Breaking the Chain of Dysfunctional Family Culture

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Virtually all families pass on behavioral patterns, for better or worse. Dr. Derry Long discusses breaking the chain of dysfunctional family culture in this video, drawing from stories in the book of Genesis in the Bible for examples. Recorded at After Hours Ribs & Brew, our monthly men’s gathering where we seek to grow in integrity and purpose.

For further reading on building healthy family dynamics with a Christian worldview, consider the resources by Focus on the Family.

Thank you, Dr. Long, for sharing with us!

Automated Transcript

Good evening, man. And thank you, Doug.

Doug is a good friend. And I just learned a lot from him. I’m never with him without learning something. And.

And like tonight, I didn’t remember that I had talked about my mom running over my head with a car. She, she, she didn’t like me to tell that story and I like to think it was an accident. So


we’re going to spend a little time tonight talking about how,

how dysfunction gets in a family and can carry down from generation to generation. I’ve worked with people for 45 years now. And one of the things, among a lot of things I’ve noticed is that we like to think even in the Christian world, that everything is about independence. I am my own person, I make my own choices. We are part of a network. And if you’re from a family, which you are, you’re part of a network. And that family has a history and that history has an impact. And it doesn’t mean you don’t have a personal choice about that impact. But you and I ought to be alert about that impact. I could say to a family that has numerous generations in a denial of where the issue of money has consistently been a problem in their family dynamics and it’s gone on. It’s gone on generation after generation.

They will tell themselves that it’s not actually going on. For example, one of the men I knew his father was careless with money and made a lot of unwise decisions and was only short of money. And his son didn’t think he had that problem. Because his son was frugal. Well, I wouldn’t use the word frugal his son was paranoid. So for example, when when they would finish with a with a bar of butter, and it has that little has that little aluminum around it, he would make sure his wife kept that because then they would keep them all and when they baked potatoes then they would wrap their potato in the, in the little pieces of aluminum that had once held the butter. The fact is, he had the same problem his father had, he had a problem about money. It was just that his father was way out of balance over here, and he was way out of balance over there. And that went on for generations. I know of a wonderful Christian family in Minnesota.

Who has a has a, a history of faith in Christ that runs down through their generations. They also have a history on the male side of their family of struggling with sexual sin.

And, and anybody who knows them knows that that’s true.

In my family of origin on my mother’s side, there is a propensity towards anxiety.

And I used to lose patience with my mom because my mom has that. And her mom had that and her mom’s. Her mom had that. But about two years ago, I just kind of ran out of gas and I found myself on unable to deal with the anxiety that I was feeling. And I realized that I was actually experiencing the same thing that my mother and her mother and her mother had experienced. And that that was a strain that ran through our family dynamics.

You don’t have to go into the Bible, very

far to find that if you go into the Minor Prophets you read about Oba Daya. Oh, but I was a prophet who prophesied to the termites and the eat of mice were the descendants of Esau. You remember the story of Jacob and Esau and Jacob stealing Esau his birthright? And what do you suppose the family dynamics the family dialogue was on the east side of the family over the years, but we actually know what it was. It was that we were mistreated. We were cheated out of what was ours. That was so strong, that literally hundreds and hundreds of years later when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, the EDA mites would not let them go across their land.

And when Jerusalem was being sacked, the EDA mites gathered up the refugees fleeing from Jerusalem and delivered them to their oppressors.

Because for hundreds of years, the EDA mites had one family tradition and it was bitterness

And bitterness governed how that family dynamic unfolded, generation after generation.

And I’m going to give you a little picture of a family in the Old Testament. These are people we revere, people God work through, but they had a problem with deceit. And we’re going to look at in the book of Genesis, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah. And then we’re going to look at Joseph, who broke the chain and established a new heritage for us family. You and I are men, many of us have families. And we one of our responsibilities is to create a godly heritage.

And part of the responsibility of a godly heritage is breaking the chains that may have come into our life and into our family and being wise enough

To see how that happened. So Abraham, this kind of kind of peculiar because Abraham’s considered the father of faith. In the in the New Testament, he’s talked about as a man of faith, we look at him as someone who trusted God. But you don’t have to get very far into Genesis Genesis chapter 12. he marries Sarah. Sarah is a beautiful woman, they go to Egypt. And

Abraham gets afraid that the Pharaoh and the leaders of Egypt will be attracted to his wife, and that they’ll just kill him in order to in order to have her and so he can Cox’s story, that she is his sister.

And then feral finds out that that is not the case. And he comes to Abraham and says, Why in the world have you done this?

You have subjected us to the judgment of God because of this deceit.

