Posted on March 29, 2016
Yikes! I ticked a lot of those boxes. Now what?
1. Do Not Panic
Yours is not some unusual struggle, and you are most certainly not alone. Once codependency is realized, the temptation can be to withdraw from relationships. This type of emotional reaction rooted in fear can cause much more damage than good. Fear can easily cause a swing towards a life of independence and isolation, giving the illusion of control. But you are not in control; you are in hiding. Fear prevents intimacy, and intimacy is really what every codependent (and human) heart desires in the first place.
One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen (who, from his writing I suspect had his own struggle with codependency), said this fittingly:
“Fear is the great enemy of intimacy. Fear does not create a home. It forces us to live alone or in a protective shelter but does not allow us to build an intimate home. Fear conjures either too much distance or too much closeness. Both prevent intimacy from developing.”
2. Take Responsibility
Codependency is not irrevocable. You can experience emotional healing and move on in life in a healthy, more whole way. A fearless dedication to rigorous honesty is the first step toward taking responsibility. Admit to unhealthy relational patterns, and be determined to change. One of the most common traits of codependence is denial. It’s a small word but when lived out, it is seriously destructive and detrimental. Take responsibility now and begin the brave road to emotional and relational health. God is not seeking perfection from you, just a willingness to change.
3. Seek Help & Invite Others
This could be counselors, pastors, close friends, a life coach or mentor, or a combination of the like. Very few codependent patterns can be worked out without the help of others. But be careful of those who simply want to hand hold; this really isn’t helpful. Rather invite people in who are healthy and encourage accountability to change. This combined with prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, our trusted Wise Counselor, will help lead the way to emotional health. Be wary of relying too much on head knowledge, or too much on faith without action. Patterns of behavior derived from emotional wounds rarely disappear from a single time of prayer or from reading books about the topic. There is no quick or easy fix for codependency, just a daily dedication to engage your emotions with honesty and move towards change.
4. Trust the Lord
Some hard questions may have to be asked and some painful realizations made along the way, but to quote a close friend- God is not intimated by our brokenness. Our dark parts are not too much for Him and I promise, He will deal with you kindly. Your heart is in good hands. He is gentle, true, and will give you the kiss of peace your heart desires. Being grounded and rooted in God’s love frees us up to relate to one another from a place of safety and health. And slow but sure, you will see your way of relating to others begin to change. This is the goal of the codependent. Remember, He doesn’t require perfection; He is not even looking at ability, but rather a willingness to change.
Once again, Nouwen give us a beautiful word picture of this type of Godly, faithful loving:
“They have learned that it is impossible to live together as wounded people if they simply depend on each other to provide the intimate home they seek. Our wounds, whether visible or hidden, are too deep for us to offer each other a place totally free from fear. We often put super human demands on each other and when these demands are not met we feel hurt or rejected…Bonds that last cannot be based simply on good, better, or excellent interpersonal relationships but must be rooted outside the many devices and desires of the wounded human heart. Rooted in a bond that existed before and beyond human togetherness, bonds of true intimacy rest in the divine covenant. God alone is free enough from wounds to offer us a fearless space. In and through God we can be faithful to each other in friendship, marriage, and community. This intimate bond with God, constantly nurtured by prayer, offers us a true home.”
What has been your experience with observing unhealthy patterns of loving?
Have you read any material or books concerning codependency you have found to be helpful?
Let us know by leaving a comment below!
Receive weekly articles like this by subscribing for a free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)
Col 1:17 Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. 18 He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. 19 For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. 20 Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.
21 At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. 22 But now, by means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence. 23 You must, of course, continue faithful on a firm and sure foundation, and must not allow yourselves to be shaken from the hope you gained when you heard the gospel.
Do you find yourself constantly considering your own self-worth in light of someone’s perception of you? Do you observe people interacting in ways that seem inappropriately intimate and exclusive?
Both of these examples highlight a tendency towards codependency, a relational style that traps us from truly loving one another.
What exactly is codependency? It’s an unhealthy way of not only relating to people, but the world: money, work, church, shopping, social media, etc. But for the sake of this blog, I will stick mainly to talking about codependency as it relates to relationships. I have pulled from several sources and come up with this definition:
Codependency is a style of loving and relating in which one gives in order to receive. It looks like sacrificial love, but in its unhealthy form, it’s motivated by a need for love or a need to be needed, and is ultimately self-serving.
Simply put, when it comes to codependency in relationships, codependents are people addicts.
Healthy loving isn’t a new problem to the human race, but one we have struggled with since the beginning of time. To a certain degree, we are all on the codependent-independent spectrum. Perfect marriages or friendships having no codependent patterns simply don’t exist. A relationship does not need to be completely mutual to be healthy, nor does a person who struggles with codependency need to be perfect in interpersonal skills before they can consider themselves healthy. But, to what extent do we allow the love of others to determine our value as a person? How much do we look to others as a source of strength or to give our lives meaning? This is an important question for everyone.
