Monthly Archives: February, 2014

Overfunctioning, by Gretchen Mahoney, LACMH

Overfunctioners and underfunctioners usually go hand-in-hand. Where one person tends to take on more responsibility than he or she should, another fails to mature properly. Over functioning is doing or providing for others what they are capable of and should be doing for themselves. We often see this in churches, parenting, and marriages.

Churches are infamous for the “eighty-twenty” ratio, which indicates that eighty (or greater) percent of the ministry is accomplished by twenty (or fewer) percent of the membership. When too few people do too much of the work, resentment follows, and individuals fail to mature. On the other hand, when overfunctioners allow “vacuums”, other individuals may actually step in and discover a calling or gift!

Parents also over function when they reason that it is easier to do unpleasant chores than to follow through despite grumpy teenage attitudes. Generational habits are set when parents don’t require kids to share the family load or do their own homework. Parents must examine their motives and the life lessons they teach when they pay for cell phones, car insurance, cable, and sports activities while the kids do not contribute to age-appropriate responsibilities in the home.

In marriage, patterns often emerge in this area as well. Over-communicators are paired with withdrawers; one partner may be the cook and chief bottle-washer while the other is lazy and unmotivated. One spouse may always be the “bad guy” in parenting, when the other can just laugh off the challenging moments. Perhaps one partner spends the money, while the other takes sole responsibility for managing the finances. Maybe sex is initiated constantly by one spouse but never by the other. These relationships become frustrating, unfulfilling, and defined by resentment and despair.

Healthy relationships, families, and communities require that everyone take responsibility for their appropriate share of the load. Underfunctioners will rarely make the first move, and when changes are initiated by the overfunctioner, the system will not react positively at first. If, however, the overfunctioning person steps back with resolve and patience, he or she will foster deeper maturity, less resentment, and greater community.

Recent Articles

Take the next step. Call for an appointment.