Principle 2 of Family Systems: Homeostasis (Balance)

This is the worst thing that every happened. We’ve got to do something to fix it. I’m tired of all this turmoil. It’s time for things to get back to normal.”

People will get anxious when things get worse in their life. People will get anxious when things in their life get significantly better because that also is out of their comfort zone.

I knew a man who had been successful in his business for many years. However, conditions changed and it looked like he might face bankruptcy. He became cranky and depressed.

He held on to his business and worked out of the crisis. After a few years when he filled out his financial statement, his net worth exceeded one million dollars! How do you think you felt? Do you think he was happy and celebrated? He wasn’t, and he didn’t. He became cranky and depressed. Both conditions were out of his comfort zone. A thermostat keeps the temperature in a room in a comfortable range, making adjustments when it gets too hot or too cold. People seem to have a corrective command to keep conditions in their lives from getting too bad or too good.

Edwin Friedman in Generation to Generation explains homeostasis as “the tendency of any set of relationships to strive perpetually, in self-corrective ways, to preserve the organizing principles of its existence.” He asks the question,”Why has the symptom surfaced now? This is not a static concept, but a dynamic one, as when a thermostat controls the temperature balance, not at a fixed point, but within a range” (page 23, © 1985 The Guilford Press).

In a church, family, business, or softball team, the focus on the identified patient (black sheep) and resistance from those who are peacekeepers instead of peacemakers explain why the group will tolerate and adapt to trouble-making complainers and incompetent leaders and members. On the other hand, the person who encourages personal responsibility, growth, and confronting the long-term problems will be ignored, if not let go.

Peter Steinke comments, “Actually religious institutions are the worst offenders at encouraging immaturity and irresponsibility. In church after church, some member is passively-aggressively holding the whole system hostage, and no one wants to fire him or force her to leave because it wouldn’t be ‘the Christian thing to do.’ It has nothing to do with Christianity. Synagogues also tolerate abusers because it wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do” (How Your Church Family Works, Copyright © 1993 The Alban Institute, Inc., page 59).

This sabotage to keep homeostasis is a major obstacle in any system (family, business, church, or softball team). Friedman adds, “The same qualities that allow for ‘familiness’ (that is, stability) in the first place are precisely what hinder change (that is, less stability) when the family system is too fixed” (Generation to Generation, page 25).

[bctt tweet=”Paul was not only concerned with the man committing fornication in Corinth but also with the church who “liked it that way.”” username=””]

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 6, NKJV).

Often in talking with people in groups (families, churches, businesses, or softball teams) an individual will describe and deplore the “identified patient,” the person “causing the problem.” I ask, “Why do you like it that way?”. If a condition is chronic, the group likes it the way it is more than what it would take to change it.

[bctt tweet=”When individuals see how they are supporting the condition, they can regain hope that things can be different.” username=””]

Have you encountered the paradox, “I want the church to grow, but I don’t want any more people”? How have you dealt with this?


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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

5 Responses to “Principle 2 of Family Systems: Homeostasis (Balance)

  • David Bates
    8 years ago

    A very good article and excellent point. I’ve seen people seemingly sabotage success because they are not comfortable with the changes and others refuse to make beneficial changes because they just can’t see themselves doing anything other than what they have always done.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      Until I see and experience the value of voluntary pain, I will take what comes my way with no resistance. Because to resist and to exercise will bring soreness and discomfort. Is the growth and success worth the pain involved to gain it? If so, I need to start the suffering!

  • micky
    8 years ago

    I have and you also have dealt with a congregation that would rather have peace than be right. The leadership problem that holds that congregation back cannot be dealt with because of two issues. They have endured 2 splits(none recently) and are afraid this will cause another. The second being they feel they cannot call out an elder because of the mythical heirarchy that elders are on a pedestal above the congregation instead of what scripture teaches that they are members like everyone else with a qualified voluntarily added responsibility of overseeing the flock. Since the problem is not like adultry but merely an “its not my idea so we can’t do it” and micromanaging the deacons and members they can see no scriptural grounds to challenge him. The issue impinges on doctrine but does not directly contradict sound doctrine. Those who desire change to a more visitor and congregation friendly environment are afraid its going take the wilderness syndrome(joshua 5:6) to resolve it.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      8 years ago

      And I keep asking members, “Why do you like it that way?”. Why do the other elders give him their vote?

  • Jay Ulrich
    8 years ago

    Good article. Corinth was happy in their sin. Paul was the BLACK sheep and stood up against them. the Black Sheep is not always wrong
    I seen a church that rejected growth because the Grandparents built THEIR church and do not want OUTSIDERS to come in and take over THEIR church.
    i seen another church that hired a new minister that started to incorporate his ideas and told everyone “it was going to be his way or the congregation that hired him could hit the highway.”