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Breaking the Cycle

I’ve been thinking lately about inviting a guest blogger from time to time to give us a change of pace and some different perspectives to think about. So please welcome Mike Wittmer. He’s one of our regular bloggers at Our Daily Journey. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be featuring a few of his posts and have also invited him to join in on the discussion! —Mart

Read: Psalm 13

O Lord, how long will You forget me? Forever (v.1).

My father grew up without a dad. When he was 5 years old, his father left the family and never returned. When friends later asked my grandfather whether he was related to my dad, he refused to admit that my dad was his son—disowning and declaring him to be a distant relative.

By most accounts, I also should have grown up in a broken home with a distant dad. Scripture says that the sins of the fathers are passed along to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Jeremiah 32:18). It’s said that molested children grow up to be child molesters; the abused become the abusers; and children with absent parents turn into parents who are unavailable for their own kids.

But I didn’t. Jeremiah 31:29-34 proclaims a new day in which the cycle of generational sin is broken. Children need not pass on the sins of their parents, for the power of the new covenant—promised in that passage and accomplished in Jesus—enables us to buck the trend of sin in our families and to begin a new cycle of love and faithfulness.

Ezekiel 18:19-20 picks up on Jeremiah’s promise and announces that “the child will not be punished for the parent’s sins,” but “the child [who] does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live.” If we’re victims of bad parenting, we don’t have to perpetuate it. Each of us starts fresh before God.

Not that it’s easy. My father was deeply wounded by his absent father, and his own parenting bore the scars. At times he overcompensated, trying too hard to be the perfect father in the perfect home. But I never doubted that I was loved. My father chose to absorb my grandfather’s hate rather than pass it on. He started a new cycle, and so can you.

How is your parenting a reflection of how you were raised? What can you do to shield your family from generational sin?

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23 Responses to “Breaking the Cycle”

  1. refump says:

    I find it interesting that how we view our earthly father has a heavy influence on how we view our heavenly father. An absent earthly father often will lead us to struggle with trusting that our heavenly father will always be with us. A strict demanding earthly father will cause us to view our heavenly father as strict & demanding & often an unhealthy fear of him. Sometimes it is easier to blame our shortcomings as parents on our parents than it is to take responsibility to take this shortcoming to God & ask that he change us to be the better parent. This requires intentionality as we are conscious of this shortcoming & make the effort to change it or to “break the cycle”. These changes, of course, could never be permanently made without God first changing our hearts as we surrender this area to him in honesty & fully owning up to this shortcoming. As with any impurity in our life it is often painful to admit it & to have it purged/changed in our life because PRIDE is so often that barrier that keeps the cycle from being broken.

  2. SFDBWV says:

    Norman Rockwell painted a wonderful picture many years ago that showed a family tree.

    In it were pilgrims, Indians, Pirates, farmers, pioneers, sailors, and so on that led to a small little red haired boy.

    This is us all of us. We have a line that goes as far back as Adam. We have inherited a lot of *things* from all of the people who have contributed to us being who we are.

    Each one of thoes people having issues placed upon them to make them who they became, influencing the next generation either directly or indirectly.

    Each one of them as well as each one of us had and have the ability to *break a cycle* of any kind.

    Yes, sin has a negative consequence that effects everyone connected. Its results being passed on to another generation. Racism being one we can all recognize.

    Yet people at some point in their lives instictivly know right from wrong, it then becomes their choice which life they choose for themselves.

    God provides a supernatural offering. A power to be born again, with a new spirit. Breaking any and all connections to past sins or generational curses…

    Providing for any who accept to become new people.

    Being born again also means growing up again, with all its ups and downs, growing to become the person God wants his children to be.

    I had written a nice reply to this subject in writing a reply to forgiveness this morning…only to watch it disappear into cyber space…ugh!

    Disapointment is also a part of learning and growning and adapting.


  3. Oluwatunmise says:

    Growing up without fatherly care is not easy but by giving our life to Christ we can be sure of the fatherly care He promised to give those who completely trust in Him. He said He will be father to thefFatherless and mother to the motherless, the bible says heaven and earth may pass away but no part of the Word of God will pass away void without accomplishing what they are sent to accomplish so according to His promise He will surely be a father to those who trust in Him

  4. mrhsea says:

    Identifying generational sin patterns without blaming those before us and excusing ourselves is difficult, and indeed without God this is impossible. Yet I have lovingly listened as one exclaimed at the death of her husband, “Praise God the cycle of divorce is broken”. She had lived her entire marriage before God to break that cycle. Yet in her suffering silence, she failed to communicate effectively to her son the sin of his father, and the grace God had given her in living faithfully with him. Her new daughter-in-law has not chosen the path she has trod. God is still faithful for her son is repentant towards his wife and towards God. Treasuring Christ is his new life. This change makes his new life worthwhile, yet his heart still longs for reconciliation in spite of his wife’s choice to divorce him. Breaking the cycle is not an end in itself. Jesus is the alpha and omega, without Him how lost we would be!

