The problem of codependency is difficult to define because our actions often look like what we are taught to do as a “good Christian.” We always put others first and we sacrifice ourselves in the process of serving others. Many of our co-dependent actions have been our attempt of loving others. We don’t want to see others make poor choices, we want what is best for them, and we want to feel loved. These things are not wrong until we make unhealthy choices. The problem comes in the motivation behind our actions. We do not act independently for the welfare of others. Instead we act out of fear, guilt and/or manipulation to obtain a desired result or for the approval of others. In other words, two people can have the exact same actions but for one it’s healthy and the other it’s codependent. As co-dependents, we:
are unaware of and suppress our own emotions.
- Have difficulty identifying and expressing what we are feeling
- Appease or rescue in an attempt to avoid our own anger, or the anger of others
- Worry about how others may respond to our feelings, opinions, and behavior
- Minimize, alter or deny how we truly feel in an effort to protect ourselves from others’ disapproval.
- Do not ask others to meet our needs or desires
- Are very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same instead of having independent emotions.
- Are afraid to express differing opinions or feelings
- Value others’ opinions and feelings more than our own
are consumed by the emotional state of another.
- Assume responsibility for others’ feelings and behaviors
- Feel guilty about others’ feelings and behaviors
- Have difficulty making decisions without approval
willingly go against our own convictions for fear of rejection or fear of another’s reaction.
- Are afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others
- Feeling like we don’t have a choice in response to someone else’s choices
- Feel a need to rescue others from their decisions
- Willingly hide, lie, or remain silent to cover for someone else
do for others’ in hopes of approval, love, or control
- we find ourselves resentful when we help others’
- become angry when we don’t receive the approval we deserve
- feel we don’t have choices and must do what others’ want us to do
- try to control the actions of another through guilt and shame
The Process of Recovery
Many of our actions as codependents are similar on the outside to what the Bible teaches. It is good to help someone in need, to care for and have empathy with those who are hurting, and to put others’ needs ahead of our own. Many of us have good intentions and have a strong desire to follow and obey God. But codependency occurs when we want to please man rather than God.
Recovery begins by admitting our true emotions to God, to ourselves, and to someone we trust. We take ownership of our own feelings. We let others have their own emotions without feeling guilty, anxious, or responsible for how they feel. We learn to express our feelings and deal with others’ reactions in healthy ways. We learn to offer help without rescuing others. We change when:
- We begin to act out of mercy and not from a need to be needed.
- We act with intention serving others by choice because Christ has served us, not out of guilt or fear.
- We seek to please God, not people.
- Our value comes because we were made in God’s image, not from our work, service, or performance.
- Serving others becomes a choice, not a reaction based on our emotions. Healthy Christian service comes out of joy, not guilt.
- We make choices not allowing others to dictate our actions.
- We learn how to have healthy boundaries with others and how to respect other people’s boundaries.
- We learn to help others appropriately by allowing them to make independent choices rather than making them dependent on us.
- We learn to live balanced lives by caring for ourselves as well as caring for others.
- We are willing to begin the process of recovery and working through the 12 steps to heal and start living the life God has planned for us.
- We will use the tools of recovery: calling our accountability partners, journaling and reading the Bible.
As we begin this process of recovery, it often feels like we are not loving others. But as we learn that God has given us the freedom to act and love Him independently without compulsion, we learn to love others independently. We also allow others to love us independently and without compulsion.