The Key to a Healthy Family, Part 1: Bonding
Understanding and applying principles of bonding and boundaries is the key in developing and maintaining healthy families. An unhealthy family and its members have difficulty pleasing and being effective for God. When the home is filled with conflict, turmoil and stress, the energy and attention of that family is turned inward, which distracts them from effective service to God in seeking Hi kingdom first. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews instructs the believers to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb 12:1 NIV). If poor family health is a distraction to our service to God, then this injunction applies in the context of the family. In order to please God with effective service and the joy of family living as God intended it, we need to learn what things need to be thrown off and how to throw them off.
Healthy families are those that keep bonding and boundaries in balance.
WHAT IS BONDING?
When a family, or a family member, is out of balance and is too bonded or has too-strict boundaries, it tends toward an unhealthy state. Bonding is that devotional strength of cohesiveness that shows itself in feelings of love and joy in a relationship. In bonding, one person feels value and gives value to the other person and desires to be with that person to support, share his or her life, and to protect. There is a specialness and general feeling of gratefulness for the other person. Can you say this is the way you feel about your spouse or children? Is this the way they feel about you?
In bonding, one person feels value and gives value to the other person…There is a specialness and general feeling of gratefulness for the other person.
Bonding brings couples and families together. It makes their relationship one in which the effectiveness of the family as a whole is greater than the summation of the individual effectiveness of each family member. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9-12 NIV).
This passage sets forth a bonding relationship in which one can help the other up if they fall, keep each other warm when its cold, and defend each other in danger. When the bonding extends to three or more, from married couple to the family, it is even a stronger cord.
This is bonding. It is a relationship that builds mutual emotional strength and is characterized by feelings of love, joy, and gratefulness in the relationship. It makes being together a joy, not a constant tension and conflict and mutual competition. Bonding makes the home a pleasant place to be. Without bonding, the home is rigid, cool, and at its best, tolerable. Bonding also forms a foundation for a family to please God in interpersonal relationships and free it for looking to the needs of others.
Copyright 1994 Church Growth Institute/ChurchGrowth.org, adapted from the book Building Family Values Using the Tools of Bonding and Boundaries by Drs. Rodney and Nancy Dean. This and other resources on families and relationships can be found on ChurchGrowth.org, category Marriage & Relationships.