And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons . . . But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Genesis 37:2-4
In my addiction, I became terribly sick – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – but I didn’t just harm myself. Those closest to me suffered as my dysfunction poisoned our entire family dynamic. My toxic behavior devastated my relationship with my wife, whose trust in me was shattered. Our conflict inevitably spilled over into our children’s lives who were old enough to recognize that mom and dad weren’t getting along. We were eventually able to put our lives back together, but it took a lot of change over a long period of time. As my selfish, addictive behavior was the primary problem, I had to seek a selfless, honest recovery, living a radically different life for a couple years before my wife began to trust me again.
It may not be as dramatic as a drug addiction, but we’ve all got hurtful thoughts, words, and behaviors that are detrimental to our family’s dynamics. Every family has some dysfunction, all of which flows from our own flaws, infiltrating and injuring our relationships with those we’re supposed to love the most.
Family dysfunction was on full display in today’s passage, which begins to tell the story of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Rachel – Jacob’s favorite wife – and as such, was Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob’s partiality was hurtful to his other sons and turned Joseph into an entitled little snob. Joseph was a tattletale, snitching on his brothers, who, in return, hated Joseph and could not speak peacefully to him. Everyone in the family behaved badly, but it all stemmed from Jacob’s favoritism, which utterly poisoned the family dynamics.
In my own family’s dysfunction, I was tempted to blame anyone but me. Sure, I messed up, but my wife isn’t being very supportive. That, however, was simply an effort to avoid responsibility for my own failures. If I wanted a healthy family, I had to first address my own sickness before I could even think about fixing anything else.
Even now, when I experience conflict at home, I must be honest enough to recognize my part in it. Am I being selfish? How am I contributing to the dysfunction? In the moment, I usually want to blame anyone but myself. If I desire to have the loving family which God intends though, I must always be willing to ask what I must change about my own thoughts, words, and behaviors. My family’s health starts with me.