I have been a pastor for 44 years, and during those years I have done a ton of counseling, most of it was marriage counseling and family counseling. Most of the families were dysfunctional , which simply means that there were a lot of conflicts. Every relationship and every family has conflicts to some degree, but in a dysfunctional relationship or family conflict is the norm. There are several common denominators in dysfunctional families that cause the culture of conflict to exist.
1. One or more members of the family regularly throw ”fits” or ”tantrums” to let it be known to all that they are not happy with a decision or situation. What makes the family dysfunctional isn’t the fact that someone throws a fit, but that the rest of the family makes concessions for the tantrum thrower, not because there is any validity to the reason for the ”fit”, but because ”fits” are so disruptive to normal life that the concessions given seem a small price to pay for some peace.
All children throw fits and have tantrums, that is what kids do, that is the only way they know to have some control over those around them and get what they want. As we raised our 8 children there was always immediate consequences to fit throwing. There wasn’t any discussion, there was no counting to three, there were no warnings, just an immediate consequence. It didn’t take very long before our kids didn’t throw fits because it didn’t work. Once we were a ”fit free” family we were a family of peace, joy, and unity.
2. Members of dysfunctional families exaggerate an event to make their point and to control the other members of the family. Dysfunctional statements such as ”you always”, or ”you never”, are common. When I do counseling, I will point out the use of these ”dysfunctional statements,” and we then outlaw them from being used.
3. The name of the game in dysfunctional families is controlling the other members so that I can get my way, my wants. A major tool for controlling others is ”blame and shame.” No one ever takes responsibility for anything, it is always someone else’s fault. The ”blame and shame” practice is not merely pointing out mistakes, but it is character assassination, it is attacking the motives of others. The goal is to hurt others with our words, to shame them, to punish them so that they will think twice about going against our wishes. If you were able to observe a dysfunctional family function for very long you would see many ”fist fights with words”.
Many marriages are dysfunctional, which leads to their families becoming dysfunctional as well. Companies and work places are often dysfunctional which has a huge impact on performance and productivity. Many churches are dysfunctional which obviously will result in a loss of blessing from God.
Probably most of you would agree that for the last couple of weeks we have watched a major display of dysfunctional behavior in our country. It takes a lot of work and time as a counselor to move a dysfunctional family to the point of healthy. I can’t imagine much of anything working in our nation except a major work of God as a result of prayer on the part of many disciples of Jesus so that many dysfunctional people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.