feeling isolated, lonely, unworthy, trapped and abandoned. We develop skewed perspectives of our self-identities – as well as how to gain acceptance and ultimately, love.

Ungodly coping mechanisms

To deal with our pain, we convince ourselves that “I am okay” and find ways of coping. Hurtful memories, words and pain get buried and remain stored up in our bodies until we surrender them to Jesus for His tender, loving healing.

Psalm 34:18 ESV  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Before we break free to understand how God truly sees us – precious, good and worthy – we would have spent years developing broken “inner scripts” to cope with our pain. These scripts are so strong that they drive us to form ungodly emotional and thinking patterns. Sadly, these subconscious patterns often overpower us even though we truly desire to follow God.

Internal scripts developed  Some resulting ungodly behaviours
I don’t feel fully accepted.” (subconscious) Anger, bitterness, jealousy, restlessness
I will show you I am worth accepting.” Arrogance, competitiveness, perfectionism, pride, lust for power and status
I will make others feel rejected too. Abuse, bullying, violence
I will self-medicate my feelings of rejection.”
Addictions, drugs, promiscuity, pornography, alternative sexual experiences
I won’t risk rejection again.”  Approval addiction, fear of abandonment, fear of vulnerability, people pleasing, pushing people away
I reject myself / my life.” Depression, self-condemnation, shame, suicidal thoughts 

Three examples

All inner scripts block our relationship with our Heavenly Father because they are based on our own ways of coping. Whenever we encounter problems, our hard-wiring from years of “training” will instinctively switch on our coping mechanisms. We don’t realise that our first instinct isn’t to run to God for His comfort, will and guidance, but to cruise along with our old patterns on auto-pilot mode. Such coping mechanisms become our curses.

1. “I will make things good.”

I can’t control or predict my parents’ love for me. But I can feel good when I exert power over other people or situations to make things turn out for the better. It feels great when situations look excellent or perfect by my standards.

Believers with inner scripts that say “I will make things good” wish to obey God and serve Him, but not at the risk of being disappointed. We have certain expectations of church workers, fellow Christians and ministries. Our tendency is to focus on “doing things right”, rather than “loving others first”. We feel the need to be on top of things and get frustrated when other people don’t understand or adhere to our standards. We strive hard and do our very best, yet we won’t feel understood or fully accepted. Eventually, we grow so weary and tired. We feel we have “done so much” for God and still don’t feel close to Him.

This is the curse of a spirit of performance.

2. “I will find love my own way.”

I have never felt love and acceptance, but I know that it is out there somewhere. I just need to find it. I will head in any direction that will bring me any form of human love that’s better than the one I have known so far.

Christians who believe “I will find love my own way” will do almost anything for love and acceptance. Sexual purity is a challenge and constant battle. We want to be popular and serve in ministries hoping to be accepted and admired. There is a fear of speaking up for the truth in case other people don’t like us. We hear other Christians talk about how God is enough for them, but we just don’t feel that God’s love alone is enough for us. We truly believe that only when we find another human being to love us will we be satisfied and fulfilled. This leads to unrealistic expectations of spouses and marriages. God is not our first devotion because we hunger to “feel” love, with the emphasis on the feeling rather than the love.

This is the curse of a love idol.

3. “I will hide myself.”

I have felt alone and isolated all my life. Since no one understands me, why take the risk to expose myself? I’ll hide my true emotions and desires and not let anyone come into my world. I will put on a mask and find other ways to survive on my own.

Believers with inner scripts that say “I will hide myself” feel awkward in Christian circles because we are called to confess our sins to one another and encourage each other to seek God first. We keep our conversations superficial and become nervous when people try to get to know us better. We aren’t confident of ourselves or our direction in life. We put up an exterior “Great Wall” so that no one can see we are lonely, afraid and empty inside. We make it a habit to hide from God because we are not sure that He will fully accept us. We long for connections but are terrified of it at the same time. 

This is the curse of an independent spirit.

