The Family System …

Family systems are defined as the “social interactions, patterns, and interdependences that exist between members of families, especially as they pertain to the impact of one member’s illnesses on others in the family.”

We all grow up in some form of a family system. Some of you may have grown up in multiple systems. For example, maybe your parents were divorced and you toggled back and forth between them. Or, possibly you grew up in the foster care organization and moved frequently from one family system to another. Even if you grew up in an orphanage, other forms of family systems exist within these facilities.

The family system is the core of our most important childhood influences, simply because of the close continual interactions within the system. Each member is connected to every other member as shown in the illustration below, and they interact in reciprocal relationships, responding to one another in the context of their individual roles.

When one member of the family engages in certain behaviors (positive or negative), every other member is affected to varying degrees. This is illustrated by the arrows which display the interconnection of the family members. You might be wondering how all the members of a family are affected by the actions of a single member? Well, each member mentally absorbs something from the modeled behavior of others. And then, based on what they’ve witnessed, responds out of their own beliefs. For example, as children witness behaviors from their fathers towards their mothers, they will subconsciously ingest ideals and beliefs; and being children, they probably won’t even realize the principles and standards they’re absorbing at the time. If the behavior is positive, male children may learn that husbands should treat their wives with respect, by being loving and supportive. In this same scenario, female children may come to learn to expect respect from their husbands.

Take a minute or two to think about the family system you grew up in. Jot down a couple of memories as to how your father figure treated your mother figure. How did your mother figure treat your father figure? How do you think some of your personality traits developed from the examples you observed within your family system? How has this affected your current relationships, and manifested in other areas of your life? These can be tough questions, and sometimes they may bring up painful memories. But, this process can also be helpful to you in learning to recognize the lies that have become a part of your fundamental system of beliefs. Once God reveals to you all of the lies that have consciously and subconsciously become a part of your personal belief system, you can then begin to learn how to replace those lies with God’s Truth. It’s His Truth that will set you free.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV)

God, as the Designer of the family system, has standards and principles for how the family should operate, such as … family members should hold each other in high regard with love and respect. There are a great number of families that strive to attain these standards with success, and there are a great many that don’t.

The mass majorities of the behaviors that I observed within my own family system were ungodly, and certainly didn’t follow the principles of God’s Word. After I became a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I began to learn exactly how God wanted me to love Him, myself, and others in a godly and healthy way. This didn’t happen overnight; it’s an ongoing process. So, my hope is that you will be patient with yourself. I would encourage you to pray, and to ask God to bring a mature Christian role model into your life who can help teach you God’s principles, as well as guide and support you in this Christian journey. Two of the resources my mentor suggested that I utilize were excellent publications. The first was written by Kay Arthur and entitled “Lord, Heal My Hurts.” The second was written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss entitled “The Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free.”

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.” (Psalm 107:19-20)

In His Grace, Judy

Edited by: Min. Tracey Carson