  5. mrhsea says:

    Mike, thanks for Psalm 13, perfect anchor for the soul.

  6. poohpity says:

    Parenting by the flesh goes back way before my parents had me. It is told through the OT that there were those who chose to walk in the ways of the Lord and those who chose to walk in the ways of the people around them. There are those even who follow the Lord that have held their children to such high standards that they are never able to reach the expectations set before them. Each child is unique and the bible teaches that they are to be trained according to their uniqueness.

    But it seems that many fail to really look at each child and find out who they truly are. God however can take what He new in advance wound happen to a child and work with it to help that person become all that they can be no matter the circumstances that they go through.

    My parenting was different from my parents because I wanted my children to feel loved not by what they did but by who they are. I hope I let them know that I make many mistakes as a parent and I was willing to let them know that. My parents never admitted they made mistakes, I grew up believing they were close to being mini gods who did no wrong. Do I still have to overcome the mistakes they made, yes. Did they know any different, no. They did the best they could do. They did things differently then they were raised with but I do no think that people really understand the fullness of the responsibility of raising children.

    Substance abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse were the norm from generation to generation. I hope I educated my children in these areas so that they will not continue the cycle. The difference now is I have told and shown them about a personal relationship with God and gave them each a bible and said have at it that is between you and God now that you are grown and the Lord is the best parent you will ever have. God is the Father they were raised without so I guess they did have a Father. The same one I had to re-parent me.

  7. mikewittmer says:

    Thanks for your stories and insights. One think that has hit me recently is that children often repeat the mistakes of their parents, even when they don’t want to. Many children say they will never yell or hit or fill in the blank like their parents did to them, and then they end up doing just that. Victims tend to grow up to become victimizers–unless God steps in. So we must throw ourselves on the mercy of God and plead with him for the strength to change.

  8. poohpity says:

    The Lord has given us counselors to get help from to break those chains. I believe a lot of people have problems with going to counseling but God is the Almighty Counselor and has given folks the ability to reflect that to others. Unless a person accepts the responsibility for their behaviors they can never change. Blaming someone else, one will not ever be able to change the cycle.

    I think another thing we have to keep in mind is there will never be a perfect parent because we all share our human bent but that does not excuse bad parenting.

  9. poohpity says:

    Mart, you are sorely missed. Hope all is well with you. Deb

  10. pegramsdell says:

    We never said “I love you” in my house, except when my Grandma Peg would come over. She showed me so much about what a family should be. She was limited though, and my dad was very mean and we kids worked for everything we got. My stepmom wasn’t any better. A lot of unfairness and neglect.

    I am grateful for my grandma. I wish I could tell her that now. She loved me, I am sure of that. And I know that my 4 kids know without a doubt that I love them. And I know that they love me.

    Thank You Lord for breaking the curse in my family. And not holding me accountable for my dad’s actions and sins. You Lord Jesus are a fair and just God. :)

    Thanks Mike for your thoughts.

  11. ygp says:

    Parenting is a mystery. My brother and his wife are God fearing parents. They are born again Christian since they were very young, and have been serving our Lord together since they were single. They brought their children to Sunday school; teach them Godly lives by their Godly way of lives. His oldest son accepted Christ when he was a very young boy, but as he grows older, he chose to live against God’s Words. Not only he doubts the truth of the Bible, he embraces every single worldly value, squandered his parent money, and abuses their love. He does against what the Bible says. One day, when I visited my family in their country, we went to pray in our church’s prayer house on a hill. There, I heard my brother and sister in law cried out loudly to our heavenly Father, in agony, for the return of their son to the right pathway. I heard their prayer, saw their tears, and I felt their pain so deeply, and I wonder, how could this happen? What’s wrong have we done in upbringing him? Mike thanks for Psalm 13.

  12. SFDBWV says:

    There is an old saying Mike, that the apple don’t fall far from the tree….

    An Oak tree produces an Oak tree, black cows produce black cows and so forth.

    We are the product of our parents. We have inherited more that height weight color of eyes and other physical features. We have also character traits that go far back into our DNA.