The only Source of acceptance and rest for our souls

God is the only true Source of perfect love. So perfect is God’s love for us that He went ahead to pay for our sins, knowing all our frailties and flaws as sinful people. Not only that, He endured the humiliation of dying naked on a cross to demonstrate that He understands our pain – firsthand with no holds barred. 

Romans 5:7-8 ESV  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Hebrews 4:15 ESV  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Praise God that we serve an incredible Father who doesn’t leave us alone in our suffering. Our Saviour allowed Himself to be rejected and abandoned so He can enter our pain with us. He is truly a God who is full of compassion.

Exodus 34:6 NIV  And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

Unrealistic expectations

Sometimes, our inborn desire to be accepted as our Heavenly Father accepts us gets confused with expecting that same from our earthly parents. This is simply unrealistic. No human being can possibly do everything perfectly at all times. When we turn to people to satisfy the deepest needs of our souls, we make them our idols.

Praise God that He calls us to turn to Him as our only Father, and not to call anyone on earth our father (parent). This lets our biological parents off the hook for failing to be perfect, because they won’t be able to meet all our needs for unconditional love anyway.

Matthew 23:9 ESV  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

Healing through Jesus Christ

Many people are unware that our subconscious patterns dictate our lives. This lack of self-knowledge blocks our ability to submit ungodly thought patterns to God, until someone guides us to the truth.

Hosea 4:6 ESV  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge,

1. Acknowledge our wounded inner child

Our parents may have been unwittingly ignorant, selfish, harsh or insensitive towards us, but that does not mean we should adopt the same attitude towards ourselves. Our family cultures are seldom correct representations of God’s perfect love. We often make the mistake of treating ourselves based on how our parents treated us.

Let us, therefore, acknowledge and show compassion to the wounded child inside us. Listen to Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 19 and do not let the adult “me” hinder the inner child “me” from going to Jesus for love and healing,

Matthew 19:14 ESV  but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

God is endlessly compassionate and faithful. By sacrificing His most treasured Son for us, He shows us that He thinks we are worth an extravagant price.

Psalm 86:15 NLT  But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

John 15:13 ESV  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Also, see Parent wounds need to be healed

2. Acknowledge our suppressed feelings

Chronic childhood griefs are like emotional cancer. They don’t go away when we ignore them, they simply become our silent relationship killers.

In order to heal and finally move past our childhood griefs, it is vital for us to revisit and face them – not try to bury or escape them. Otherwise, we will stay stuck in our childhood perspectives and continue to react childishly to many things.

1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

We need to acknowledge that our parents’ behaviours were unnecessary, hurtful and frustrating, whether they were intentional or not. By being truthful to ourselves, we are not rebelling or disrespecting our parents. Instead, we will finally stop rebelling against and disrespecting ourselves. We need to stop lying to ourselves about how we feel. Lying is a sin that has many harmful consequences.

Psalm 34:13 ESV  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

Also, see Emotional suppression is ungodly and harmful

3. Acknowledge our need for healing

We need to acknowledge that we are weak and unable to correct the wrongs of our childhood, and that only God can rescue and comfort us. Where we feel exhausted, incomplete and empty, we need God’s Holy Spirit to heal us and fill us up so we can be whole. God knows us intricately and will gently reach into the depths of our hearts and heal our inner wounds. 

Psalm 27:10 ESV  For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.

4. Confess to and grieve with a godly believer

Experiencing acceptance from a god-fearing sister or brother is a good first step towards healing. Start by identifying a godly fellow believer we can speak to honestly about our childhood and the pain we endured. Pray together with her or him, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in a time of confession and grieving before God. There is no need to be polite or hold back our emotions and tears. Weep loudly as needed. We need to let all our buried emotions out.