I would dare to say, people drawn to work such as missions, social work, teaching, parenting, pastoring, counseling, and the medical field are more susceptible to engaging in unhealthy patterns of caring and giving for the wrong reasons. Not always, but its worth having a close look. The need to be needed can be a powerful motivator. In this way, codependency takes the form of not caring for ourselves, all the while trying to care for everyone else.
How do I know?
Here is a list of relational characteristics you can use as a measuring stick to determine the degree of codependency within in a relationship:
- Do you consistently give, care, and love more than the other person?
- Do you “tiptoe” around the person for fear of what may be said or felt?
- Do you have difficulty being honest, direct, and loving in your communication with the person?
- Do you spend time second-guessing their motives, needs, or actions?
- Do you cover, lie, excuse, or justify others’ behavior to yourself or someone else?
- Do you find yourself being regularly critical, blaming, or negative about or toward the person?
- Do you feel the need to fix the person or to convince the person that you are right and he or she is wrong?
- Do you constantly feel the need to give in or give up just to keep the peace?
- Do you have trouble maintaining a steady emotional life when another person goes up or down?
- Do you worry, obsess, or become tormented about that person or your relationship?
Also very important, here is an extensive list of the different types of traits, roles and characteristics of codependent people. Before moving on, click on the link and see if any of this really hits home.
Don’t miss part two of this series on codependency by subscribing for the free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)
Part 2: “4 Ways forward from Co-dependency” which will be posted here (the link won’t work until that one is posted)
Patrick of Ireland (389 – 461)
At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped from his home by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a chieftain and forced to herd livestock.
After six years of slavery, Patrick escaped to his native Britain. Because he believed that his captivity and deliverance were ordained by God, Patrick devoted his life to ministry.
While studying for the priesthood, he experienced recurring dreams in which he heard voices say, “O holy youth, come back to Erin and walk once more amongst us.”
He convinced his superiors to let him return to Ireland in 432, not to seek revenge for injustice but to seek reconciliation and to spread his faith.
Over the next thirty years, Patrick established churches and monastic communities across Ireland. When he was not engaged in the work of spreading the Christian faith, Patrick spent his time praying in his favorite places of solitude and retreat
From COMMON PRAYER
This prayer is attributed to Patrick:
Christ be with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Posted on March 15, 2016
Before you read this post, make sure you head back and read part one first here.
Practising the Presence
So what does it look like to train in the kingdom of God. It looks like developing practises, literally practising. Not because we are taking lightly but precisely because we are taking it as important. But again, just like an athlete in practise we learn from our failures and don’t take them overly seriously. We know if we pay attention to them and continue to practise that we will be able to ‘perform’ when the day comes. Again, not because somehow our inherent worth is in question in God’s eyes, but God saves us FOR some thing not just FROM something.God saves us FOR some thing not just FROM something Click To Tweet
Spiritual disciplines are about opening up space to become aware of God’s activity in our lives so that we will grow in our ability to receive and participate in God’s love and express it to others.
A most helpful and practical way in to practising spiritual disciplines is to consider one at a time. The tempation can be to create a dizzying list of disciplines and treat them like a check list, but practise of disciplines is not the goal, just the vehicle or means for us to be made to look more like Jesus.
Just pick one
So, how do you pick one? Well, I first heard this idea from John Ortberg, we think about the ways and habits in our lives that are hindering our particpation in the Kingdom of God (they are normally referred to as sins).
Those who have been wise in the ways of the inner life with God had traditionally separated these into two broad categories; Sins of Commission, and sins of Omission. Basically put, Things that we DO, and Things that we leave undone.
We are very used to thinking of things we DO that we think God is unhappy about but not so used to thinking about what are leaving undone. But when we think of our lives only in terms of NOT DOING, we create a Kingdom where the goal is simply to NOT DO. But normally the things we ought not to do are misshapen versions of things we ought to do. Re-ordering our desires and habits through the practises of disciplines is how we re-shape those misshapen desires.
So a sin of commission or a ‘doing sin’ would be something like acting out in an outburst of anger. Where a sin of omission or ‘not-doing sin’ would be something like withholding love or encouragement that would building others up.
Working the doing and not-doing muscles
We can apply another sport metaphor here, like weight training; Wherever we struggle with a sin of doing or a sin of not-doing, we can train the opposite muscle; for example –
Anger – Is a ‘DOING’ sin and an issue of self-control. What might help someone NOT DO? Practising a NOT-DOING discipline such as ‘Fasting’.
Gossip – Is a ‘DOING’ sin and an issue of tongue control and conviction. Practising a NOT-DOING discipline such as Silence might train the NOT-DOING muscle.
Withholding affirmation – Is a ‘NOT DOING’ sin and an issue of lacking thankfulness for the contribution and gift of God in others. Practise a DOING discipline such as Encouragement might train the ‘DOING’ muscle.
Pessimism – Is a ‘NOT DOING’ sin and an issue of believing the worst. Practising a DOING discipline like regular acts of celebration will help cultivate true joy.
