Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Dysfunctional Families


A study on the impact that your family impacts your emotional health.

~~ Watch the Video ~~


  • Introduction
  • Traits of Wholeness
  • You Are Part of a System
  • The Story of Jacob
  • Jacob and Esau are Born
  • The Kingdom Rules Are different than the cultural and natural rules
  • Jacob Tricks Esau
  • Stolen Birthright
  • Favoritism
  • Jacob and Rebecca Trick Isaac
  • Triangulation
  • Jacob Steals the Spiritual Blessing
  • Laban Tricks Jacob
  • Your Family Issues Follow You
  • Jacob Leaves Laban’s House
  • Boundaries
  • Rachel Stole From Laban
  • Unequally Yoked
  • Family Patterns
  • God can function in our dysfunction


  • Genesis 2:24
  • Genesis 25:21 - 26
  • Genesis 25:27-34
  • Malachi 1:1-3
  • Genesis 27: 5-10
  • Genesis 27: 29
  • Genesis 29: 21 - 27
  • Genesis 31:43
  • Genesis 31:32 - 35


“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”  

Genesis 2:24

 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Joke: happiness is having a large, loving, caring close knit family… in another city

— George Burns

No family is perfect.  

The term “dysfunctional family” is used to describe families that have problems dealing with one another and the problems follow the kids after they grow up and leave the house.

All families are dysfunctional

  • every human on this planet has “their own issues“.

We are all dysfunctional because of sin

Today we are going to look at the story of Jacob’s family as insight into how our families of origin may have had an impact on our current emotional state

Traits of Wholeness

We are in our series called Seeking Wholeness

How can we be:

  • Spiritually healthy
  • Emotionally healthy
  • Mentally healthy

Free from oppression of

  • Our past
  • Ourself
  • Bad thinking
  • Strongholds
  • The enemy

We’re talking about

  • dealing with life’s current stresses
  • being healed from experiences/wounds of the past

We’re not just promised eternal life

  • We’re supposed to have: joy, peace, patience, and self control here on earth

Traits of Wholeness

  • Authenticity
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Not dependent on external approval / validation
  • Living by values and principles
  • Setting Boundaries
  • Taking ownership of your responsibilities
  • Living with purpose and passion
  • Optimism
  • Confidence
  • Not losing control of your emotions
  • Free from addictions
  • Addressing Conflict with truth and love
  • Vulnerability
  • Not critical or Judgemental
  • Not jealous of others
  • Forgive those who have wronged you in the past
  • Know that you’re worthy of receiving love
  • Not afraid to fail
  • Able to manage irrational fear, worry, and anxiety
  • Selfless encounters with others
  • Not manipulating others trying to control their actions/reactions
  • You care about how others feel
  • Patient
  • Don’t give into peer/social pressure
  • Can communicate directly
  • Can communicate without antagonizing others
  • Don’t take responsibility for other people's emotions
  • Take responsibility for your own emotions
  • Slow to anger
  • Ability to maturely express your wants, needs and desires
  • Can listen without reacting
  • Can respect others without having to change them
  • Being led by the Spirit

You Are Part of a System


  • Solar
  • Political
  • The world
  • The matrix

You are part of a family system

Understand your family as a system of interrelated individuals

Your Family Impacts Your Emotional Health

pathology is also a relational issue

Emotions move through families

The way that the individual family members relate to each other impacts the whole system.

Example: anxiety

  • Coping skills
  • Mindset
  • Chemical imbalance
  • ——-
  • Crazy family
  • Family drama

One person can be experiencing anxiety and it will trickle down to the other members of the family through the interactions.

The parents affect the children’s

  • Functioning
  • Emotional well-being
  • Mental health

We are emotionally connected to each other

Also Other relationship communities

  • Friend group
  • Church
  • Bible study
  • Work

We Carry the Patterns We Learned

We are carrying the patterns we learned in our family system and to other relational systems.  

  • Coping mechanisms
  • World view
  • Theology
  • Communication styles
  • Argument styles
  • Emotional triggers

Wounds from your parents.

  • “Doing the opposite of what hurt you doesn’t mean you’re healed”

The Story of Jacob

Story of Jacob and Esau’s tale of two brothers who battle for their father’s estate and his blessing. It is also the story of two sisters, Rachelle and Leah, who battle for Jacob’s affection.

