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The BlessingA STUDY GUIDE FOR SMALL GROUPS
By Gary Smalley John Trent
NAVPRESSCopyright © 1988 Gary Smalley and John Trent
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSession One
IN SEARCH OF THE BLESSING
IDENTIFYING THE ISSUES
All of us long to be accepted by others. While we may say out loud, "I don't care what other people think about me," on the inside we all yearn for intimacy and affection. This yearning is especially true in our relationship with our parents. Gaining or missing out on parental approval has a tremendous effect on us, even if it has been years since we have had any regular contact with them. In fact, what happens in our relationship with our parents can greatly affect all our present and future relationships. While this may sound like an exaggeration, our office has been filled with people struggling with this very issue....
... [P]eople who are searching for their family's blessing ... years after they had moved away from home physically ... still [remain] chained to the past emotionally. Their lack of approval from their parents in the past [keeps] a feeling of genuine acceptance from others in the present from taking root in their lives....
Some people are driven toward workaholism as they search for the blessing they never received at home. Always striving for acceptance, they never feel satisfied that they are measuring up. Others get mired in withdrawal and apathy as theygive up hope of ever truly being blessed. Unfortunately, this withdrawal can become so severe that it can lead to chronic depression and even suicide. For almost all children who miss out on their parents' blessing, at some level this lack of acceptance sets off a lifelong search.
This search for the blessing is not just a modern-day phenomenon. This is actually centuries old. In fact, we can find a graphic picture in the Old Testament of a person who missed out on his family's blessing. This person was a confused and angry man named Esau....
One of the most familiar verses in the Bible is Genesis 2:24: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife" (NASB). Many books and tapes talk about the need to cleave to our spouse. However, very few talk about the tremendous need people have to "leave" home. Perhaps this is because people [usually think] of leaving home as simply moving away physically....
The terrible fact is that most people who have missed out on their parents' blessing have great emotional difficulty leaving home. It may have been years since they have seen their parents, but unmet needs for personal acceptance can keep a person emotionally chained to his or her parents' home, unable to genuinely cleave to another person in a lasting relationship. For this reason many couples never get off the ground in terms of marital intimacy.... You or a loved one may be facing this problem. Understanding the concept of the blessing is crucial to defeating the problem and freeing people to build healthy relationships.
The stories of Brian and Nancy illustrate people searching for parental blessing. Brian's father had made a career of being a Marine officer, and he raised Brian to follow in his footsteps. To "toughen" Brian, he had never given him approval for any of his athletic or academic achievements. Instead, he always pointed out Brian's mistakes and challenged him to do even better.
When Brian joined the Marines after graduating from high school, his father was overjoyed, but Brian soon got into trouble for attitude problems and fighting. Eventually, he was dishonorably discharged from the Corps. As soon as that happened, he was no longer welcome at home, and communication with his father stopped.
In the years that followed, Brian struggled with feelings of inferiority and found it impossible to form lasting relationships. He didn't believe another person could love him. His father died before there was any reconciliation between them, leaving Brian heartbroken.
Nancy was a tomboy, but her mother wanted a petite little lady. Nancy's younger sister, who was more to her mother's liking, became the favorite. Nancy was often belittled by her mother for being overweight and was compared unfavorably to her sister. Eventually Nancy was left at home when her mother and her sister went out to various social events.
When Nancy grew up, she struggled constantly with her weight and low self-esteem. But she married and had two daughters of her own. Like Nancy and her sister, the older girl was bigger and looked a lot like Nancy, while the younger was beautiful and petite. And as it had been in Nancy's childhood, Nancy's mother favored the younger, petite granddaughter, often ignoring the older girl. It was painful for Nancy to realize that she was becoming resentful and bitter toward her younger daughter.
EXPLORING THE ISSUES
1. How would you define this concept of a family "blessing"?
2. What are some of the common consequences of lacking this blessing, according to the excerpt and/or your observations?
3. Can you remember a time in your life when you clearly felt you had the blessing of one or both of your parents? What did they say or do to give you that feeling?
4. The following self-test will help you determine whether you live with or without a sense of your parents' blessing. It consists of seven yes/no questions for you to answer. A yes answer to one question may indicate that you feel you lack their blessing; a yes answer to two or more questions is a strong indication you feel that way.
a. Are your parents frequently critical of you or your life style? __yes __no
b. In most decisions you make, do you consider what your parents will think? __yes __no
c. Would you or others say you're a workaholic? __yes __no
d. Do you feel your mom or dad prefers a brother or sister over you? __yes __no
e. When you are with your parents, are you usually on edge, waiting for some conflict to erupt? __yes __no
f. Are you pursuing any major goals because you know they will please your parents? __yes __no
g. Do you sometimes feel that no matter how hard you work or how much you achieve, you will never be satisfied? __ yes __no
5. How is a person who feels a lack of parental blessing likely to feel about God? Why?
6. Genesis 27:1-40 shows how Esau lost his father's blessing and how that affected him. Read that passage and then answer the following questions.
a. How did Jacob steal the blessing meant for Esau? b. How did Esau respond?
c. What was Isaac's response?
d. How did the two blessings given to Jacob and Esau differ?
e. Who are some other biblical people who seemed to suffer from a lack of parental blessing?
7. What problems might exist in a marriage in which one or both spouses have failed to "leave home" emotionally?
8. To what extent are Brian and Nancy the products of their environments, and to what extent are they responsible for their own dilemmas?
9. Describe the attitudes and behavior of a person who has and feels the blessing of his parents.
10. Describe a marriage in which both partners feel blessed.
BRINGING IT HOME
The principles presented in this session need to be made personal if you want to see the greatest positive impact in your life. The questions and suggestions in this section are designed to help you transform truth into action.
1. If at this point you think you did not receive your parents' blessing, pray now and ask God to forgive them. Ask Him to also help you to forgive them if there's a root of bitterness in your heart.
2. Who in your life should you be blessing today? Make a list. Your list might include your spouse, your children, your parents, co-workers, people at church, neighbors, and so on. As we look in detail in future sessions at what the blessing involves, begin to pray now that God will show you how to be a real blessing to those people. Make that request a daily prayer throughout this study.
3. In preparation for the next session, list some practical things a person could say or do that would convey a sense of blessing to others. Then compare your list to the elements of the blessing as explained in the next session and be ready to add your insights to the discussion.
TAKING IT FURTHER
The following resources are entirely optional, meant for those who want to go beyond the session and take its ideas even further. Choose those that interest you; feel free to pass over the rest.
1. Read chapter 1 of The Blessing.
2. Read the following quotations, and answer the questions after each.
a. "Children have never been good at listening to their parents, but they have never failed to imitate them." (James Baldwin)
* What are the best traits of your parents that you see in yourself? What are the worst? * If you have children, which of your traits do you see most clearly in them?
b. "When adults realize that every human being-especially the adolescent-hungers for understanding, acceptance, and recognition, many of the problems of delinquency will be on their way to solution." (William A. Ward)
* Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Why?
* What would be the likely consequences for society if more people felt blessed by their parents?
c. "Society creates the myth that marriage is the proper haven for all our longings and a cure for all our short-comings. People are programmed to believe that marriage will automatically give them individuality, identity, security, and happiness, when as a matter of fact marriage gives them none of these things unless they possess them in the first place." (Gerald Griffin)
* What can we realistically expect of marriage in terms of meeting our emotional needs?
* To what extent do unrealistic expectations cause marital discord?
Excerpted from The Blessing by Gary Smalley John Trent Copyright © 1988 by Gary Smalley and John Trent. Excerpted by permission.
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