In the four years that I’ve had my blog I’ve written about codependency 5 or 6 times. It’s one of my favorite topics. I am far more than a codependent, but that issue unfortunately occupies a big part of my personality makeup. I constantly struggle with trying to discern the topography of the borderlands where Divine love can bleed over into enabling behavior. Most Thursday nights I attend Celebrate Recovery (CR), and the small group I attend after the big meeting is for men with codependency and anger issues.
The blog I’ve written that most directly addresses it is titled: “Person Addiction: Codependency”—posted two and a half years ago. That blog has drawn an even 100 views up to this point. We codependents have the urge to “fix” other people. That seems innocent enough, but what I probably didn’t emphasize enough in that blog is the need the codependent has to be needed. Pastor Joel gave a very succinct answer to a question that a parishioner had last Sunday night about codependency. He said, “A codependent needs to be needed so badly that they won’t let others stand on their own two feet.” That hit the nail on the head.
In many cases the codependent gives, and gives, and gives to the point that what they’re functionally doing is attempting to make the object of their giving a prisoner. But, of course, what the person whose life the codependent revolves around remains a prisoner to is their addiction, or their issue—in the parlance of CR, their “hurt, habit or hang-up.” The codependent rarely considers this nefarious aspect of their behavior—that what they seek is control. Now, they likely feel that their motives are rooted in a love as pristine and pure as a mother’s love. But in fact what they are trying to do is control another human being. That is usually referred to as slavery. In their own mind they may be trying to improve the life of their victim by weaning them from an addiction like alcohol or a destructive issue such as dysfunctional or abusive behavior. However, the need to control others is an addiction so universal, so unconscious and so unflattering (ego-dystonic) that it goes largely unnoticed, and thus not addressed.
The codependent usually has unconscious abandonment issues originating in their childhood, and what they are doing is trying to keep from being abandoned again. That is where “the need to be needed” is rooted. A frequent unconscious bargain in dysfunctional relationships is the unspoken agreement: “I will allow you to abuse me, so long as you never leave me.” But in their own mind what they are really trying to do is “fix” the other person. Example: the drunken other will be so overwhelmed by the “love” the codependent shows in bringing them home a six-pack that they will magically stop drinking. In a desperate, misguided quest the codependent enables their “victim” to continue in remaining a prisoner to their addiction or issue.
We Jesus-followers have been told that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). He was talking, I believe, both about Himself and truth in general. All truth is God’s truth, and we owe people the truth. We also owe them the chance to learn from their mistakes and become truly free. We need to give them the chance to stand on their own two feet.