Abraham and Sara

  • Barren
  • Ishmael from servant
  • Isaac - the son of promise

Isaac and Rebecca

  • Barren
  • Twins - Esau and Jacob
  • Esau sells birthright
  • Rebecca/Jacob steal blessing

Jacob and Rachel

  • Finds Rachel
  • Tricked by Laban
  • Marries Leah
  • Rachel barren
  • 12 tribes of Israel

Jacob and Esau are Born

Genesis 25:21 - 26

 21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children; and the LORD answered him, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why am I in this condition?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.23And the LORD said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb;

And two peoples will be separated from your body;

And one people will be stronger than the other;

And the older will serve the younger.” 24 When her days leading to the delivery were at an end, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so he was named Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

The Kingdom Rules Are different than the cultural and natural rules

All Were Barren

  • Sara
  • Rebecca
  • Rachel

God can still work miracles today

  • Even if He doesn’t … faith

Birth Order

In that culture, the first born male was the most prized child

God has a pattern of promoting the younger over the older

  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
  • David

God’s  criteria for blessing is not birth order

  •  faith and obedience

What cultural barriers have you faced?

Find Your Identity In Christ

Our identity should not be in our

  • Gender
  • Birth order
  • Social status
  • Race
  • Job title

Kingdom rules vs cultural rules

Jacob Tricks Esau

Genesis 25:27-34

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a civilized man, living in tents. 28Now Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29When Jacob had cooked a stew one day, Esau came in from the field and he was exhausted; 30and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a mouthful of that red stuff there, for I am exhausted.” Therefore he was called Edom by name. 31But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore an oath to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and got up and went on his way. So Esau despised his birthright.

  • “That red stuff”
  • He gave away the cultural  blessings given to the firstborn male
  • inheritance

Stolen Birthright

In biblical times, the firstborn was given certain unique rights, responsibilities, and privileges. A married couple’s firstborn male child was given priority and preeminence in the family, and the best of the inheritance.

He still had the Abrahamic blessing


28Now Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

  • Abraham favored Isaac
  • Isaac favored Esau
  • Rachel  favors Jacob
  • Jacob favorite Joseph
  • Jacob favors the children of Rachel
  • Jacob favors Joseph
  • He follows the pattern of his own family where Isaac openly favored Esau
  • Even though Jacob hated this favoritism… He does it himself

Did you grow up in a family of siblings where one child was clearly a favorite of one of the parents?

God’s Favoritism

Malachi 1:1-3 

1 The pronouncement of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi: 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was Esau not Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and given his inheritance to the jackals of the wilderness.”

God favored the one who had the blessing

God Hated Esau

Jacob and Rebecca Trick Isaac

Genesis 27: 5-10

5Now Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7‘Bring me some game and prepare a delicious meal for me, so that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’ 8So now, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, so that I may prepare them as a delicious meal for your father, such as he loves. 10Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.”

  • His son
  • Her son


In psychology, triangulation refers to a dynamic that can arise from a conflict between two people. It involves them communicating primarily through a neutral party or otherwise drawing a third person into their own issues.



“ Tell your mother I said…“

“Tell your father I said…“

A dysfunctional triangle helps perpetuate the problem

A functional triangle helps resolve the problem

The triangle pattern between you and your parents is the most important pattern in your life and it determines your future relationships

Jacob’s Family Triangulations

We see here the formation of four interlocking family triangles

  • Isaac and Esau against Jacob
  • Isaac and Esau against Rebecca
  • Jacob and Rebecca against Isaac
  • Jacob and Rebecca against Esau

Can you think of any examples of triangulation in your family?

Jacob Steals the Spiritual Blessing

What was the blessing that Jacob stole?

The Abrahamic blessing

Genesis 27: 29

29 May peoples serve you,

And nations bow down to you;

Be master of your brothers,

And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.

Cursed be those who curse you,

And blessed be those who bless you.”

Cultural  blessing vs kingdom blessing

Laban Tricks Jacob

Jacob worked 7 years for Leah

Genesis 29: 21 - 27

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may have relations with her.” 22 So Laban gathered all the people of the place and held a feast. 23 Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to him; and Jacob had relations with her. 24 Laban also gave his female slave Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a slave. 25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this that you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?”  26 But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me, for another seven years.”

