Dysfunctional: (Not normal!)

In conversation with a friend recently we found ourselves analysing our families. We were considering those things that have influenced us, particularly areas of family life that emerge when two families come together from differing cultures and backgrounds. What we ourselves bring to make our families seem normal, our inheritance if you like. For example; ‘We were not allowed a biscuit before dinner because it would ruin our appetite’.

Yet going to a restaurant and having a ‘starter’ before our main meal was okay?

So we got around to making judgements on our families. We decided that in some aspects of family life we /our families were dysfunctional. We have the evidence!

But I had to stop and reflect on what this word, ‘dysfunctional’, might mean in the 21st century. I wonder if the word ‘dysfunctional’ needs to be re-examined. I had to consider what was normal and what was dysfunctional. I also considered those closest to me and had to face up to the truth that I might be the one who is not normal.

Many of society’s rules have been, and are being re-written. There is acceptance of, or challenges within society’s new norms. We accept the world of communication as being hyper superfast and global: quite different from snail-mail. We observe and can participate in the restructuring of society; seeing it reformed into groups of people who claim identity in innovative and challenging formats. We understand that challenging the character and nature of society is relevant and thanks to the cosmic airways instantly accessible.

Many in the ‘non-book’ culture, those who live fully in society but are tagged as ‘on the margins’, ‘living on the edge’, ‘society’s poor’, are they dysfunctional? These people obviously can only be helped if they are told they are dysfunctional and so they can then do something about helping themselves to change their lives. Ouch! Sounds like a political sound bite.

In his book ‘Bias to the Poor’. (1983) David Shepherd wrote of ‘Losers in the Urban Race.’ “My intention is to try and make it possible to stand in the shoes of the poor.

Jesus tells us in the Matthew 26 v 11 that ‘The poor you will always have with you.” But we are also told in John Ch 9 v 1 that “As Jesus went along… he met a blind man’ he didn’t tell him he was dysfunctional, or poor, or blind, no he asked him “what can I do for you?

At my age (well over 50+!) maybe I have been dysfunctional for many years for I have believed in the way of Jesus and indeed have become a follower, trying to walk in his shoes. Today, as always, being a Christian is a challenge, it’s not normal! We live in a post-modern society where we have freedoms unheard of back in the last decade or even millennium. My standards are challenged. My ability to live and move in society is constantly checked through post millennium concepts that run counter to my own traditions.

My consolation, Jesus was not normal, in fact I think a case can be made for Jesus being seen as the father of dysfunctionality. Maybe we both need help?


Image Credit: Cedric Wilder