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How do you reconcile differences when dysfunctional is normal?
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Think about the last time you attended a wedding.  

The guys probably are thinking “What wedding?!” The ladies not only remember when it was, they remember the color of the dresses, the tuxes, the flowers and wedding cake. No matter what the age group, isn’t it great to see couples before the wedding, full of hope and excitement about their new life together? They laugh, hold hands and make eyes at each other. You can see the love, hope and promise in 3D!

But have you ever noticed that after the wedding and the honeymoon, those same couples seem to change when some of the newness wears off?  There often is a huge difference between what we promise and what we practice.

There are a lot of people —yes, even church people — who only talk and whisper about relationship issues at grocery stores, card parties, barbecues, on the phone and even in church pews before service. Why is this?  Is it because we are programmed by the media to hone in on bad news? Or do we feel that we are “one up” on the people we are talking about?  And isn’t it true that many of these people also are our friends, neighbors and family?

There are a lot of marriages that need resurrection and a lot of friendships, as well as work and family relationships, that need reconciliation. Life is all about relationships. So why do we struggle so much with these relationships?  

The typical reason today for divorce seems to be “irreconcilable differences.”  What does it mean? Is that why you now are no longer in love with someone you exchanged marriage vows in God’s presence for a lifetime?  Is it why you are no longer friends with people who used to be close friends with?  

Life is all about good relationships. Then isn’t it possible that many relationships can have “reconcilable differences?” Can’t every relationship benefit from God’s word and the power and wisdom of Jesus Christ?

Over the years, I have met many people with relational issues including problems with their marriage, parenting, sibling, friendship, employer and their church.  The common thread is that one, both or more people had an obvious dysfunction. They seemed to not know or wouldn’t accept that their dysfunction included one or more issues like selfishness, insensitivity, arrogance, immorality, addiction, codependency, greediness, gossiping, lack of discipline, laziness, basic or deeper phobias, anxiety, anger, passive-aggressive behavior and others that they considered “normal, everyday routines and habits.”  Being “normal” to them was really dysfunctional.

Over time, dysfunctional behavior becomes or seems normal. It becomes normal many times by family origin.  Most of us tend to follow the modeling in our households as we were kids growing up. We even tend to duplicate what we learned at home in our later lives, even though we knew or now know that it was dysfunctional.  As an example, have you ever noticed that when you don’t fix something that’s broken it soon becomes normal, we tend to ‘accept’ it and get used to using it ‘as is’?

Dysfunctional behavior becomes so normal that we don’t see it as being dysfunctional. Normal resists change because it may feel weird. Repeated behavior is always addictive.

Many people who begin counseling or group recovery to correct dysfunctional behavior often drop out because breaking long-term habits is hard and functional feels abnormal. Abused spouses stay or return to their abusers. Many children of substance abusers marry another one, hoping to change them with acceptance and their self-esteem issues. Children of a controlling parent become controllers themselves. We tend to avoid facing our dysfunction by leaving our marriages, family and old friends and attempting to start new ones. We find it easier to walk away or “make a trade” instead of trying to fix the problem. Running from dysfunctional behavior never works. Every time you leave a relationship without dealing with your dysfunction, you only add to your baggage and take it down the wrong road to your next relationship.

So how can we go about dealing with and fixing the dysfunction in our lives?  Think about the fact that Jesus didn’t come just to establish the Holy Land; he came because we all were separated from God and lost because of our sinfulness, as it says in Luke 19:10. Parents, the best thing you can give your kids is a good example. Without healthy role models, how are kids going to learn the right way of doing things?  In Romans 12:2, God warned us not to follow the dysfunction in our cultures.  

For those in close relationships with your families and friends and all married couples, we tend to deny we have problems but are quick to blame our spouse, our parents or friends.  You can’t change your spouse, but Jesus can. The answer to every question and circumstance is found in the Scriptures.  Look inward at the problems in your relationships. What can God do to take dysfunction out of your relationships?

Need help?  Call 320-7840 and let a Stephen Minister care, listen, discuss and walk with you for as long as it takes to help you with relationship issues, in a confidential, one-on-one, gender-sensitive environment.

Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.

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