We cannot survive on our own, we all depend on others. John Donne, in his poem, ‘No Man Is An Island’, expresses the idea of connectedness of people. We are commanded to, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 NIV). We are to love each other as Jesus Christ loves us. However, good things can easily be distorted and turned into something wicked called codependency.
You may wonder, how can loving someone too much or caring for others turn into codependency. Distorted love is dysfunctional love and co-dependency is love that is malfunctioning. It is toxic love to the receiver and to the giver. Codependency has varying degrees. No two people go through the same type of codependency.
Many people are in denial about their codependency, but if they just dig a little deeper they might realise how deep they are already into it. Codependency is a learnt behaviour, and the good thing is it can be changed.
How do you know you are codependent?
- If you are a people pleaser
- You excessively depend on others; emotionally and psychologically
- Obsessed in solving other people’s problems
- A tendency to control others
- You manipulate others to do what you want them to do
- You want to rescue others so you feel needed by them
- You are reluctant in setting realistic boundaries
- You fail to confront and correct others
- You avoid conflicts
- You are a perfectionist
- Low self esteem
- Highly sensitive to others’ behaviours and actions towards you
- You have a problem in saying ‘No’ to others
- Addicted to people
- Taking responsibility and overcompensate for other people’s wrong action
- Abusive relationships
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of people
- Critical of others
- Superiority complex
- Inferiority complex
- Blaming others
- Bullying others
- You make decisions for others, because you know what’s best for them
- You have problem letting go of people, so you do everything possible to hold onto them
- Find your worth and value in people
- Emotional decision making
- Easily offended and unable to forgive others
- You are in a position of power and authority and you misuse it
You should realise that codependency is a bondage, which enslaves you to other people. Some people are aggressive codependent, while others are submissive codependent. Whichever category you belong, you might think you are doing the best for others, but in reality you are destroying others as well as yourself.
Young children are rightly dependent on their parents. However, when they grow up and are able to do things for themselves, some parents still continue to help them to a point where they encourage irresponsibility in their grown up children. This may be seen as an act of love, however it is distorted codependent love. People learn maturity and character through sufferings and trials. When you constantly rescue them from situations, instead of allowing them to learn from their choices, you obstruct their growth and development. It’s like rescuing a caterpillar from its cocoon, so that it may not have to go through the process of metamorphosis. You might think that you have avoided the caterpillar pain and suffering, but in reality you have obstructed it from its development. You may have the best intention for your children, but doing it the wrong way only destroys them. You may want to be needed by them, but it is God’s will that you step back and let them go through the plans God has for their lives.
You may be a codependent wife who fails to confront your husband on his secret addictions. You fear his disapproval and rejection and so you take responsibility and cover up for his inappropriate behaviours. You could be the codependent husband that feels you have to control your wife’s every move, make decisions for her and beat her up if you feel challenged.
You could be a codependent friend, who does everything you can so that you can hold onto the friendship, for you fear being alone and abandoned. It doesn’t matter to you if your friends are into drugs and crime as long as you get to hang out with them, be part of their group. You are willing to do anything it takes and it doesn’t matter to you if it’s right or wrong.
Codependency is people addiction, it is enslavement to other people. You may feel powerful by controlling others, but you feel a need to control others because you are weak, or you could be submissive to others because you fear their rejection and abandonment. As long as you remain codependent on others you remain in bondage, which takes you away from the will of God and purpose of God for your life.
The root cause of codependency is that you depend on people more than you depend on God. When you learn to depend on God and love and care for people the way God intended it to be, you will be free from codependency. If you have been codependent all your life, it may not be easy for you to adapt this new way of living, free from codependency. However, with God all things are possible.
A prisoner who has been sentenced for a long time in prison, when released may feel insecure with his new freedom. He may want to stay imprisoned because familiarity gives security to most people. When the Israelites left Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land, they rejoiced for a while, but very soon their insecurities crept in and they preferred to have stayed in Egypt rather than face the uncertainty in the wilderness.
When you let go of codependency, you are entering your wilderness. You may want to go back to enslavement of people, you may want to return back to your prison, but realise that Jesus Christ has set you free. He has opened the prison door, all you need is to trust God and stay resilient. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).To break free from codependency, there are a few steps you can follow:
- Identify your type of codependency
- Acknowledge your fault and repent of your codependency
- Forgive others that have lead you into codependency
- Learn to depend on God and to love and care for people according to God’s will
- Learn healthy confrontation
- Learn to set realistic boundaries
- Let go of controlling and manipulating others
- Learn healthy submission to authorities
- Learn to accept the truth and live by the truth
- Learn to let go and let God intervene on your behalf
- Accept the plan of God for your life and for those you love
- Find your security in God and not in people
- Learn to be God pleasing and give up being people pleasing
- Learn humility and self-control
- Learn to let go the yearning for the approval and praises of others
- Base your decision on God’s word rather than on your emotions
- Lead others to Jesus Christ who is their true Rescuer and Saviour
- Fellowship with God and meditate on His word
- Pray and rejoice at all times
- Focus on God’s plan for your life
- Be led by the Holy Spirit and bear fruits of the spirit
The journey to be free from codependency requires patience and resilience. It also requires courage and accepting of God’s will and accepting people for who they are. You cannot change others, only God can. People you love may continue to make bad choices, but you have to realise you are only supposed to carry the burdens of those God has asked you to. You are to help those who are unable to help themselves. It’s not your responsibility to help those who are able to carry their own burdens and be responsible for their choices. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:4-8 NIV).
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV). Take responsibility for your own actions and let others take responsibility for their actions. Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again (Proverbs 19:19 NLT).
Remember the first commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3 NIV). When you live with codependency you live in idolatry, worship people as if they were your god. Repent and acknowledge Jesus Christ as your only saviour, rely on Him and trust Him with all your heart. Do not depend on people to meet your needs, but instead depend on God. This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5 NIV).
Obey God and live according to his word, not according to the wishes of people. Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). Codependency ceases when you love the way God intended you to love Him, yourself and others.