Last week we talked about the types of homes that produce a codependent person. In addition, we began learning how to recognize the characteristics of codependency. Today, we are going to see how we can live a life without codependency…or at least with less codependent behavior.
A Brief Review
Unfortunately, codependents have low self-esteem. Due to circumstances that were outside of our control, we learned to seek anything (or anyone) beyond ourselves to make us feel better. Moreover, we find it difficult to “be ourselves” because we generally don’t like ourselves.
Let’s review a list of characteristics once again. This one is a bit more comprehensive.
Characteristics We Display
- Inability to know what “normal” is.
- Difficulty in following a project through
- Difficulty having fun
- Judging self, others without mercy
- Low self esteem, often projected onto others. (eg: Why don’t they get their act together?!)
- Difficulty in developing or sustaining meaningful relationships
- Belief that others cause or are responsible for the codependent’s emotions (Codependents often use language like “you make me feel ______”, or “I was made to feel like____”)
- Overreacting to change. (or intense fear of / inability to deal with change)
- Inability to see alternatives to situations, thus responding very impulsively
- Constantly seeking approval and affirmation, yet having compromised sense of self
- Feelings of being different
- Confusion and sense of inadequacy
- Being either super responsible or super irresponsible. (Or alternating between these.)
- Lack of self confidence in making decisions, no sense of power in making choices
- Feeling of fear, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, hurt, and shame, (which are denied)
- Isolation and fear of people, resentment of authority figures
- Fear of anger or bottling anger up until it explodes
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Being addicted to excitement / drama (Chaos making)
- Dependency upon others and fear of abandonment
- Avoidance of relationships to guard against abandonment fears
- Confusion between love and pity
- Tendency to look for “victims” to help
- Rigidity and need to control
- Lies, when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
Remember, there is no shame in being codependent, as Melody Beattie has said. However, the revelation that we are can be a gateway to freedom to live a different way.
Steps to a Less Codependent Life
I found the following to be a good recovery task list. With that said, recovery is impossible to do alone. We need accountability. In addition, success is much more likely with a therapist or a 12-step group walking with you.
- You start putting your own needs first.
- You say what you mean without being mean.
- You can admit that you don’t know it all.
- You don’t have to give advive.
- You know how to stay on your side of the street.
- You don’t always say yes, (have healthy boundaries).
- You can ask for what you need.
- You’re not obsessing on what’s not in your control.
- You don’t care as much what other people think.
- You can let go of what other people are doing.
Adding Scripture to Your Healing Process
To a casual observer, codependence looks a lot like love. Regrettably, one doesn’t need to look long before it is evident that it is a masquerade. Genuine, Christ-like love involves serving one another, (Galatians 5:13).
In a codependent relationship, those involved use one another to meet their own emotional needs.
Rather than loving selflessly, partners in a codependent relationship are actually looking for someone to fill a void within them. This is an impossible expectation which leaves one or both perpetually disappointed.
Only God can fill the void in our hearts. Only He can enable us to love with a genuine love.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” John 13:34-35 (ESV)
By this, by our godly, sacrificial love for one another will people know that we belong to Jesus. Why? Because that is how Jesus loved His followers and how He loves us, now.
Absolutely, it is wonderful to share a life with someone we love. The difference will be that we won’t need another person to fill our empty, lonely hearts.
A long, long time ago, God knew we would attempt to make each other idols to fill our hearts with the love we needed…and we have.
As a result, we have a 44.8% divorce rate and a high percentage of unhealthy relationships. (By the way, don’t let the lower percentage rate fool you, fewer people are getting married, now.)
What Genuine Love Looks Like
So, what does genuine love look like in a relationship? I believe I Corinthians 13:1-8a, (HCSB) is a goal to strive for. Notably, only Jesus can love like this through us.
13 If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast[a]
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends…
I warned you this chapter has high expectations! But the good news is that God loved us first. Then, He enabled us to love others in a healthy way. Moreover, we never need to earn love, again. It may take a while to rest in that truth, but it will happen for you.
Now that is something worth singing about!
Great recovery tool