Stephen King wrote a horror novel called ‘It.’ Children of divorce (and the adults they become) often live in a haunting non-fiction tale called ‘If.’
If I’d cleaned up my room,
if I was prettier,
if I’d kept mom and dad from arguing,
if I’d eaten my dinner like I was asked,
if I’d done better in school,
if I’d kept Dad’s secret,
if I’d done my chores without complaining,
if I wasn’t mean to my sister,
if I hadn’t made Mom mad,
Then my folks wouldn’t have divorced.
It’s all my fault.
Attack of the “if” Phantom
The “if” phantom leaves guilt like a watermark on our thoughts. It lurks in the background and can cause us to have a great fear of failure in life—particularly if we blame ourselves for their divorce. Consequently, “ifs” from our parents’ divorce secretly gnaw at many of us and feed an unspoken passion to avoid failure at all costs. The problem is we are human beings who fail. Worse, we associate with human beings who fail. So our solution is to join the Control Freaks Club.
Speaking as a Platinum Card Control Freaks member (and working hard NOT to get my Diamond Card) I’ve learned that trying to control everything and everyone is like herding kittens. It frustrates them and drives you nuts.
But isn’t that where many of us are? Trying desperately to control things so they won’t fail. Frantically trying to make up for “our greatest failure”.
Defeating the “if” Phantom
If you think you caused your parent’s divorce, you’re believing a lie. Whether this falsehood was told to you, or is something you’ve just accepted all these years, IT IS NOT TRUE!! But you must use truth to overcome this vicious lie.
The truth is people make choices. A good example is when Joshua challenged the Israelites with, “choose this day whom you will serve.”2 Joshua was saying, serve God or serve yourself. Our parents had the same choice—serve God or serve yourself. Unfortunately, one or both of them chose to serve themselves and sacrifice the marriage. That is the truth
As a result, we must accept the fact that nothing we did, didn’t do, or could have done had the power to alter their choice to divorce. But now we must choose to believe the God-honest truth and not lies. Here are some steps to help.
- Write down how long you’ve believed you caused your parents’ divorce and who said this. Write why you believe this is true—particularly if someone verbally blamed you.
- Write down the truth and why. For example, “Though Mom warned me not to tell anyone about her affair, Dad found out, and Mom blamed me for the divorce. However, it wasn’t my fault because…”
- Pray to God and talk to someone you trust about this. Secrecy is the enemy of healing.
- Read Genesis chapter 2:15 through 3:13. These verses describe two people who chose to serve themselves instead of God. It was certainly not their future kid’s fault, and all mankind would suffer the consequences of their choice.
By attacking this lie with God’s truth, we can finally accept that “our greatest failure” was not ours at all. Then we are free to live the abundant life Jesus offers3.
1 Steven King, “It”, (New York, NY: New American Library, 1980).
2 Joshua 24:15, ESV.
3John 10:10, NKJV
First Image: Day 218 – Regret by Natalie