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Summary: there are 3 rules in every dysfunctional family. In this message, I will describe them and describe how families can change.


“Breaking the Cycle of Abuse”

Numbers 14:18 and 2nd Corinthians 5:17

“The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected--even children in the third and fourth generations.” Numbers 14:18

I want to begin this morning by stating several facts related to families today. Here are four:

• 90% of all children who are abused will grow up and abuse their own children.

• Children of alcoholics are four times as likely to become alcoholics

• One out of four children will experience abuse in their lifetime

• Abuse in childhood greatly increases the possibility a child will grow up and experience depression, struggle with alcoholism and even multiple personalities

My story as far as I can recall begin the age of six. I was not physically abused; I was not sexually abused but I was emotionally abused. In my early childhood but I began to recognize there was something that was just not right with my family. The earliest event I can recall happened when I was about six years old. I was at home and heard all kinds of loud noise coming from the kitchen and I went to see what was happening.

My father was emptying the cabinet of dishes, throwing them across the room and breaking them one after another. Then glass containers from the refrigerator throwing them as well. It was shouting, cursing-he was in a rage. There was one mother across the room, scared, crying; distraught—she had no idea what to do. It is still clear in my mind and I can tell you it was a horrible thing to watch. As I stood there I was just frozen and almost in shock.

The next day one of my friends came over so I decided to tell him what had happened. I was standing there pointing at the wall describing where every dish had hit the wall, describing the entire scene and at the same time I was kind of surprised that everything was cleaned up so nicely... I saw nothing wrong with what I was doing until out of nowhere my mother leaned over and said shhh! That was all but from that point forward I knew not to ever talk about it again.

This became a pattern of violence in our family for the rest of my childhood. I don’t know how we ever had any dishes in our house. I had three brothers and one sister and my father drank until he was drunk every day of our young lives and would unleash his anger, verbally all of us. I grew up being very afraid of my father and unable to share all that was going on with anyone. So I kept it all inside of me.

I didn’t know the word at the time that my family was dysfunctional. I’m certain this is not the first time you have heard that word— dysfunctional. If you go to the bookstore or scour the Internet for books that address dysfunctional families, you will find more reading material that you have time for. I have written many articles and books and completed studies and have led support groups for years and taught on this subject and I can give you a quick summary of how these families work. I know because I experienced it all of my childhood. There are three rules that govern a dysfunctional family. Once you know these three rules you will know how to identify one immediately and you will know whether you are or have been a part of one.

Rule #1. Don’t talk. No matter what happens in your home to you or to anyone else, you absolutely cannot discuss it with anyone outside of your family. Because it is a secret. You must learn to stuff it all inside.

Rule #2. Don’t trust. No matter what happens to you or anyone else in your home, you cannot trust this information with anyone for one simple reason. There is no one you can trust. So children in homes like this grow up very often become suspicious of everyone, question everyone’s motives and have trouble believing anyone.

Rule #3. Don’t feel. No matter what happens to you or to anyone in your home, you cannot express your feelings. In fact you’re not really allowed to have feelings. You are made to stuff them, press them down, deep inside where they cannot come out. But of course that’s impossible. They will always find a way out. Through anger, depression….they will come out. You will have a choice much later in life that looks something like this…

(1) Express those feelings to someone you can trust. Tell them exactly how you feel or how you felt at the time. Get some help if you feel you need it. But no matter what, start talking about your experience.

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