I hear it all the time.
“My family is so dysfunctional!”
Passive aggressive parents, always irritable in-laws, depressed relatives and out-of-control children are some of the family often described following this statement.
Dr. Elvira G. Aletta raises a very good point in her article, What Makes a Family Functional vs. Dysfunctional? She suggests people use the word ‘dysfunctional,’ as if “there is an opposite, functional, family somewhere.” A family that never fights, is always neat, clean and smiling. I love her conclusion, “That sounds horrible. In fact, it sounds downright dysfunctional!”
We seem to often accept other parts of our lives that don’t always function as well as we would like – like work or even some friendships. Yet, we have high expectations with our families -- they should be different.
Here is an important reminder, family isn’t always functional! In fact, most often, it is awkward, chaotic and complicated.
However, with challenging dynamics, families can be enjoyable and dare I say ... FUN!
Here are few things we can do to put the FUN into our dysfunction.
Family should provide stability in our life. We need loved ones who are loyal, steadfast, and dedicated to healthy family relationships. The frustrating reality? We can’t make people do anything. I hate that, don’t you? I can’t guarantee my family will act or behave faithfully. However, I can act and and behave faithfully.
God shows us what faithfulness looks like with two important statements:
I am for you (Romans 8:31-35) and I am with you (Matthew 1:20-23).
When God tells us He is for us, He reminds us nothing is powerful enough to pull Him away from us and He actively works on our behalf. This provide stability for our lives.
The same is true with family. I wonder what members of my clan would say about our family’s faithfulness? Do we try and control the conversation or are we truly interested in those around us? Do our kids know we FOR and WITH them, regardless of grades or if their room is clean? Does our spouses have the confidence we are not thinking about an old flame when things aren’t great in our marriage?
Understanding is not the same as approval. We can choose to understand those in our family, even if we know they are making bad choices. For example, I understand why people turn to substances to alter their mood. However, it doesn’t mean I approve of the coping mechanism. I understand why people lie, but it doesn’t mean I have to accept dishonesty in my home.
When we seek to understand other members of our family – their feelings, actions, or thoughts -- we attempt to look at the relationship through the eyes of other members of our family. This does nothing but make the relationship stronger.
Think of our family relationships like a garden. Experienced gardeners know their plants cannot be ignored. They have to water, pull weeds and fertilize regularly. Ignoring any of these critical disciplines puts the garden’s growth in jeopardy. We need to nurture our families.
Water: Eat dinner together several days a week, pray together to start the day and read to your little ones. These are easy, daily ways to connect with your family. They also remind family members that they come first. It creates time and a comfortable place to share, talk about the day and laugh.
Pull Weeds: Eliminate anything that could choke our relationships -- friends that bring out the worst in us, TV shows that do not honor family, parents, or marriage, or obsessive habits, addictions or distractions that keep us from engaging in our homes.
Fertilize: Great memories and fun are critical ingredients that must be added to every family. Family game nights, walks or bike rides, grabbing coffee, playing on your gaming system and talking infuse FUN. Fun is needed if we want to grow; it helps us learn another way of relating to others and enjoy the (dysfunctional) family God gave us.
I know some of us come from extremely rough family situations. I would encourage you to seek out a professional counselor if you don’t think your family is in a place to apply these tools. A good therapeutic professional can help your family navigate and develop new ways to interact with one another.
But remember, we are all dysfunctional! So let’s embrace it, be honest about it and follow God and His principles to put a little more FUN in our dysfunction.