A lot is said and written about dysfunction. What does that mean? Function is the role of something, or the purpose for which it exists. “Dys” means “ill” or “bad.” So dysfunction means that the role of something goes south; the purpose for which it exists is not being fulfilled.
I find that fascinating when considering how often we hear about dysfunctional families. There is a specific role, a purpose that families are meant to fulfill. That purpose was designed by the God who created families. He intends that families serve as the place where children learn about him and learn to respond appropriately to his authority over them.
As we all grow into adults the family ideally would provide a place for nurture and continued growth in understanding God and our response to him. We would all love one another and communicate meaningfully about things that really matter.
There is not one properly functioning family on the face of the earth! Each and every one is dysfunctional. Wait. What?
I truly believe that every family is broken in one way or another. Why is that? Because families consist of broken human beings. We want our own way rather than the good of others. We resist appropriate discipline because we think we know best. We implement unwise discipline because we are angry. We fight or ignore each other because we don’t know how to communicate. We divorce because we prefer personal happiness over personal growth.
Of course many families are broken in severe ways such as substance and sexual abuse as well. If there are such toxic ingredients in your dysfunctional family as outright abuse it is perfectly acceptable if you refuse to be in the presence of the perpetrators. Others may fail to understand. You can attempt explanations if you want to, or you can simply stay away from those people.
Our family contains many of the ingredients mentioned above. As the holidays near and family members gather together the dysfunction resurfaces, that stuff we keep under wraps most of the time. We find it necessary to be in the presence of people we don’t particularly enjoy. What to do?
How about extending grace? We are adults. We managed to survive to this point only by the grace of God. Let’s extend some of that grace to those with whom we’ve had differences. Relax, be nice, be pleasant, smile. You may need to ask God for help to handle these interactions. “But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!” (Psalm 22:19)