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Equipping the Saints to Counsel - Lesson 7

by Dr. Ray Self



The Dysfunctional Family and Its Long Term Effects

Click the play button to begin video lesson and follow along with the class notes below the video window. When you complete this video, click the "Lesson Assignment" button at the bottom of this page to open the lesson assignment.

The Dysfunctional Family and Its Long Term Effects

This discussion is not to place blame or condemnation on anyone. We will simply look squarely at the truth. The word dysfunction implies that something is not functioning correctly, or the purpose of the system is not being met. God has a plan for humankind. In this plan the family plays a major role. God has a divine purpose and plan for the family unit. God created man and then determined that it was not good for man to be alone. He brought the woman and man together and then commanded that they be fruitful and multiply. God’s plan for the family goes back to the beginning of creation.

Man fell from the grace of God when sin entered the world through disobedience. Man’s relationship with God was severed. Now man would have to try to earn God’s favor by strict adherence to God’s commandments. The Law of Moses established the rules and regulations of God. The Bible says that if we violate any one of God’s commandments we have violated them all. In order to be a lawbreaker you do not have to disobey all of the rules, you just have to disobey one of them. Since man fell from grace through Adam, man has tried unsuccessfully to reestablish that intimate relationship with God wherein one could actually walk and talk with Him as before.

The law of God clearly pointed out that we couldn’t please God or ever measure up to His regulations. What does this mean? It means that all of mankind needs a savior; someone who can save us and give us back our right standing with God. The answer is Jesus. His sacrifice of His own body was the payment for our crimes. Because of His sacrifice we now can have back that loving relationship with God. God’s ultimate plan for all of humanity is for us all to come to salvation through His Son Jesus.

But….what happens when a person does not get back into that intimate relationship with God? The Bible points out that there are two kingdoms working simultaneously. There is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Jesus pointed out to us in John 12:31 that Satan is the ruler of this world. The system of the world is under the guidance of Satan. This fact alone makes it clear that the battle we face is enormous. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" Ephesians 6:12.

The Lord has made a way for us to overcome the world. Unfortunately many millions have not found the way. So we must not be surprised when we have dysfunction. Satan is the author of dysfunction. God is a God of order. Satan is the ruler of disorder. The plan from God is for our families to be of divine order. There was a wonderful hereditary chain that God established at Calvary. The plan was that each man and woman would be saved and filled with the Spirit of God. In this salvation and filling with the Spirit, the man and woman, as parents, would be able to offer to their children a true representation of the love of God. This undying love was meant to be passed on from generation to generation. Each family was destined to represent God’s goodness and loving-kindness and wisdom to all of its members.

A child’s picture of God is the picture he or she has of her parents. His or her God is Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad have the awesome responsibility to represent God to their children. But something terrible has happened down through the ages. The chain, or link to Christ, has been broken over and over again. If a parent is not under the rule of Christ then he is under the rule of Satan. To be blunt the satanic influence in the dysfunctional family is enormous. God’s plan was for parents to give His love to their children. Satan’s desire is to stop God’s plan. When the cycle of God is broken, dysfunction always takes place.

Generational curses start through disobedience to God. Remember obedience is simply to accept Christ’s obedience and to abide in Him. Disobedience starts a satanic cycle and it is passed on to generation after generation. The cycle of abuse that follows a family through the generations can always be traced through someone who never accepted Christ or was not willing to abide in Him. If Jesus had been accepted by all mankind then abuse would not exist. Even born again Christians can be abusive, but those who are abiding in Christ will have a hard time living outside His will.

Now that you know the primary cause, let’s look at some of the symptoms of the dysfunctional family.

Dysfunction implies something is not functioning the way it was designed.

Dysfunction in the family is a handicap.

The three primary areas of need for all children:

  • Physical
  • Guidance
  • Nurturing
Any shortage in the above areas can be called dysfunction or abuse. Many families work well in some areas but are also weak in other areas. Most families do the best that they can based on their own personal experiences and life programming. A family may fail because of various handicaps:

  • Common handicaps are drug addiction, alcoholism, mental and emotional problems, depression, and anger management issues.
  • Handicaps can also later develop as a result of the dysfunctional family.
  • The number one handicap is the work of Satan in our lives and not being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Typical characteristics of the dysfunctional family:

  • One member of the family is handicapped because of alcoholism, drug addiction, severe depression or other behavioral issues.
  • The needy or handicapped family member gets all of the attention.
  • Feelings are not expressed or only certain ones are allowed.
  • Hidden agendas are common.
  • Denial of problems is the norm.
  • There is a failure to nurture in this kind of family and there is a lack of trust.
  • The family is closed to the outside world and critical of success and successful people.
  • The needy person controls the family like a puppeteer.
  • Because one member of the family is given all of the attention because of constant crisis other family members are neglected.
  • Feelings or emotions are not allowed except maybe anger and that may only be allowed to be expressed by one or two people.
  • Shame is a way of life. It can be underlying but it is always there.
  • Children will take on the shame of the family. There is something wrong with my family so there must be something wrong with me.
  • Constant criticism is the norm.
  • Appearance is everything. They want to look good on the outside no matter what.
  • Having company is discouraged, because they are afraid they might get discovered.
  • Destructive roles are permitted.

In dysfunctional families children will often assume the following roles:

  • The hero child - I will try to be perfect to cover the shame of my family.
  • The scapegoat child - I will take the blame for everything.
  • The clown child - I will make everything a joke and I will always laugh and make fun in order not to have to cope.
  • The lost child - I will fade away; I will just not exist; I will fade into the woodwork.
  • The surrogate spouse – the child tries to become the father or mother of the family.

Symptoms of an adult child of a dysfunctional family:

  • May be prone to addiction.
  • May have low self-esteem.
  • Has problems with trust and faith.
  • Has a rebellious attitude toward any form of authority.
  • May become prideful and arrogant and wear these attitudes like a mask to hide the truth.
  • Has a constant state of sadness.
  • Carries a heavy load of guilt and shame.
  • May have co-dependence tendencies (i.e. letting feelings depend upon those around himself.)
  • Reactive instead of proactive.
  • Repeats patterns in relationships; “This time I know that it is going to work out” syndrome.
  • Is determined to finish the unfinished work of childhood.
  • Can be attracted to the same unhealthy personality types again and again.
  • May sabotage his/her own success because of a deep belief that it is not really deserved.

Five ways a dysfunctional family tears down self-esteem:

  • Love is conditional.
  • Feelings are not considered important.
  • The perception of what is normal is lost and the abnormal becomes the normal.
  • Problem solving strategies fail to be developed.
  • Unhealthy survival roles are permitted.

Romans 8:33-35, 38-39 - Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

International College of Ministry

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