“The deceiver” got deceived

Your Family Issues Follow You

Jacob fled from his family only to discover that now he was within another dysfunctional family

“ You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. ”

--Frederick Buechner

People from dysfunctional families tend to marry into dysfunctional families

Study from Brown University: many people hope that once they leave home they will leave their childhood family and problems behind; however many find that they experience similar problems as well as similar feelings and relationship patterns long after they have left their own family environment


Jacob Leaves Laban’s House

Jacob was going to leave Laban’s house with his family

Genesis 31:43

Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my grandchildren, the flocks are my flocks, and everything that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these daughters of mine or to their children to whom they have given birth?

  • Mine!

Story: car commercial licking car door


Proper boundaries allow each individual family member to grow, mature and maintain personal autonomy, and differentiate from other family members.  

Parents try to control adult children

Boundaries around

  • Decision making
  • Access
  • Responsibilities
  • Communication
  • Interactions

Have you had boundary issues with your parents or your children?

Rachel Stole From Laban

Somebody stole Laban’s family idols

Genesis 31:32 - 34

 32 The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our relatives point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the tent of the two slave women, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddlebag, and she sat on them. So Laban searched through all the tent, but did not find them.

Rachel stole the household gods from Laban to worship them

Unequally Yoked

This showed that even though they outwardly worshiped the god of Jacob they secretly worship the gods of their father

Is it okay for a Christian to marry a non-Christian?

What is the purpose of life?

  • To honor God

Then your primary factor in choosing a mate should be how well they help you honor God.

Not there

  • Race
  • Age
  • Looks
  • Height
  • Education
  • Job
  • chemistry
  • Personality

Family Patterns

Multi generational transmission and cultural customs.

“Family curse”

Youngest vs Oldest Cycle

  • Cain and Abel
  • Jacob and Esau
  • Rachel and Leah

Much sibling conflict occurs between older and younger and over who will be dominant.

“the elder shall serve the younger“ is that being the youngest, or the least in the family, we’re not necessarily depriving that person of God‘s blessing and success in life.

God can always create exceptions in the flow of genogram patterns.

10 vs 2

  • The conflict between two sisters now extends to their children
  • The 10 children of Leah against the two children of Rachel
  • This family division continues to the kingdom of Israel when the northern and southern kingdoms divide

Israel vs Palestine

  • Isaac vs Ishmael

Discussion Questions

How does your family of origin still impact you today?

God can function in our dysfunction

… what other choice does he have

Jacob begat Joseph

Joseph begat Judah

-> David

-> Jesus

Dysfunctional families never stop God from working

God didn’t wait for them to get their act together before he would speak to them

  • God can lead people in your family that are not perfect

Why does God use dysfunctional people?

  • Because there aren’t any other kind

God can use you!!

Instructor: Michael Leadon



Larry Crabb

Emotionally Healthy Christianity

A study of Biblical families from the perspective of family systems therapy

Gunar John Kravalis

Maury Bowen family therapy differentiation techniques

My people patterns

Chronic anxiety

Bowen Center

Bowen family system therapy: short explanation by Kirk Honda

Jerry Wise

A study of Biblical families from the perspective of family systems therapy

Gunar John Kravalis Wilfrid Laurier University

Families are dysfunctional… But God

Skip Heitzig


Joke: families are like fudge…

  • They are mostly sweet, but sprinkled with some nuts
  • Everybody has a weird uncle, goofy cousin or extravagant aunt

Chronic Anxiety

Acute anxiety is that pain in your stomach when you’re about to

  • Take a test
  • Give a speech
  • Stressed at work
  • Watch a scary movie

Chronic anxiety is background anxiety

The less differentiated you are… The more anxiety you carry around

Chronic anxiety can spread from one person to another

  • Especially if you’re in a relationship with another person

If we have too much chronic anxiety we are “reactive“ instead of “responsive“

When we have chronic anxiety we react

  • Attack/defend
    • Cranky and defensive
  • Withdraw
    • Netflix, YouTube, video games
  • Retreat
    • Physically leaving stressful situations
    • Stay longer at work
    • Suddenly take up calls
  • Overload
    • Overwhelmed and flooded with feelings


Anxiety is a general word for emotional tension or stress

Anxiety moves through the system from one person to the next

It impairs our ability to think in reason


Anxiety is a system in the body that promotes survival.  

Chronic anxiety can become maladaptive, destroying tissues and organs.  

The triangle relationship has an anxious focus of two people onto one person