Dealing with an unsupportive family

Our family bonds are interwoven into our daily DNA. We either perpetuate family habits and behaviors or we revolt against them where we spend our lives making sure we aren’t like some of the people from our background.

A while back, I received this question from a client about what to do if you have an unsupportive family. I wanted to share an excerpt of our conversation (with her permission) in hopes that as you are privy to our discussion it could benefit you if you come from an unsupportive family.

“I love my family even though I don’t like them most of the time [just being honest], but I want them to be happy. Some of them are traveling down a dead-end road with nothing much going on in their life. You’d think that as professed, born-again Christians, they would leave their past behind them, and strive for a better future, but they have a one-track mind. It’s Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Yet their lives don’t reflect a person who is disciplined like Jesus and who lives like Him. So, I’m tired of them and have contemplated if I should just let go. It just doesn’t seem right, but the reality is they have become a source of poison in my life. How do you let go when you are related to them and have known them your whole life?”

It is uncanny in our world today that when you are on the road to better yourself from your negative and toxic background experiences, you encounter family members who just want to throw shade at your personal improvements. And very often these people are those you thought would be – and should be – your biggest supporters. It is a colossal challenge.

If you are experiencing a lack of relational support, that is you don’t have family to do life with or count on in times of trouble, social studies reveal you are at a higher risk of developing medical declines such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer's disease. I made this medical fact clear during our discussion. Why is it a fact? Well, because many wounded individuals focus on their offenders and fail to recognize their own decline. Many can't see the impact their wounds have on their health, whether physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional.

Far too many people think that when their family is unsupportive, they simply need to pull away, mind their own business, or find another tribe to support them. This is not the best solution for sustainable and personal improvement. These might be necessary steps to take, but they're only part of the story for healing and wholeness.

Our family bonds are interwoven into our daily DNA. We either perpetuate family habits and behaviors or we revolt against them where we spend our lives making sure we aren’t like some of the people from our background.

Yet social research reveals for those who pull away without a clear path to “purge yourself of your family’s DNA – habits and patterns,” you will only perpetuate what you don’t like and who you don’t like, but this time with different people and places. History does indeed often repeat itself.

I stressed that lack of relational support can hamper our ability and maturity to ensure we are becoming a better person as God has intended, and not just a rebel who is indifferent toward an unsupportive family. Family background has strong effects on people who are progressing in life but come from childhood baggage. We may outgrow our background, but we must go through the process; and the healing process takes time.

A good remedy for a lack of relational support is to seek the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and ways to improve ourselves. Another is to focus on our betterment instead of living in revolt of our family’s lack of support. Focus is important to see whether our life reflects “who God wants us to become” vs. “who we don’t want to be like.” Family can’t be the consuming focus for why we are becoming who we are, nor should they constantly receive blame for what they “did to us.” Personal betterment requires us to drop the baggage of our past so we can heal for real.

The mere fact that we can’t tolerate being around our family or alienate ourselves from them indicates we are affected by a “revolt mindset,” which means we still have our family’s DNA that drove us away from them. This is a tell-tale sign that we are still hurting and broken. While our hurt and brokenness are legitimate, and our family may not be able to restore their relationship with us, or we may not be able to restore with them - we still should be intentional on receiving support for our wholeness.

Feeling negative emotions toward our family can be extremely difficult to handle. If you feel this way, lean on the Holy Spirit and develop spiritual connections outside of your family to help you hear from God. Trusted confidantes can affirm you as God directs your path in how He wants you to address your family’s lack of support. Though He will most likely leave a crack in the door, He can show you the pathway to move forward with or without them. Then be obedient to what He tells you and you will be on your way to greater success and fulfillment.

God established family and Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “Friends love all the time, and kinsfolk are born for times of trouble.” Ideally, family should be our number one supporter, but we know that is not always the case. Cain murdered Abel in a jealous rage, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph didn’t sit well with his brothers who sold him into slavery, and on and on. Family matters have been “testy” since the beginning of time.

May the Holy Spirit order your steps along the journey.

Leave a comment