Friday, August 03, 2007

Two Models of Family

Family is a foundational structure to a society or community. It is itself a community. A community has the right to restrict the access of criminals and other destructive types from the rights and privileges that the community confers on those who live within certain rules of decency. This function of a community is imperative if the members are to have a reasonable expectation of safety and happiness.

What I'm describing is how a healthy family functions. In a healthy family there are rules for conduct which are based on objective moral reasoning. Because there are rules of conduct there are also expectations of accountability when rules are broken. There is an authority structure, but authority figures are not exempt from the rules. They are set up as examples and have a strong sense of their need to lead by example. The healthy family structure strongly encourages personal integrity to principle. By principle I mean objective standards of moral behavior. The healthy family is truth-based and would rather know the ugly truth than live in a pretty lie.

Truth-based societies are ones which believe in freedom. You won't find any society, be it a family or a nation, which has a freedom-loving tyrant at the helm. Principles of freedom take us back to the concept of accountability. A free people recognize the principle of free choice. You can freely choose to break rules, but that means you are also choosing to experience the consequences of your choices. Rule-breakers are dealt with fairly. Persistent rule-breakers in a freedom loving society will finally convince the society that they have chosen to be outside the community. When we are talking about society at large then banishment occurs within the prison system. In a family it means the family withdraws contact in order to protect its innocent and vulnerable members. Loyalty is to principle more than personalities.

One last feature of a healthy family community I'd like to mention is how it recognizes the equality of worth of its members. While there is an authority structure, and roles within that structure, there is also a recognition of the intrinsic and equal value of each soul. The father figure isn't more valuable as a person just because he is the bread-winner and authority figure. He has a role within the family which is important to its proper functioning, but that doesn't grant him a position of higher worth as a human being. Hierarchy is based on authority and role not on scale of human worth. The higher tends to serve the lower. The higher bears greater responsibility to those in their care. Self-sacrifice is seen at the top leading by example to its younger and less authoritative members.

All the features I've defined here are truth-based and love-based. They rely on the truth that our behaviors affect other people and our responsibility to make sure our behaviors do not trample on the rights of others.

There is a type of family structure which has some claims on respectability but only when observed casually or from a distance. I like to call it the "Mob Family" model. When examined from all angles one realizes that the Mob Family is nothing more sophisticated than the "law of the jungle". It is a "might makes right" structure of behavior.

The Mob Family is a counterfeit of a healthy family. It has a code of conduct. It has a high standard of loyalty. It has a hierarchy of authority. It has principles. It has a code of punishment for those who break the rules. Two qualities of a Healthy Family the Mob Family doesn't have a convincing counterfeit to: integrity to objective principles of moral behavior and true freedom with self-sacrifice.

Let's look a little closer at the Mob Family. The primary focus is its hierarchy. There is a pecking order. Think animal kingdom here. There is a hierarchy not just of authority but of basic worth of each individual. The higher up the ladder of hierarchy the more your apparent personal worth. The one at the top is of greatest worth. Therefore all energies and resources are first diverted to the top with the goodies trickling downward. The one on the bottom rung gets the crumbs. Every individual becomes a tyrant of the one or ones below them. Every individual is a sycophant and servant of the one or ones above. This system only rewards selfishness. Therefore, each individual acts subservient to the one above only until they are able to gain an advantage over them. This reality is what exposes the falseness of the strong loyalties that seem to keep the cohesion of this type of "family". The only consistent loyalties are to self.

There is always someone who is able to claim the top position of the Mob Family. The one who makes it to the top is an absolute tyrant. The top member of the Mob Family hierarchy makes the rules. There is a violently enforced code of conduct. Because of the precarious nature of the "might makes right" structure, demands for absolute loyalty are made based on power not on principles of true respect or love (morality). The paranoia of the tyrant is ever-present therefore the demands for shows of loyalty are frequent. The capriciousness of the tyrant exposes how the "code" is not based on anything objective. Their subjective and selfish whims are the basis for the rules.