    For many of us we usualy don’t recognize our parents in ourselves, unless there are thoes around you who remember your parents at the various age you become, no one will see it. But you and I are them…all of them.

    The relationship we have with God is one on one…We can learn and be reborn into a renewed spirit. But it is one on one with God…This is nothing we can pass on to our children.

    We can provide a healty environment for the child to grow and develop in, We can and should give them a good example of how we feel they should live, by living it ourselves…But they are individuals who will have to come to God one on one just as we have.

    They will fall down and make mistakes, they will err, just as we have and God will deal with them each in his and their own time.

    We must like God, love our children enough to set them free, not force them to think they need to be like the person we want them to be, but give them room to grow into the person God wants them to become.

    God is the perfect father, we fathers need to be led by His example…with all the elation as well as all the pain. This is life.


  13. Laraba says:

    I grew up in a healthy, intact home with 2 Christian parents. Their one big error (in my view) was that they weren’t protective enough. I was left in the care of a variety of people who weren’t safe, the worst being a pedophile who abused me.
    I’m now happily married to a man who grew up in a non-Christian home torn apart by divorce, substance abuse, and father abandonment.
    We have six children. We are not perfect parents but we have a happy home and I am encouraged by how our kids are growing up (the eldest is only 10, so we’re a ways off from seeing how they’ll do as adults.)
    A key for us is to talk about the anguish of our past and to deliberately see how it affects our parenting. Since I suffered from lack of supervision, I am prone to overcompensate by being VERY careful about who is with our kids. I often talk to my husband about that…are we being too careful, too sheltering? He balances me well since that particular issue was not one of his.
    Since his father abandoned him, my husband struggles with feelings of abandonment at times. We talk at length about that. We ask the Lord to give us wisdom EVERY DAY in how we relate to each other and how we parent our children.
    I cling daily to the verses in James 1 that God will give us wisdom in our daily lives. There are many decisions to be made, many days when we’re overwhelmed by emotions from the past or fatigue in the present. Only God’s Holy Spirit can help us to be the spouse and parent He wants each one of us to be.

  14. SFDBWV says:

    Laraba, You and your husband are a wonderful gift to each other and are a joy, I would think, to God.

    A person should take experiance and learn from it in all matters. Especialy when it comes to having been raised by abusive or neglectful parents.

    My own parents were wonderful people and good providers, I will not pick apart the little things I may now look back at and think they should or could have done differently….They did as well as they could and I will always love them.

    They themselves had a harder and more harsh childhood so they made a better life for we their children.

    This is as it should be.

    If we learn then we can do better.

    In a society of selfish people who think that the world revolves around them and that they somehow deserve to have everything they want and have it now…..what kind of children will they produce?

    It is found in Deut 6:7 that God gives to parents the responsibility to teach diligently to their children all about God and His laws of right and wrong, so as it becomes second nature to them.

    It is also written that that knowledge because it is given to them as children will never depart from them.

    It is a difficult ballance to support your children and encourage them without causing them to think that it is all about them.

    Do the best you can with prayer and guidence from the Holy Spirit….Then set your children free to be themselves.

    The wonderful story of the prodical son, shows us that no matter how devout a parent is, it is ultimately up to the child to come to awaken to the knowledge of God and right living on their own terms… to the elation of their parents.

    Breaking the cycle means learning from mistakes and correcting them, including the Holy Spirit and prayer can break the strongest chains and free an entire generartion from a curse…


  15. xrgarza says:


    Great question and interesting topic you see I was molested as a child by my babysitter, the thought of doing something bad to someone else simply because it was done to me has always given me the creeps.

    In addition my father died when I was only thirteen, I got involved with gangs, drugs, failed high school, and grew to hate my mother.

    Now interesting at age thirty after not seeing my children for nearly six years they came to live with me. I didn’t have any real values that I wanted to pass on but I knew that I needed to. During this time I began to study the scriptures, and in essences I was trying to develop a set of spiritual principles and values and a set of principles and values for my physical life. Long story short, since the Bible was already written I chose to apply those principles to my spiritual and physical life.

    My son has shot up like a rocket, he’s been married for eleven years has two children and doing extremely well. My daughter has been with her husband for ten years, they have three children and they are struggling.

    The thing that I find interesting is not only that I gave my son and daughter the exact same principles to live by, but also that my daughter is virtually a mirror image of her mother, who she was only with the first six years of her life.