James 5:16 ESV  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Also, see Confessing to receive freedom

5. Turn away from our coping mechanisms

Next, we can repent of our subconscious coping mechanisms and how these have kept us from going to God for help in the past. Ask God to forgive us for submitting to our fears and our inner scripts, rather than submitting to His gentle voice. Ask the Holy Spirit to give us a new heart and a new spirit so that we can follow Him without hesitating.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

We will also need to renew our minds and submit our ways of thinking to God, so that we can think like He does and live like Jesus did – filled with His love, power and self-control.

Romans 12:2 ESV  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

6. Understand our parents’ upbringing

Much of what we know of our parents has been based on what we have observed from birth. This is a skewed, one-dimensional perspective. There is much more to our parents that have made them who they are today.

If we have never done so before, we should take the time to write down two separate timelines representing our parents’ upbringings and experiences from birth separately. Then close our eyes and place ourselves in their shoes to imagine what it must have been like for them growing up. By doing so, our eyes will be opened to the reasons why they do the things they do. We will realise that their behaviours are driven by their own childhood experiences. Those who have not experienced perfect love and acceptance from their own parents will not know how to demonstrate that to their own children. Moreover, the greater the brokenness our parents carry from our grandparents in their souls, the greater the pain they spill onto us.

Proverbs 18:2 ESV  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

7. Recognise that God chose our parents for us and repent of judgment

Most of our parents did not have the same access to information and global exposures as we have had. Instead of being grateful that they tried their best with the limited emotional resources or knowledge they had, we often judge them for the mistakes they made. Additionally, we need to recognise that God chose our parents for us for His higher purpose. There are many things we learn from our parents, both from what they did right and what they did wrong – because God has a purpose for both.

If we have ever judged, cursed and hated our parents or even God Himself, this is the time to repent and ask for our Heavenly Father’s forgiveness.

8. Pray, forgive and bless

We can then pray for our parents, releasing unconditional forgiveness and blessings onto them in Jesus’ name. We do this because we choose to follow Jesus, not our parents’ broken ways. Throughout all His suffering, Jesus never gave in to the temptation to judge, hate or take revenge. He taught us to “turn the other cheek” and then showed us how to do it by dying on the cross for us. His is the example worth following, not our parents’.

Hebrews 2:18 ESV  For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Matthew 5:38-39 ESV  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

As we forgive and bless our parents, we will experience a supernatural lifting of our emotional burdens because the Holy Spirit will heal us once we follow God’s example and show ourselves to be truly His children.

9. Have adult conversations with our parents

God chose us for our parents, just as He chose our parents for us. We should therefore, consider having adult conversations that will edify and honour our parents.  We can:

  • Thank them for their sacrifices in giving us life and raising us.
  • Explain we appreciate that they faced their own hardships.
  • Mention the things they did well and some actions that brought us pain. 
  • Praise God that He has helped us heal.
  • Let them know we no longer hold any grievances towards them.
  • Invite them to pray together and commit our family to Jesus Christ

It is only right to give our parents a chance to recognise the consequences of their actions and learn what’s inappropriate behaviour towards their children. We cannot expect our parents to miraculously change on their own. Often, they need and appreciate our courage and wisdom to lovingly speak into their lives. If our parents are willing to listen to us, we would have developed a deeper intimacy and mutual understanding that we have craved so much to experience with them.

10. Celebrate that the generational pain stops with us

With God’s grace and forgiveness, we can be the generation that stops all the pain and rejection that has been infecting our family lines. Let us be the ones who put a stop to the unhealthy ways our families have been interacting with one another. By obeying and following Jesus’ example, we will turn our pain into victories that testify to the redemptive power of God’s love in a broken world.

Psalm 145:3-4 ESV  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

Valuable training for true disciples of Jesus

God is a good Father who does not allow us to go through difficulty without a higher plan and blessing.

We need to learn to withstand rejection in this world, especially if we want to be true disciples of Jesus. Jesus warned us that we will be hated if we choose to obey Him and not the world’s norms. Who better to provide training to withstand and overcome earthly rejection than our earthly parents?

John 15:18-20 ESV  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

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