Breaking the Cycle

“What we do today has lasting effects long after we’re gone so what do you want your legacy to be?” 

by JOHN DALE

Have you ever noticed how some of us end up repeating things from our past or even farther back in our family lineage? Are you curious why that happens? More importantly, do you want to stop it from happening and break that cycle? 

If we pull back the curtain and look inside there’s a distinct connection between sin and trauma. Let’s define sin as something that goes against what God had intended for us when He created the universe. Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that can leave a lasting scar. Looking at this connection further…

sin is done by us and trauma is done to us

If we dig towards the roots of our trauma we can see how deep they go. As you begin to trace your trauma back through time, this pattern of sin and trauma, and more sin and more trauma starts to emerge. It’s a cycle that will continue unless we choose to do something about it.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of breaking this cycle is that we can’t always see what we’re up against. Sometimes the enemy we’re fighting against is an invisible one. When I was in Iraq in 2005 we were mainly up against invisible enemies; oftentimes we couldn’t see them and that made fighting back very hard. I led a convoy team providing security for our battalion staff going from one forward operating base to another. The improvised explosive devices (IED)s buried in the road were oftentimes invisible. The person triggering them was normally hidden. When we’d enter checkpoints that were manned by local police or military we had no idea if they were on our side or not; a kind of invisibility. We’d get mortared frequently on our base; again, invisible. They were using weapons of fear and uncertainty, much like satan does. 

In the bible at the beginning of John chapter 10 verse 10, “the thief (satan) comes to kill, steal and destroy..”. It’s helpful for me to look at spiritual things in a physical sense to better understand it and many of us who have experienced combat have encountered these invisible enemies that I described above firsthand. 

The enemy we encounter in the spiritual sense doesn’t fight fair either and will use any vulnerability he can find.

When we experience trauma it weakens our ability to fight off a spiritual attack. It’s even more difficult to stay standing if we’ve isolated ourselves. Picture the wildlife videos where the lion is able to catch and kill its prey because they’re too small, sickly, or they’ve gotten separated from their herd or pack and no one is around to protect them. 1 Peter 5:8 says ,”Be sober-minded and watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”  Satan is much like the lion and will do the same thing to us when we’re weak and alone. He leads people to sin and sin causes trauma. It’s happened to me and it may have happened to you or someone you know. That’s the connection that needs to be broken. But how?

You’ve probably been waiting for the good news while reading this and finally here it is:  John chapter 10 verse 10 from above ends with, “but I (Jesus) have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”

This is the ammunition we need to fight our spiritual enemy. Jesus is offering to help us and we have to make the choice to accept it.

One night before leading a REBOOT Recovery course I took some time to reflect on my own life and my family’s past to examine how far back this sin-trauma connection went. In other words, I began to dig toward my family tree’s roots. I traced them all the way back to WWII and moved forward in time from there to the present day. It was clear as day that the generations before me were affected by the scars of war. The men in my family chose not to deal with things well and as a result my entire family was affected…generation after generation. By the time it got to me and the war I fought, I followed in my family’s footsteps. I couldn’t break the cycle and I didn’t handle the trauma well. I hurt my wife deeply for several years. I fell into the trap my family had unconsciously set out for me.

Now, reflect upon your own life and examine your own family’s sin-trauma connection. Are they related? If they are, consider these two things: (1) if the tools you’re using aren’t working, then you have to get new ones and (2) the cycle has to stop with you.

After completing this exercise of looking deeper at the roots of trauma in my family, I could’ve easily been angry and resentful toward my father and grandfather, and full of shame for the damage I had done to my wife. Instead, with God’s help, I chose a different perspective. Ever try to cut something with a dull knife? It usually takes more force and can tear or leave a jagged edge. Using this analogy, I realized that my family and I were doing the best we could with crappy tools but it wasn’t enough. 

This realization was helpful because it enabled me to understand God’s grace for all of us and in turn, led me to have empathy for my family members and for myself. However, this doesn’t mean what we did was excusable and as a result, forgiveness, repentance and making amends (if possible) were needed. The light bulb moment was that the tools of isolating to fix it myself, seeing asking for help as weakness and self-medication weren’t working and I needed some new ones that gave me the outcome I wanted. I made it my new mission to get them. Maybe you need some new tools as well. 

The second thing worth considering is that the cycle MUST be broken for the sin-trauma connection to be severed. There were three generations of warriors that made an impact on my family tree; my grandfather that fought in WWII, my uncle that was killed in Vietnam and me that fought in Iraq. If I wasn’t careful my sin might traumatize my children and the cycle would continue. Fortunately, it dawned on me that I had the power with God’s help to stop it. I took a stand and said “no more”.  As a REBOOT leader, this has become the rally cry I have my course participants say together at the end of Week 2; “It Stops With Me!” Right now I want you to take a deep breath…then say it out loud or in your head…

“This Cycle of Sin and Trauma Stops With Me!” 

What we do today has lasting effects long after we’re gone so it’s worth it for you to wrestle with this important question; What do you want your legacy to be? 


JOHN DALE is the Operations Director for REBOOT Recovery.

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