Hard Work Beats Generational Curses: Be A Product of Your Choices, Not Your Circumstances

By Hannah Leah··  7 min read
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A generational curse refers to the patterns, behaviors, or trauma that have been passed down from one generation to another. Your father was an alcoholic, and now you’re one. Your grandmother never got an education, and you’re in the same shoes. Are there ways to break the cycle of your family’s patterns that have an effect on you?

We can’t prevent the situation we’re born into, but we can make choices that will help create the type of life we desire. Your parents' and grandparents' decisions don’t need to be your decisions. But it will take hard work and intentional choices. Face the hand you’ve been dealt, and change the negative patterns that have been the norm for your family. 

Generational Curses

When a child is raised in a father-absent home, they have a four times greater risk of poverty, are more likely to go to prison, and are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. Children of incarcerated parents are, on average, six times more likely to become incarcerated themselves. Children of alcoholic parents are more likely to use alcohol themselves, in adolescence or adulthood. They may begin drinking alcohol at a younger age than other people and progress quickly to a problematic level of consumption.

This should be all the more reason to break these generational habits so that you don’t pass it on to your future children. Many of us fall into the same patterns as our family, but it doesn't have to be this way. Recently, I was sitting next to my grandfather at my little brother’s high school graduation, and he was clapping very loudly. He was so proud. I thought about this for a moment and realized it must’ve been surreal for him. His youngest of almost 20 grandchildren was graduating high school. 

Your parents' and grandparents' decisions don’t need to be your decisions.

My grandfather came from a very poor family and only had an 8th-grade education. He had to quit school so he could start working full-time because his family needed money. But today, at 80 years old, he owns a large farm and has five successful children, almost 20 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. All of us grandkids have graduated high school, and many of us have also graduated from college. He didn’t come from much, but he made much out of his life by working hard at everything he did. He overcame poverty, and in his middle age, he overcame alcoholism. He turned around the habits of his parents and grandparents, and now his kids and grandchildren are also successful. 

You Aren’t Perfect Just the Way You Are

In today’s world, we’re not encouraged to work hard. Everything is about instant gratification and finding whatever is quick and easy. This has caused many of us to be lazy, impulsive, to only consider the short term, and to have low motivation. Everyone is told that they’re perfect the way they are. But that gives us no desire to be better. Jordan Peterson once said, “Don't tell people, 'You're okay the way that you are.' That's not the right story. The right story is, 'You're way less than you could be.’” Imagine the things we could accomplish if we always strived to do more. 

Ben Carson is the perfect example of someone who started with very little, but his work ethic led him to be a world-renowned surgeon. His mother only had a third-grade education, but she always pushed him to do more for himself. 

Modern society would tell us that someone like Ben Carson has no chance. They'd say systemic racism would make it impossible for him to succeed. But Dr. Carson didn’t let his circumstances hold him hostage. In his book, Gifted Hands, he writes, “Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.” Dr. Carson never considered himself a victim. He took the hand he’d been dealt and made the most of his life. 

The Success Sequence

Let’s look at the “Success Sequence,” which researchers have studied and distilled into a few principles that cause a higher probability for a successful life. These three milestones have been known to lessen the risk of poverty and lead to an adult’s success:

  1. Graduate high school.

  2. Find a full-time job after finishing high school.

  3. Wait to have children until after you’re married.

It seems simple enough, but society encourages us to do what feels right in the moment, rather than disciplining ourselves to have the best outcome later. More and more students are dropping out of school, especially since experiencing the lockdowns from Covid-19, because most schools went virtual, and students have very low motivation to continue their education. But getting a high school diploma seems to increase the chances of success in peoples’ lives, partially because getting a job often requires at least a high school diploma, so it makes getting gainful employment easier. 

Working full-time is also important because it provides self-sufficiency and a steady income, which also correlates to waiting until after marriage to have children. Having children before marriage can be very difficult financially, and causes lots of challenges between the father and mother since there isn’t always a commitment between the two to make sure the child has a stable life. These milestones are three things you can aim for that statistically have proven to increase your chances for a more successful life. 

Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. 

Identify and Address Your Generational Trauma

Growth and change can only happen after the problem has been identified and acknowledged. Take some time to reflect on what generational curses have impacted your family tree and your own life. Don’t just think about the damage that has been done, but also envision what your future could look like if you choose to go down a different path. What do you want life to look like? Are there habits that have been passed down to you that are preventing you from that type of life? What can you do about it?

There are different options to address trauma. Some of us need counseling to help us cope with past experiences. Seeking the advice and listening ear of someone outside our situation is a great way to help us move forward. If we never resolve or cope with our trauma then it’s very difficult to move ahead in life. Setting goals is also a great way to achieve success. Start with baby steps. Be realistic and find a support system that can hold you accountable. Your support system might be your husband, your friends, your parents, or even your therapist. Find a trustworthy person who can help you reach your goals and call you out on your mistakes. 

Now the hard work begins. Prepare for a potentially long and challenging period of growth and change. Keep your reasons why at the forefront of your mind to keep yourself motivated. Remember that it won’t always be an easy journey, but keep pushing. As the philosopher and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Closing Thoughts

If you see negative patterns in your family that are having an effect on the outcome of your life, you need to make a conscious effort to overcome those things, so that you don’t face the consequences that your family faced. It won’t always be an easy thing to do, but if you can break the habits that aren’t benefiting your life, you can create new habits and pass those along to your future children. 

Don’t let your ancestors’ bad decisions become your decisions. Learn from their mistakes and make something great out of your life. Reach out for help if it becomes too hard, and keep striving to do more for yourself. Generational curses don’t have to have a hold on your life. You’re meant for great things. Do not give up! Each of us has a purpose, and it just requires us to try our best. 

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