Codependent .. or not?

What is a codependent relationship?

We hear the word codependency thrown around a lot these days. It was first coined in association with alcohol and drug addiction. The codependent person is the one who enables the addict to continue his or her behavior. Nowadays, it’s used to describe anyone who seeks to get their needs met by relating to others in a dysfunctional way. But what is a codependent relationship anyway?

What does the Bible say?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

(1 Cor 13:4-8 NIV)

Paul wrote a concise yet complete definition of love here in 1 Corinthians. But when we love beyond all reason, when we sacrifice ourselves for another person, when we hope against all odds, the way the Bible describes love, could it be that we are simply loving in the radical way God expects?

Or have we crossed the line into codependency?

How can we tell?

There are a few quick questions that will help you figure it out.

  • Am I doing something that this person can/should be doing for themselves?
  • Is what I’m doing shielding this person from the natural consequences of his or her actions?
  • Am I (or would I be) upset or jealous if someone else steps in to help them?
  • Am I doing this because I want to feel needed/significant/loved, or because I want the other person to love me/do something for me in return?
  • Am I feeling resentful about doing this?

If the answer to every question is a solid no, then you can be confident that you’re genuinely loving as God wants.

But If there’s a yes in there, you might have crossed that line.

You’re not alone.

Codependency is one of the most common reasons people seek help.

God addresses the topic of codependency thoroughly in scripture, if you know where to look. Several well known Bible characters struggled with unhealthy relationships.

Take Sarah, for instance. You’ll find her in Genesis, beginning in chapter 12. Desperate to be cared for, she violates her personal boundaries on multiple occasions and then blames her husband when it doesn’t work out. After the birth of Isaac, though, we see Sarah do a 180. When she notices Ishmael mocking Isaac, she deals with the situation directly and asks Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.

This is the first step in overcoming codependency: ask for what you need.

In 1 Samuel 25, we meet Abigail. When her husband commits a potentially fatal error, she totally circumvents him and solves the problem herself. It’s clear that she’s mopped up after him before, and that she has little respect for him. She has probably gone behind his back and saved her family from his foolishness many times. She first enables his behavior, and then rescues everyone from the backlash.

That’s the second step in overcoming codependency: allow others to experience the natural consequences of their actions.

Then there’s King Saul. We catch up with him beginning in 1 Samuel 9. Saul struggles with feelings of inadequacy. Fearing failure, he gives up easily and then blames others for his mistakes. As we read through his story, we see that his pride and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions spiral down into jealousy and violence. His trust in God changes to fear and eventually ends in self destruction.

The solution for this type of codependency is to accept who you are in Christ.

Believe what He says about you, and low self esteem won’t be an issue.

Finally, let’s talk about Jonah. When asked to go to Ninevah, Jonah flees in the opposite direction. He totally avoids responsibility and expects others to do things he should be doing for himself. When life becomes uncomfortable, he blames God, gets angry, and throws a colossal pity party.

The answer to codependency is to obey God.

Do what He tells you to do, and say what He tells you to say. When we depend on God, we’re less dependent on people.

The root issue in codependency is the inability to trust God to meet our needs.

We want the people in our world to meet them, but at the same time we’re afraid or unwilling to ask for what we want. Instead, we try to manipulate people and circumstances to make ourselves feel better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and we end up angry, bitter, and alone.

You can be free of codependent relationships.

When we can ask for what we need, stop shielding others from the consequences of their actions, accept who we are in Christ, and obey God, we free ourselves to give and receive the kind of love He always intended us to have.

Are you in a co-dependent relationship?

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