    Trying to find a positive female role model for my daughter while she was growing up was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

    So now I have a thirty y/o daughter who is making poor choices and it appears to be hereditary, and I don’t have a clue as to how to encourage her. My concern is that she will continue to make the exact same choices that her mother made and choose to abandon her children.

    Is it a choice or is a force that can’t be seen? Knowing the power of God through His son Jesus, how can this generational curse be broken before it’s to late?

    And with all due respect I’ve gotten enough rhetoric to last a lifetime I want and need real answers.


  16. rxman says:

    From my own experience I believe that we as parents can only do so much. Our peer group at whatever age we were at as kids has a greater influence than parents, especially during the teenage years. I would rather my kids live true to themselves than try to be something they are not, just to please us as parents.

    We as parents can try and “make the paths” as straight as we can for them, but as soon as we get behind then and start pushing them to do certain “religious” duties, they can become like mules that refuse to move.

    I would rather trust the Holy Spirit would lead them in the way they should go and keep their heart’s tender toward God. My job is to love them unconditionally, having no preconceive notions on how their lives unfold.

    I agree with a lot of what Steve said in the previous post. Thanks Steve.

  17. mikewittmer says:


    Your story reminds me of Monica who prayed desperately for her son, Augustine. Her pastor once consoled her by saying, “Lady, it’s not possible for the son of these tears to perish.” Of course it is possible, but the point is that our compassionate Father hears such anguished cries.

  18. mikewittmer says:


    I weep with you for your daughter. I don’t know you or her so I have no idea how much is hereditary and how much is her choice. Is there a pastor whom she may be willing to see? I have a family member who is making similarly bad choices, and I pray and wait for her to hit bottom, for only then might she give up and look to Jesus. May God grant you great wisdom and patience to be there for her without enabling her. With God and with you I believe that she has a chance.

  19. bobcat51992 says:

    I agree with refump, my view of God was shaped by controlling, critical abusive parents and strict Catholic upbringing. Before coming to Jesus in 1998, I saw God as a vengeful God who could never be appeased no matter what I did. Praise God, I found support and acceptance in Celebrate Recovery, which has helped me obtain small victories in the areas of Anger, Bitterness, and Resentment toward my parents. Godly Christian men have come along side me to mentor and provide friendship

  20. xrgarza says:

    Thank you Mike for your encouraging words, I will speak with my pastor this week.

    I will also hold your family member in prayer.


  21. Positive Thinker says:

    “Breaking the cycle of wrongful curses”

    I furgured it out. When someone tries to put a curse on you for no good righteous reason no matter what their purpose maybe. Consider the source and say how dare you.

    All these fathers in The Holy Bible cursing their son(s) like Noah did cursing his son when his son was helping him cover Noah up because he was naked and drunk too? Well we do not know if the curse went threw but if I was that son of Noah I would have droped him like a hot patato while taking him back iside after covering him up and told him how dare you. Here I am tring to help you, you naked drunkard and you try to curse me like that. I rebuke your curse and I would have unwraped the cloth I brought to cover his naked body and really would have told him off. Working so hard for his father and Noah had the nerve to curse his son. I believe Noah sobered up and the curse did not take into effect but the only thing after that is recordered in The Holy Bible is Noah lived to be over 800 years old. I hope they made up and had a happy ending. I think they did.

  22. foreverblessed says:

    Ppositive thinker, it might be slightly different then what you said: Ham saw his father and told his brothers, Shem and Japheth then came and covered their father, walking backwards.
    Then Noah awakens, and he finds out what happened, and then curses his grandson,Canaan the son of Ham.
    So something terrible must have happened in that tent, something that is not told there, but so terrible that Noah curses Canaan. (many think it must have been a sexual act). To the extend that he says: Canaan will be the slave to Shem and Japheth.

    Some believe this had become true, by all the slaves taken out of Africa to serve the west (SHem the father of the white people) and now Japhet, eastern people. China now going into Africa.

    THis topic is how to break the generational curses, that is a big thing for the black people: turn to Jesus, and be saved, and fight the tendecies that are in the family: Sexual behaviour that is not holy and that brings curses to a family, cursus meaning: the logic results of wicked acts.

  23. foreverblessed says:

    Maybe I did write it in a wrong way, please tkae away my last sentences, because a wrong sexual behaviour brings a curse on any people whatever color of skin. I do not want to be judsmental.
    But Christ delivers us from all yokes and burdens and cursus that run in families, to all people whatever color.
    In our country it runs that we are stingy on money. And many jokes are being made out of it. A dutch treat, and so on.
    So that is more my problem, and I have to resist it, but most of all turn to Jesus more, and be filled with His richness.

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