Dysfunctional people have a way of turning the tables on others. That is, they find a way to make those around them feel like they are the problem, when, in reality, their turbulent heart is the source of turbulence in their lives. (James 4:-1-2)
Are You Dealing with a Dysfunctional Person?
You might be dealing with a dysfunctional person, especially in marriage, if one or more of the following often occurs:
1. You find yourself constantly second guessing your actions and motives
2. You are often over-evaluating what you did wrong to make that spouse, friend, or family member mad
3. You are constantly playing a tape in your mind of what you may or may not have done wrong
4. You find yourself taking the blame or apologizing so as to smooth over a situation
5. You are walking an ever so fine line so as not to offend that particular person
6. You are constantly having to explain away the other person’s actions to others so as to keep the peace
7. The relationship is more of a source of exhaustion than refreshment
How They Turn the Tables Around
Dysfunctional people are almost ingenious at making others feel like they are the problem. Though this is mostly done in the subconscious realm, they are, nonetheless, extremely good at putting people in a defensive mode, making the innocent feel guilty, or portraying the perpetrator as the victim.
Let me supply just a few reasons how dysfunctional people have a way of making others feel like they are the problem:
1. They project their shortcomings on others
Titus 1:15 tells us:
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and their conscience is defiled.”
Paul teaches us that a dysfunctional person views others through the lens of their own dysfunction. That is, if they have a problem with lust, then they project that on others. If they struggle with gossip, lying, and selfishness, then they typically assume others are guilty of the same.
For this reason, I have a rule that I follow: The accusations of others typically are revealing the sin of the accuser than the defendant. In fact, I have even heard some say that, in spiritually abusive and highly legalistic settings, if you want to find out with what sin the preacher struggles, listen carefully to what sin he denounces the most.
A dysfunctional person has a way of reading things into situations so as to cause those around them to either feel defensive, inadequate, or downright mad. Consequently, they have made those around them to feel just as bad as themselves, and, to be honest, this is typically one of their their goals as misery seems to love company.
2. They draw others offsides
The dysfunctional spouse, parent, or friend has a way of drawing others offsides. In other words, because they are hard to live with, they have a way of provoking others to lose their cool. Once this occurs, a vicious cycle starts in that the recipients feel guilt and remorse while the dysfunctional person feels a sense of empowerment or vindication because of the apologies they receive.
3. They lack self-awareness
Though we can psychologize and theorize all we want, at the end of the day, dysfunctional people are difficult to be around, and, they are usually far too self-absorbed to see that they are the issue.
Due to a lack of self-awareness, all they can see are people either getting frustrated or withdrawing from them. Unfortunately, instead of looking within, they blame without, and as long as this cycle occurs, they will fail to make progress in their lives.
The best day of my life was when I started to take personal responsibility for the environment that my sin and selfishness had created. Instead of blaming my wife and others for the difficulties in my life, I realized that even the tallest branch at the top of the tree of my difficulties was a result of my own root of bitterness.
In Matthew 7, Jesus said:
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Jesus was fully aware that we see dysfunction in others easier than in ourselves. This is why so many are prone to heatedly accuse yet coldly repent.
Fight Against Dysfunction
For spouses dealing with a dysfunctional spouse, we would highly recommend fighting, but in ways that actually work. This is why one of our major steps for women as well as men is to lay down weaponry that is ubiblical in nature and start using weaponry that helps to forumulate what I call a win-win scenario for God’s glory and both spouses. We deal with this more specifically in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of our marriage book. Order our marriage book here.