Now you to think that would have made an impression on Abraham, but you don’t have to go eight more chapters in chapter 20.

He’s over in garage, g AR AR and a BMX the king, and he’s afraid that he might want Sarah. So again, he lies that. And so Sarah is his sister.


the Bible tells us that

Obama had a dream and realizing the dream that this wasn’t the case. And he went to Abraham and he said the same thing. The Pharaoh said, Why have you done this? And

did you brought judgment on to our house because of this? Because you said was there see your sister and so we took her into our family.

That was part of the heritage of Abraham.

Abraham as a son who’s Isaac,

and Isaac gets married to Rebecca And wouldn’t you know, Rebecca is a pretty woman. And Rebecca goes into the eyes it goes into the same country abilities.

King, and he lies about Rebecca being his wife.

And the Bible says that have been

accepted. That is true that it was that Rebecca was a sister, except that he, he saw that, according the scripture says that they were standing close together laughing.

And some suggest the word is included included in that as caressing

and he realized that’s not his sister

and his ghost Isaac is his wouldn’t you wouldn’t you know what he says is why have you done this?

Because you have brought you have brought judgment upon our family.

And you know how the old phrase What goes around comes around and So Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau.

And Rebecca’s favorite is Jacob. And Isaac’s getting ready to bless

Esau and so Rebecca colludes with Jacob and says, go out and

get some animals and will kill them and we’ll make a big feast while he was out hunting for the very same feast will make a feast and Jacob says yeah, but I’m a smooth man and I Esau hairy man will take care of that and they use skin and they use hair and i mean i mean it was the whole nine yards they just they went all out to deceive Isaac.

Jacob was in on that. Taking Esau birthright from him and the blessing of Isaac.

But wouldn’t you know,

Jacob sees a woman that he likes. layman has two daughters Leah and Rachel. And he likes Rachel and so he talks the layman about marrying Rachel and labels is where you work with work for me for

Seven years and you can have Rachel and I even got some good deals. We work for him for seven years. And then there’s lots of veils and stuff in the east and he’s mistaken and he wakes up in the morning and he slept with Leah and he’s married Leah. Because layman is in on deceiving Jacob about who Leah was and who Rachel was, is as well, but I wanted to marry Rachel while work for me seven more years and you can have Rachel

so now we got Abraham deceiving Isaac deceiving. Jacob deceiving Jacob,

his family deceiving him, labeling deceiving Jacob,

then Jacob and labor are kind of in business together and they end up they want, they want to want to do some things with the livestock and so Jacob says, Well how about if I have all the livestock that are striped and spotted and dark and you can have all the white ones and then the Bible says labor and got his workers together and they took a bunch of the spotted dark and and they took a bunch of them and took

Three days journey away so so the Jacob couldn’t see him. But Jacob come up with some idea about how the strong would meet with a strong and so he ended up with all the strong livestock that labor and it’s pretty convoluted but it isn’t deceit always.

Because it just gets it just gets more and more tangled.

Jacob has a daughter Dinah.

Shack them plays with Dinah

forcefully but he likes her. So check them his father appeals to the family

to Jacob Jacobs family. Let check a married Dinah.

But check them Jacob’s sons to speak the Bible says deceitfully to shut them and check them his father deceived them and eventually goes into the village and kills a whole bunch of them.

Then we have Jacob and Joseph. Jacob has 12 sons

from Leah, who never loved

I will say she had we guys

matter what we guys mean but it doesn’t seem that our been enough not to love someone you married but he never loved her and she lived in bitterness over the fact that she wasn’t loved. He loved Rachel and Rachel has two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.


and rake, Jacob and

his wife love Joseph. The rest of the sons are embittered over the favoritism.

So they

they capture Joseph, throw them in a pit, then sell him to a caravan going by that ends up in Egypt. And what did they do? They take his coat of many colors different

In goats blood takes take it to their father and they deceive us as well. He was killed by a wild animal.

I mean, these are icons. We preach sermons about the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

But this thing of deceit

that ran through their family.

And then Joseph had a son named Judah.

Judah had a son named Earl, or married Tamar and didn’t give her offspring and then he died. And so then then

the brother in law was supposed to take care of that responsibility, but he wouldn’t, and so angered that anger that Judas Judas family did not fulfill the responsibility. She dressed up as a harlot along the roadside, Judah saw her, went into her and slept with her.

She got pregnant

Lynn he is a know it’s Tamar, his

daughter in law.

And when he sees that she’s pregnant and he knows that she’s not married, they’re actually going to judge her for it.

But he left some of his possessions with her when he had slept with her. She brings out the possessions and shows that it is Judah.

It is my father in law who slept with me.

What a history.

