Comfortable Dysfunction

Even with the best intentions, some people just can’t get better. Holding on hurts so bad, but letting go seems like an impossible task. This struggle is all to familiar for most of us. From addictions to relationships, we’ve all experienced “comfortable dysfunction” at some point in our lives.


What is “comfortable dysfunction”?

Dysfunction can often be defined as deviation from the norms. Comfortable dysfunction is when you become comfortable with that deviation.

You’ve seen it before. A friend or family member is in a relationship that is toxic, yet no matter how hard you try to help them, they stay in the relationship. Or how about the friend that got caught up with the wrong crowd and struggles with addiction. They see their life crumbling before their own eyes, but removing themselves from the situation seems like a distant reality.

Why do they do this to themselves?

The answer is really simple, they’re comfortable. In fact, the deviation from the norm has become their new norm.

How do you help someone stuck in “comfortable dysfunction”?

While I am no expert in the area, I have witnessed a few methods that seem to work consistently in dealing with this topic…

  • Stop Judging. Start Loving. 
    • The last thing someone who is struggling needs is another critic shaming them for their failure. Whether you know it or not, most people stuck in “comfortable dysfunction” already know it’s dysfunctional, they just don’t know how to leave. There is no need for you to remind them of where they are. Instead, begin to remind them of Psalm 139:14, which tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” 
  • Stop Making Suggestions. Actually Help Them. 
    • Most of us are incredible at giving advice to others, yet we struggle to take our own advice. Being stuck in “comfortable dysfunction” is like standing under an exit light, but the door is blocked. Removing a lifestyle is much like an amputation. For the individual, it seems like a piece of them is now missing. It’s our job to replace the dysfunction with something else. If you bring them out of the struggle, but have nothing to replace it with, it’s only a matter of time before they fall back into the same old habits.
  • Be Patient. Be A Cheerleader.
    • Just as the dysfunction didn’t occur overnight, neither will the recovery occur overnight. Be their biggest cheerleader. Speaking into who God created them to be as opposed to who they feel they are is the best way to help them begin to see value in themselves again.

Maybe you know someone currently who is in a place of “comfortable dysfunction” or maybe it’s you. I want you to know that there is hope. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out. There is hope.

Hope has a name. His name is Jesus.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!‘ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” – Matthew 14:30-31


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