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When differentiating between normal and abnormal behaviors, even trained professionals concur that is it difficult to decide when an exhibited behavior crosses the threshold and becomes abnormal (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2020). Certain factors have gained acceptance in making the distinction. The 4 D’s–dysfunction, distress, deviance, and dangerousness–are used as guidelines to determine the nature of a behavior or thought pattern. Normal behaviors are deemed socially appropriate and promote balanced, healthy living (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2020). While the construct of abnormality exists along a continuum, the most extreme cases of abnormal behavior are those which are characterized by inappropriateness given the social context, highly distressing to the individual or others around them, disruptive to normal daily functioning, and/or highly dangerous to the individual or others (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2020). These behaviors correlate with the 4 D’s, respectively.
Specifically in the Old Testament, God gives clear instructions to His people on what is and is not acceptable behavior. While many of these rules seem strange to modern readers, they were understood by their original audience as the model for righteous living. One clear example found in Scripture about the intended norm for marriage is an exclusively monogamous, heterosexual relationship between one man and one woman (English Standard Version Bible [ESV], 2001/2020, Gen. 2:18, 20b-24). Another clear imperative found in Scripture is the idea of extending grace rather than seeking justice (ESV, 2001/2020, Mat. 5:38-42). These are norms established by God as He originally intended; however, modern American culture has deviated heavily from both of these, as well as many other commands found in Scripture.
The textbook suggests that norms are defined culturally and socially (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2020). Scripture would assert that this is true to a certain extent, but there are some clear lines drawn in which things that deviate from direct commands are sin regardless of cultural opinions. An example based on the previous points is current views on homosexuality and the legalization of gay marriage. Scripture explicitly states that homosexuality is a sin (abnormal) and contrary to God-given nature (ESV, 2001/2020, Lev. 20:13). Christians are surrounded by culture–it is inescapable; however, they are not bound by culture but called to live in the world but not of the world (ESV, 2001/2020, Joh. 17:14-16). This involves allowing Scripture to be the ultimate source of truth in terms of defining what is acceptable and, when required, speaking truth in love to correct those who are straying from God’s design (ESV, 2001/2020, Col. 4:6).
English Standard Version Bible. (2020). ESV Online.
https://www.esv.org/ (Links to an external site.)
(Originally published 2001)
Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2020). Abnormal psychology (8th ed.). McGraw Hill Publishers.