And then we come to Joseph,

because in the middle of this kind of dysfunction,

Joseph becomes an emblem to us that there is a way out of family dysfunction, even when it runs generations in our life.

He is sold into slavery.

But in slavery in Egypt, he lives a model life

The Bible says he’s put into Potter first house and he runs that house so well as a slave that the scripture says Potter for doesn’t even give any thought anymore to how the house should be run because Joseph runs it so well. Here’s a man who’s taking care of other people’s business as if it was his own, even though he was a slave.

And then the potter firs wife likes Joseph and lies about him and so he ends up in prison because he won’t sleep whether he does so well in the prison that the Bible says the warden gives no thought about the running of the prison because Joseph running so well.

Remember the EDA mites, hundreds of years of bitterness. Here’s a guy who has every reason to be bitter.

And yet he serves Potter for he serves the warden in prison. Then down in the prison, the cup bear and the baker who used to work for the king are both there they have a dream. Joseph interprets the dream

Dreams come true and the baker is, is hanged to his unfortunate dream.

But the cup bear is reinstated and he said now when you’re reinstated remember me but he doesn’t remember him

until the pharaoh has a dream, and the cup burn, remember that there was a guy in prison who remembered who interpreted his dreams and he says, Hey, I know a guy.

So they bring Joseph out. Pharaoh tells him the dream and he said, Well, Joseph, what’s going to happen? You’re going to have seven really great years and then you’re going to have seven years of drought.

So God’s God’s allowing you to prepare for the drought years, by storing up during the Great years.

The Pharaoh so impressed with Joseph’s understanding that he puts Joseph in charge, cherries, part of herself, Joseph’s in charge, even though he’s mistreated. He’s in prison, but he serves the warden. He’s in

prison and he serves the cup bearing the king, the baker. He’s now in Pharaoh’s house and he serving Pharaoh and the even though he is a slave,

he’s been taken there against as well.

And then in the drought, the brothers come back. These brothers that had sold him into slavery and lied to their father. They return because they’re starving.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 4244 and 45

the Joseph Hart was so ready for reconciliation. He wept

three different times in this interchange with his brothers


when his heart could have been hard,

he kept his heart open

until finally in chapter 50 of Genesis so you can read that

This whole thing from Genesis 12 to 15, Chapter 50. He says to his brothers, I know you meant it for evil,

but God used it for good.

Now what what was there in Joseph’s life that enabled him to break this chain that held the family, his family of origin bonded in bondage?

Well, let’s start with the first thing.

Joseph knew he was loved.

Jacob loved him.


Rachel loved him.

He knew he was loved.

He didn’t wake up wondering what his status in the family was. Now his brothers had a problem with him.

But, but he knew from his family of origin from his parents. He was loved.

Remember, 10 of the 12 children came from a mother, who was embittered against her husband.

10 of the 12 came from a mother who was embittered against her husband, because she didn’t think she was loved.

But Jacob came from Rachel.

And Jacob or Joseph came from Rachel and Joseph knew that he was loved.

Now part of my research when I was doing my doctoral work on was on what creates and sustains an empowering social environment, your family is a social environment.

And it’s interesting to me that some of the things that empower us as leaders, that in a social environment leaders who are going to be empowering, have certain traits. Some of those same things are the things we find in Joseph’s life. So when you’re looking at establishing a

godly heritage or breaking a chain and establishing a new place and a new route. Let me suggest these three things.

Number one,

a real sense of your own identity,

a real sense of your own identity.

Joseph knew who he was. That’s why he could give himself away, he could give himself away to potter’s house in the prison to the warden to the cup bear to the baker to Pharaoh, even as brothers who had failed him because he knew who he was. And that began with the fact that he knew he had a father and mother, who, who loved him and had expressed that love to him.

Now there are certain traits to someone who lives with a real sense of their own identity. One is they have a have a good good sense of self awareness.

Have a good sense of self awareness. What’s really going on in my life and what’s going on in my family.

It took me years to realize that one of the values of my family of origin for all their good traits, one of the values of my family of origin was image. An image had affected choices that I made. Then I had to decide, do I want to live with images being upright, high, high, high priority in my family and my life? Or do I want to break that and live without a different priority?

self awareness, one of the aspects of living out of your true self is the ability to laugh at yourself, to be transparent, to not be easy threat easily threatened.

To understand the impact of your history on you, your own self perception, the early development of your life

and and to begin to step into your own true identity. Who am I

that enabled Joseph to give his life away to other people.

When when he was being wronged.

Now there’s a second one that hangs with that. And that is that Joseph lived in a behavior of trustworthiness. Joseph lived in a bit in the atmosphere of that, but not the attitude of trustworthiness, the behavior of trustworthiness.

