Do Codependent Relationships Exist in the Church?
Codependents are people that come to the rescue time and time again. This could look like saving a drug-addicted child from his toxic choices or entering into a caretaking relationship despite the cost. Maybe it sounds good in writing, but codependency creates unhealthy relationship patterns.
The term “codependency” has been around for decades and traditionally refers to the adjustment that a family member would make in their life to accommodate the addict’s dependency on substances.
Codependents are magnetically drawn to people who are constantly in crisis. They find purpose in pouring themselves out through extreme self-sacrifice, neglecting their well being to serve others.
Codependent Relationships in the Church
Codependents will go to great lengths to be the hero. When codependents place other people’s welfare before their own, they can lose touch with their own needs and identity.
Getting lost in service to another sounds like what an obedient Christ follower should do, but even Jesus gave us a different example. If Jesus recognized and implemented boundaries in his ministry, what makes today’s Christians think they should operate differently?
He went around healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and preaching about the Kingdom. The needs that would need to be met were unending, yet he gave us a perfect example. Luke 5:15-16 tells us, “Yet the news about him spread all the more so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Even in his days of serving the needs of a community, he didn’t lose sight of the need to spend time in prayer and solitude.
Relying on the Holy Spirit instead of the Flesh
A codependent is addicted to control as much as an addict is addicted to a substance. Codependents interfere with the growth of addicts by not allowing them to face consequences. The codependent person’s emotional state is influenced by how well the other person listens to their advice.
The Bible provides a principle that can’t be avoided, “A man reaps what he sows.” It’s hard for a man to reap what he sows when another person is constantly rescuing him from negative outcomes.
A good way to gauge if you are helping people in a constructive way is to ask the question, “Am I trying to be their bread (strength) or just trying to show them where to get some?” A good follow-up question might be, “Now that I have shown them, are they taking steps to feed themselves or are they depending on me?”
Every Christian is responsible for working out their own salvation. We may want people to follow our advice, heed our instructions and avoid painful situations, but growth is hindered when a person relies on someone else for all the answers and not on God. What happens when that man is removed?
If that person wasn’t clinging to God, his world will crumble. Christians must learn to seek God’s direction in prayer and search Scripture for answers. This creates a mature, strong Christian that doesn’t rely on being fed by man to be alive in Christ.
In church, it’s easy for young followers to become enamored with more mature followers. To prevent any type of codependent relationship from forming, lend a listening ear and instead of giving answers you can ask questions like, “How does this passage of Scripture speak to you?”
The goal of a healthy spiritual relationship in the church is to encourage, empower and equip each other to constantly grow in Christ. Codependent relationships can rob people from experiences that they need to go through to learn how to depend on God.
Motives of the Codependent
We live in a fallen world. One result of living in a fallen world is growing up in broken homes. All families have some form of dysfunction, meaning not all our love needs are being met when we are adolescents.
Individuals who are more prone to codependent relationships are often looking for a reliable way to gain a sense of value that was lacking during childhood.
Often, the church environment creates the perfect place to prove your worth. The more you serve, the more visibility and recognition that’s given. Codependents thrive when they know they are needed and praised for always being present.
Only the codependent truly knows if they are doing good deeds out of the overflow of God’s love in their heart or secretly wanting to secure a feeling of worthiness from those around them. Performance-based love can become completely ingrained in a codependent person to the point that when she experiences “unearned” love it feels almost foreign and uncomfortable.
Interdependency is the answer
Codependent relationships run counter to true abiding in God’s unconditional love. It is an effort to control what others think or feel about us through rigorous engagement in socially acceptable “church” behaviors. