4 steps to Addressing the Elephant in the Room
The elephant in the room is that thing that everyone knows or sees, but no one wants to address. It is the uninvited guest that seems to attend every family function; quietly causing pain and trauma. Unaddressed issues run deep from generation to generation. Those issues can range from abuse, neglect, abandonment, and loss. No one wants to rock the boat. So, we keep showing up to every function with locked lips, diabolical secrets and broken hearts.
The first step to fixing any problem is acknowledging that it exists. You don’t have to carry unhealthy relationship traits. YOU get to decide what healthy looks like to you. The responsibility of cultivating healthy relationships is completely yours. I have adapted this saying “Just because you didn’t come from a healthy family dynamic, doesn’t mean that one can’t come from you.” The rest of this blog is dedicated to the process of dealing with the hard things in our family relationships.
Step 1: Awareness
I want to begin with Awareness. Awareness is simply the acknowledgement that something exists. Once you can be honest with yourself about the fact that things need to change then you can take the necessary steps to do so. Sometimes, you know exactly what the problem is. Other times, it takes internal processing, hard conversations or even therapy.
Step 2: Prayer
This leads me to step two: Prayer. I would be lying if I said that the process of addressing the elephant in the room was easy. It is not. You cannot control how other people will feel or respond. For some of us, the thought of confrontation comes with anxiety and fear. But Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” There is nothing like knowing that God has your back in any given situation. Inviting him into the hard stuff brings peace and confidence that you would not otherwise have.
God’s desire is for us to live healthy and whole lives. He does not want us trapped in cycles. He sent his son to die in order to reconcile us back to himself. That sacrifice was made to restore the fellowship and closeness that Adam and Eve once had to Him. When they sinned in the garden, the first question that God asked was “Adam where are you?” It’s not that he couldn’t see him. I believe that God was giving Adam the opportunity to take accountability for his action. He was giving Him the chance to be honest about where he was currently as a result of his choices.
Step 3: Courage
All of us have the same opportunity to reflect the heart of God by seeking forgiveness and restoration in our family relationships. However, none of this is possible without Courage. Courage is the ability to do something even if it scares you. With God, all things are possible. He comes as reinforcement. The bible refers to him as a “very present help in time of trouble.” The courage that only comes through prayer empowers you to advocate for yourself, even if no one else ever has. This challenge of addressing what needs to be addressed also affords you the opportunity to speak up for someone else who may never do it for themselves. You never know the generational impact that your courage could bring to your family.
Step 4: Healthy Boundaries
Awareness, prayer and courage are the forerunners to the last step that I would like to discuss. That step is setting Healthy Boundaries. Simply put, a boundary is a line or limit put in place for protection. It is up to you to decide what you are willing to give or accept in any relationship. Healthy boundaries give you permission to say no to the things that hurt you or do not align with the life that God intended for you to live.
An example of a healthy boundary could be deciding not to attend a family function until you are comfortable addressing a certain incident or behavior. Another could be, respectfully, declining to answer invasive personal questions. Learning to say no, without guilt, is one of the most liberating things to learn. God loves you too much for you to continue hurting yourself out of obligation. Disregarding your own safety or personal boundaries for the sake of not “rocking the boat” is not wise. It is not God’s will for your life. Today, you have a choice.
I want to encourage you… even if your decisions cause people to feel uncomfortable or, respond in an unfavorable way, you have the peace of knowing that you have done your part to make things right. This process takes work. This process takes time. Be patient with yourself. My prayer is that after reading this you would experience healing in your personal life and your family as you partner with God.
Here are three questions to get you started on this journey of addressing the elephant in the room.
1. What is one issue in my family that is negatively impacting me?
2. What role have I played in creating or contributing to this issue?
3. How can I partner with God today to begin dealing with this area?
Can I pray for you? Lord, thank you for the woman reading this. Thank you for her family of origin, the one that she has created, or the one that she will create. I pray that today your spirit will begin to bring awareness and courage to her heart through prayer. I thank you for your guidance in creating healthy boundaries. From this day forward, we expect to be intentional about breaking cycles and experiencing the healthy relationships that you desire for us. In Jesus name. Amen.
My Beautiful Brown Life
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