A Hopeful Message for Dysfunctional Families from an Iconic Song

Clarkson wrote this song about emotional abuse and neglect of a troubled parent/s.when she was 16 years old in less than 25 minutes.

It briefly and pointedly describes about how Clarkson reacted to her parents divorcing when she was 6 years old. The song, she admits, has a depressing tone and yet has become an icon in popular music, as thanks to radio, there wouldn’t be many unfamiliar with the lyrics.

Perhaps it is relatable, touching a cord of sadness and also of hope that things will work out for the best. No one really enjoys conflict, least of all children.

Clarkson revealed the song, itself, was initially rejected by Sony record executive Clive Davis, who berated her when she presented it to him. She elaborates here:

“I cried because he hated it and told me verbatim that I was a ‘sh–ty writer who should be grateful for the gifts that he bestows upon me. He continued on about how the song didn’t rhyme and how I should just shut up and sing. This was devastating coming from a man who I, as a young girl, considered a musical hero and was so honoured to work with.”

Kelly Clarkson
Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk.
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side, so I don't get hurt.

Lyrics appear to be critical of her parent, presumably her father as her mother reportedly retreated to swallowing pills as a way to cope with the dysfunction. But there’s more to the song than first appears, as the video depicts a plot that centres on Kelly arguing with her partner as her child watches on. There follows a poignant moment when she realises history is repeating itself.

It is also interesting to note that Clarkson’s family did approve the video, prior to its release.

The video ends on a positive note.

Be it awareness or enlightenment, the lesson or message is that it is possible to break an intergenerational cycle of dysfunction in families.

We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
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29 thoughts on “A Hopeful Message for Dysfunctional Families from an Iconic Song”

  1. Very interesting & advisable message in video song. I like. “We Must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope ”
    Beautiful thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember that song and felt it deeply. I think many who lived harsh childhoods could relate. I’m glad she’s worked through so much and come out ahead. She is a very strong woman now but you can tell the pain goes deep. I love the quote.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been reading about this song this week, but admit I’ve never heard it before. I like the line: “Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side, so I don’t get hurt.” That’s a powerful message. I can relate to it in some ways, in a few different contexts.


    1. Kelly’s lyrics are a powerful message, Ally Bean and could be interpreted as you say, in a variety of ways that are individually quite meaningful. I initially thought the lyrics pertained to an over protective parent and an overly anxious child with trust issues!
      How coincidental that you have been reading about this very song! I had this post sitting in my drafts for a month or so…
      I think it was a hit on the top 40 charts here around 2005, maybe?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. She is quite a talent but I have no idea what she is like as a person. I think she has worked out something special, i.e. that awareness of not repeating history. Many couple don’t have that same level of awareness and the children suffer greatly.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My reaction is….what a wimp.
    My parents did not get along, but did not divorce…might have been better for me if they had done so….so I forged my own path, though, to be fair, I followed my father’s attitudes rather than those of my mother.
    Never complain, never explain, just do it and take the consequences on the chin.
    We can be our own selves, not just the product if our family situation.


    1. I agree Helen, a wimp of a man. Of course there are always two sides, but I can see both. Women had a hard time of it without a man, in years past, and the futher you go back in history the worse it was for women. Then again, possibly better to divorce when they did not get along at all? Whatever the outcome, you displayed the resilience to withstand the storm and drama and come out the other side. I find the never explain would be much harder for me. Consequences though have been well understood and felt by me. Saying we can be our own selves – the captain of our own ship is heartening. It involves taking personal responsibility of our lives and our emotions/feelings. I hear a lot of blaming these days and much less ownership being taken on and owned, in relationship conflict.
      I remember watching a documentary that claimed children often accepted their parents’ dogma when they grew up, or wholly refuted it, creating their own channel along which to sail. Without much in between. I am more in the latter camp, myself and am very comfortable there. My parents are still together but it was always volatile.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always liked this recording of Kelly Clarkson’s and here in the UK it was very popular. However, I wasn’t aware of how it related to her past and I obviously hadn’t really listened to the words sufficiently. Very powerful and oh yes, how I agree with …. “Be it awareness or enlightenment, the lesson or message is that it is possible to break an intergenerational cycle of dysfunction in families.” …. small steps at a time between generations on top of awareness.
    We don’t have to stay stuck do we?

    Thank you for enlightening me. 👍🏼


    1. Hi Margaret and many thanks for your comment. I concur with your thoughts that we don’t have to stay stuck, although some maybe by external circumstances.
      We certainly don’t have to stay emotionally stuck if we have the support and desire for self-awareness. Those people appear a little more in tune with the ability to let go whereby I mean they focus on looking forward rather than dwelling too much on the past and its less fortunate memories.
      I love that you mentioned small steps between generations. There is a lot to be said for small steps.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know any Kelly Clarkson songs but could relate to this one. Actually, it would be hard to listen to this one without thinking about my own childhood. Perhaps that’s why she wrote the lyrics, so others can relate to it as well?


  7. Good point. Hope is under attack everywhere it seems. Why do we have to go back to Dr King (However admirable he is)? Anybody alive coming out right now? Hello?


      1. We need new Kings, new Kennedys (with all his faults), new Peter Paul Mary’s, Pete Seegers, baez, Dylans. New writers… I am kinda surprised nobody is really popping out… Maybe tomorrow? 😉
        Bon week-end Astrid.

        Liked by 1 person

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