One of the, one of the companies in America that’s done more research on group group dynamics than any other company is Google, Google. Google does almost all their work in small groups. And because they do almost all their work in small groups, they have done more research than any other entity in the United States on what makes small group work.

And you might think it’s levels of competency and a lot of other things. The number one feature of a healthy small group is psychological safety.

This is a secular country.


A secular company that’s built its entire, its entire foundation on small groups as psychological safety is the number one feature of what makes a small group, small entity work.

And as men,

we able to create, are we committed to creating an environment for our loved ones for our wives for our children of psychological safety?

That we are the safest people in the room.

A person who is not self aware can never give psychological safety because they can’t even predict their own behavior. They don’t even know what sets them off.

If they don’t know what sets them off, in fact, usually it’s other people don’t know what sets them off. You could you could ask 10 other people and they all know but the personal self awareness it’s it’s it’s new

information to them and probably just you the things that so why should I pay that much attention.


Joseph lived with a lived out of his his own grasp of his own identity, and he lived in the realm of behavior, all trustworthiness, he could be counted on regardless of the behavior of others. And then here’s the last one.

It is obvious

that Joseph was relational a driven

and relationship driven means we identify with the people we’re with.

We identify with the people were with

when he was with poverty identified with Potter fruit and Potter firs needs when he was with the cup bear and the baker in prison he identified with their needs when he was with the warden the identified with his needs when he was with family

He identified with his needs when he was back with his brothers who had come to Egypt because they were starving to death here. He re identified himself with them.

I come from a I come from a athletic family.

And I have a I have an uncle who’s in the North Dakota

it’s pretty prestigious the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.

In which means if you go into this big gymnasium in Jamestown, North Dakota, there’s the Euro photographs and his is one of them. Though they they spent all the money they had at the at the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.

wood frames this

my my uncle room used to support his family by pitching baseball in the depression years.

Remember that movie about if you build it, they will come. And they pick up that young boy who’s headed to Iowa that my uncle did that. That’s how he supported his family. baseball teams hired him to pitch. And

so I come from, I come from a relatively athletic family.

I didn’t really realize how how significant That was until I had a son who was not athletic. Now it turns out he was athletic, which is not athletic in any team sports, which are the big things in high schools like basketball, baseball, you know, he took up skiing and he can go down, go down mountains that I think should kill anybody who goes down that made, he just took the skiing like duck to water, but in, in, in, in school,

and I wasn’t admitting to myself how that bothered me. So I’d go to his basketball games, but I’d sit in the back now in the back in circle Monday.

Hannah is like six rows up. So back isn’t way back but, and I just fold my hands and I’d watch the game. And I, I, you know, and sometimes he’d get in Normally he sat on the bench and sometimes he’d get it.

Now went home and I don’t even I don’t even know how I became aware of this, but I realized I was behaving as I was ashamed of him.

And I couldn’t do that.

He didn’t deserve that kind of behavior from his father.

So from then on, I sat in the front row, which means that you’re like to step from the the boundary of the and if he got in.

I made sure that somewhere in the five minutes he got the play. He would hear his father yelling his name

that I wasn’t going to let that be the defining a defining

featured in his life.

See, Joseph was relational Lee driven, he identified but identifying with people as a choice. Joseph made a choice to identify with Potter and the warden and the bear and the baker and the feral and his brothers. He made a choice.

So I hope our lesson tonight is if Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, if they had stuff to work on, don’t be ashamed, you got stuff to work on. I mean, we preach about these guys all the time.

But they had something going on in their family

that no man should want to have go to the next generation.

And you and I, looking at the life of Joseph can break those patterns. Because I’m not what are those patterns and I’m I’m not, I’m not gonna let this go to the next generation of my family.

We can identify it, we can name it, we can take a route. We can allow the Lord to work in our heart, we can allow the Lord to send other people that work in our heart, so that we develop a clear sense of our own identity.

We become people whose behavior is trustworthy. And we are relational Lee driven because we identify ourselves with the people that were around.

I think that’s God’s message for us today.

And something he gives us as a responsibility. But it ought to be a joyful responsibility.

That God gives us the capacity to change the direction of our families. So Let’s bow our heads in prayer. And then I’m going to turn it over to Doug and he’ll give us some instructions.

Lord, we thank you for the honesty of your word,

and how truthful you are because it always shows us that there are

ways out.

We thank you for the grace

that you gave Joseph

and how he models for us how we can break generational issues, so that our family can step out into freedom and life. I pray that according to our individual needs, and our individual histories you will help us apply this

in our lives in Jesus name, Amen.

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