Truth is not welcome if it contradicts the demands or wishes of the tyrant. This usually leads to the downfall of the tyrant at some point though it may take decades for it to occur. The sycophants learn to tell pretty lies in order to keep the precarious peace and to calm the obsessive paranoia of the top dog. Because truth is not valued true freedom vanishes. Without truth or freedom, integrity to objective principle doesn't exist. Accountability is to personality not to morality. Break the "code of conduct" of the tyrant above you and suffer punishment that never matches the crime. Disproportionate response is what is dished out because fear is what keeps the members in line.

If you couldn't tell already the Mob Family model is the one in which the narcissist thrives. As much as they are able to they will try to enforce the Mob Family codes of conduct within their own families. As you can see by the qualities of the two family models there is no real comparison between the two...only contrasts. Similarities are by appearance only. Not substance. This means you can not have a family that is part Mob Family model and part Healthy Family model. The two can not be joined in any way because doing so would fundamentally change the underlying social structure for good or ill depending on the direction of the change.

For you Christian readers: consider the two family structures I've outlined in this is based on God-given and heavenly principles (i.e. love-based) and the other on Satanic or evil (i.e. selfish, narcissistic) principles. Christ demonstrated by His death that willingness to adhere to truth and love-based principles means being willing to stand true to these principles even if it means letting go of life itself because life can not continue to exist in the absence of these truths. We have seen this demonstrated in the human realm time and again when we witness men willing to die for the principle of freedom.

Freedom and truth are inseparable twins. Can you marry together principles of evil with principles of good? No. See 2 Cor. 6:15. The Bible provides many examples of how God has had to sever a destructive member from the family in order to better preserve the family. You don't see God making bargains with a tyrant in order to gain peace. Revelation 12 gives a clear picture of war in heaven (of all places!) in order to prevail against Satan "and his angels". Truth won in that war and Satan was "cast out". The two models of family not only can't be married together, the truth-based family must war against the other in order to restore order and peace. It was Christ Himself who said these (shocking to some) words:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. Matt. 10:34-36
Those are the words of a warrior. Are you willing to battle for truth, righteousness and peace in your family?

I'll ruminate more on this subject in the next post.


Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating and timely analysis. My husband and I were just talking about this very verse the other day in relation to our families. We have also discovered a rather nasty parallel with the administration at our children's christian school. We have been dealing with a case of bullying which was apparently being dealt with fine until we decided the school counsellor was taking far too long to investigate our claims. We told the school principal we didn't like her methods and asked that she be taken off the case as we would get our daughter help outside the school.

The principal suddenly became Mr. Nasty. We got abusive phone calls and a letter informing us that because we no longer 'supported' him, he was no longer able to investigate the bullying and deal with it. In other words, unless we did it his way he wasn't going to help us. Not only that but all of a sudden it was no longer a case of bullying, but a 'problem of perception' from our point of view. In other words, the school didn't actually admit our daughter was being bullied, it was just a series of 'conflicts'. This guy is a christian and we (ha,ha) trusted him, and believed his concern for us and our daughter. When it came right down to it, it was all just smoke and mirrors, and any cooperation on his part was feigned.

I read recently that bullies often rise to the top in any organisation, but when you look at the Matthew 10 verse, its far too easy to find examples of this in all walks of christian life. We are meant to be a body of believers and a spiritual family. We have seen pastors, elders, and now principals operate under narcissistic principles of behaviour time and time again, and every time it leaves us emotionally and physically exhausted with frustration.

Thankyou for your crusade for the truth. The more voices raised against 'being nice is better than being honest', and 'divine authority means never having to say your sorry' the more the individual believer feels part of a true spiritual family.


Anonymous said...

What is interesting to me, in my family is that our family members are constantly looking for ways to kiss up to the Narcissist and when you question their actions, they get vicious and angry. The Narcissist in our family is my sister, and my mother, when she was alive, put her foot down and stopped the Narcissist when things got ugly. But now my mother is dead and everyone is in total kiss up mode. It is kind of scary.

Anonymous said...

Mob family = My Family and my Narcissistic Mother is the Boss