Mark of Dysfunction: Keep this Deadly Secret

shhhOne mark of a dysfunctional marriage, family, or church is that others within the system are not supposed reveal the secret.

What is the secret?

You are not to tell anyone about the way things really are in this marriage, this family, or this church.  After all, what would people think?

Of course, I do appreciate husbands and wives who obviously love one another.  It is really nice to see husbands and wives who still have much affection for one another after many years.

I do remember seeing an interesting Facebook status one day.  It said something like this:

Twenty-five years ago I met the man of my dreams.  We have loved together, laughed together, and dreamed together.  I am so fortunate to be this man’s wife.  Looking forward to the next 25 years.

Now many people enter a status like this one on their anniversary or spouse’s birthday.  What struck me as odd about this particular post is that it never occurred to me (and I suspect many of their other friends) that she in any way adored or treasured this man.  In fact, it really didn’t appear that they valued each other very much at all.  The way they treated one another each day made such a post on their anniversary seem odd.

It was almost like she was trying to sell something to the rest of us.

Many years ago, I remember talking with a church leader’s wife.  I knew her and her husband quite well.  She was warm, engaging, and extroverted.  She was emotional and passionate about her ministry.  Meanwhile, her husband was shy, withdrawn, and very introverted.  He was a good man but would rarely speak up in a group.  His wife would normally do any talking in such an environment.

In conversations with her, she would often quote her husband.  She obviously loved him.  Yet, I sensed that she was not content to allow him to be who he was.  Instead, it seemed that she was trying to portray him as a vocal, outspoken, and bold leader.

It was almost like she was trying to sell something to anyone who happened to be listening.

Then there was the mother who seemed to always be making excuses to her children for the immaturity and irresponsibility of their father.  Often, he would promise that he would come to a child’s game or play and then, at the last minute, he wouldn’t show up.  Their mom would respond by making an excuse for him.  On one occasion when he exploded at his family in rage, this mom told her kids that their dad had been under a lot of pressure at work.

It was almost like she was trying to sell something to them.

Sometimes we seem to work very hard to impress people with our spouse, our children, or some of the people in our church.  Maybe it would be far better and more authentic if we would simply admit that, like ourselves, those we love are human, frail, limited, and even flawed.

“But what would people think?”

Maybe they would see that we are making an effort to be real.

Maybe they would see that we are not interested in selling others on a contrived image of our children or spouse.

Maybe they would see that we genuinely love these people even though they are imperfect.

Maybe they would see that God uses all of us, even when we have some obvious limitations.



In what way does the question “What would people think?” hold us back from being the people we need to be?

What does a life of pretending do to a human being?  What have you observed?


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