The discipline of secret service
A while ago I found myself increasingly concerned with how others saw me. Or more clearly what others saw me do. I realised that at least half the time as I was doing something considered religious I was wondering what others thought of me as I did it. I had become far too interested in the opinion of others that it was threatening me hearing my worth from the Words of God. In that time I started a discipline that I called ‘secret service’. Every day I would challenge myself to do something secret with the Lord. Often secrecy is considered a negative thing, but I had decided that I would do something that would bless God, bless others and grow the kingdom and it would be our secret. I would commit to God, not to tell anyone else about it. Sometimes it was small, sometimes bigger, a couple of times I was found out and didn’t deny it. But it began to open up a space of intimacy and humility with God that I had never known before I began.
There are still things to this day that no other person than Me and God know, and they are like worship to Him. In this way disciplines can train us into freedom, into participating fully in the Kingdom in certain areas. Just like in a close friendships, or in a marriage, these shared experiences are the places where the life giving relational fabric of life becomes luminous, where our lives are fully lived.
Disciplines are not meant to be law, they are meant to be a venture into the wide and open space of joy and freedom that is God’s kingdom. In which areas of your life do you want to enjoy spontaneous holiness? Practising an awareness of God’s empowering presence makes it possible, real change possible, that’s the promise of our lives in God.
Dallas Willard puts it like this:
Authentic Transformation is possible if we are willing to do one thing…to arrange our lives around the kind of practises and life Jesus led to be constantly receiving power and love from the Father.
This is the simple yet difficult life long work of becoming like Jesus that we venture on by practising disciplines.
Receive weekly articles like this by subscribing for a free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)
“Let nothing disturb you, nothing dismay you. All [circumstances] are passing, God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things. God alone suffices.”
Posted on March 8, 2016
For much of my life I’ve both struggled with and enjoyed a slightly inflated sense of ability. That to say, I’ve often imagined myself capable of many things if only I would simply try them.
Realising you can’t run
As I was growing my family would take a holiday almost every year to the same beach town in the south west of england. It was a beautiful village tucked into a cove with high cliffs on either side. The Beach was extremely tidal. At high tide the water would leave only 10-20 feet of sand but at low tide the water would reveal a 2+ mile stretch of wet hard packed sand.
One day, after spending many hours in the water as I returned to the beach at low tide I realised a commotion was taking place in the shallows.
A Young boy had been knocked unconscious and had been in the water. His sister was frantically crying out for someone to find their parents. As the life guard was attending to the boy I decided I could go and find the boys parents and make them aware. I took a rough description and a rough location (somewhere in the far corner of the now extremely long beach). I turned and ran very much as if someone’s life depended on it. I took off at a sprint.
A mere 40 seconds into this flat out sprint I noticed something begin to happen. Although the desperation and sincerity within me to reach the end of the beach had not flagged, my body was urging me to slow down. About a mile later I had reached the corner of the beach, I was exhausted into a mild jog, but still frantically looking for these parents. Eventually I found them and in the end the boy was OK.
But what had happened had etched itself into my young teenage ego. I had failed, I had wanted to reach them with all that I could will, but my body let me down.
Our lives in God can be like this, suddenly a need arises, a situation comes up, and we feel inept, ill-equipped and poorly prepared. We wonder, how does anyone do this? After all, I’ve been listening to teachings, singing worship songs, my heart was full of desire to be a part of Kingdom activity, and yet I cannot do the things I need to do, when the unexpected opportunity comes.
Sincerity may not be enough
We are full of good intentions, the urgency of the need, the desperation and sincerity to effortlessly live out the kingdom, but somehow we fail our own expectations. There are things with all sincerity we want to do, but we will not do them without training. At some point in our lives we come to the awful realisation that with all the sincerity and desire in the world, if we have not prepared we will not have what it takes. Not that we won’t be saved, but we will not be able to participate to the full extent in what God is preparing for us.
The problem is we have been trying rather than training. Immediately when anyone encourages us to prepare, or to repeat something, we are reminded of a common accusation that makes it’s rounds in protestant circles; That we are somehow falling into religion or works. Lets put that to bed once and for all; the only way we are doing that is if we feel like we are earning favour from God in what we are doing.
Training with Spiritual Disciplines is not about changing God’s posture towards us, but about changing our openness to the grace of God to transform us.Disciplines aren't about changing God's posture towards us, but changing our openness to the grace of God Click To Tweet
A means of Grace
Grace is another word we have gotten mixed up with; it is used over 100 times in the new testament. It is often understood as one of the grand themes in Paul’s writings. But often it gets used as a synonym for mercy or forgiveness. But in the New testament the word grace is only used about 10% of those times to refer to the justification part of salvation. Grace, in the majority of the rest of the cases is referring to the empowering presence of God to live out our kingdom vocations.
Grace is not just the way IN to the Kingdom, it is the way ON in the kingdom. It is not simply the door or a ticket into the kingdom, is the very air we breathe on the inside of the kingdom of live. Life giving and life sustaining, and we really need to know how to breathe.
The rest of this post (part two that is) will be posted next week! Don’t miss it by subscribing for a free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)
Posted on March 3, 2016
A Theology of Joy with Jürgen Moltmann & Miroslav Volf
Posted on February 26, 2016
Nt Wright and Miroslav Volf on a Theology of Joy