One of the most common searches on this site is the question,
“How do I get to the root of my dysfunctional family?”
This has inspired me to write a few blogs about the traditions of dysfunctional families and I will post them here. I am writing these blogs to help others become aware of what their family members are doing. When we realize the ideas behind the dysfunction it often takes away the sting and makes it easier to forgive.
The root of every dysfunctional family, every divorce and every war starts with selfishness and fear. When people judge or try to control their family members they are trying to put themselves over them. Every conflict is the result of someone trying to get someone else to do something they don’t want to do and they are usually doing it out of fear.
Whether it’s physical force with a belt and yelling, or social force by gossip and exclusion, it all comes down to elevating self to use power over another. A voice that yells louder or a fist that hits harder often merges into a lawyer that sues nastier or a gun that kills faster. This was never God’s plan for the human family.
Parents were created to represent God’s character to their children, but how far we have fallen from God’s beautiful plan. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s dream for us. From Adam and Eve on down through the family tree–we’ve all made some bad choices. Sometimes we didn’t know better because we imitated our earthly parents instead of our heavenly Parent. As Maya Angelou says, “When we know better, we do better.”
Today we have the choice to stop using selfish methods. Today we can stop the gossip, stop the triangulation, stop the violence, stop the scapegoating and stop using our power over others. We can quit the hate and use other-centered love to become part of the solution to help our families to become functional.
Our family members may not realize what we are doing at first, so let’s go easy on them and pour on the grace. Henry Cloud in his book Changes That Heal discusses how we need both truth and grace. Grace without truth is permissive, while truth without grace is brutal.
We can be honest to our family members. In truth we can say, “Thus far and no more.” We do not have to accept abuse. In grace we can leave the door open for those who wish to live a life of other-centered love. And if they don’t, if they continue to condemn us or gossip about us, we can still pray for them and wish them well.
To you who are ready for the truth,
I say this: Love your enemies.
Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.
When someone gives you a hard time,
respond with the energies of prayer for that person.
If someone slaps you in the face,
stand there and take it.
If someone grabs your shirt,
giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.
If someone takes unfair advantage of you,
use the occasion to practice the servant life.
No more tit-for-tat stuff.
-Luke 6:27-30, MSG