I’ve always been intrigued by this part of a verse from the Bible. Several verses, actually. Sometimes it refers to the sins of the father being visited on the children and sometimes that the children can escape that fate by embracing God.
When I take on a new client, I begin with their history, which includes the events and messages from childhood that continue to impact their emotions and behavior. In that way, the punishments, traumas, criticisms, and generally careless parenting are the sins that are visited on the children. Kids internalize messages like “I’m not good enough,” “I’m worthless,” or “I’m unlovable” and these stay with them and become the filter through which all other life events are processed.
A few Bible verses say that the children will be punished for the sins of the father to the third and fourth generation. We are finding more and more evidence that people have generational and genetic memories that impact them in the present. During a breathwork session, I experienced the traumatic events my mother lived through while I was in her womb and I realized that it explained a lot about my self-concept and my relationships with others.
When we look at the narcissists in politics or who run companies that plunder our environment or harm employees, we can often find that their fathers were cold and demanding and their mothers failed to protect them, leading to a constant striving for love and approval. Of course, they never get it, which often leads to addiction.
Addicts, no matter the drug of choice, are seeking relief from the emptiness and pain of not having had a loving and affirming family environment and will often behave narcissistically, although most are not true narcissists. Addicts in recovery are empathetic, loving, and caring people for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration, because they are doing the hardest work a person can – making daily choices to be congruent with the person they are choosing to be – free of the past and taking responsibility for themselves. A true narcissist will never be able to recover the intimacy and Connection that are in every person’s innate being, and for that I will have compassion but no unrealistic expectations.
So, the sins of the father, or parents, are the failure to provide love and safety to the children and that will follow those children and their children’s children until the cycle is broken through awakening, awareness, motivation for Connection, and the healing that comes from the willingness to be in recovery one day at a time.
Be In Light,