Christian Living

Stop Saying Dysfunctional Family

Don’t Be Bound by What Was and Embrace a Better Way Forward

We need to stop using the phrase “dysfunctional family.” Every family is dysfunctional. Only the degree of dysfunction varies.

Dysfunction exists on a continuum, from highly dysfunctional to marginally dysfunctional, but all families—as with all relationships—have some dysfunction.

Not an Excuse

When people say they come from a dysfunctional family, they often use it as justification for their own dysfunction and an excuse for their own less-than-ideal behaviors.

Yet embracing this label as who they are holds them captive to dysfunction and allows them to pass on their negative behaviors.

Though dysfunction may explain their issues and help them to understand the root cause of their actions, it need not—it should not—stand as an excuse.

Where they once were does not need to determine where they are now or dictate where they will be tomorrow.

The Result of Sin

Dysfunction is the result of sin. And we all sin and fall short (Romans 3:23). So, too, with our families: they sometimes fall short. As long as we have sin in the world, dysfunction will exist.

But this doesn’t mean we should accept dysfunction as inevitable—or irreversible. Whatever degree of dysfunction we experienced growing up does not need to determine our future.

With God’s help, we can change. He gives us the strength to do so (Philippians 4:13).

Worldly Influences

Since we live in a fallen world, we live in a world full of dysfunction.

When the world influences our behavior, we follow its example and embrace its dysfunction (1 John 2:15-17). We perpetuate it in our lives and pass it on to our children.

How this must delight Satan—and disappoint God.

The Biblical Approach

Instead of embracing what the world does and blindly letting it guide our conduct, we should let Scripture influence our behavior, pointing us toward God and away from evil.

We must hide God’s truth in our hearts (Psalms 119:11).

Since dysfunction is the result of sin, to live in dysfunction is to live in sin. The Bible points to a better way—God’s way.

Functional Families

The opposite of dysfunctional is functional. Therefore, the opposite of dysfunctional families must be functional families. Just as every family has a degree of dysfunctionality, every family also has a degree of functionality. Pursue functional.

A functional family attends to the needs of its children. It feeds, clothes, and nurtures. It provides a safe environment, a haven from life’s storms and the world’s negative influences.

We must escape dysfunction and embrace function. And with God’s help, we can.

All we need to do is ask him for the wisdom to do so (James 1:5).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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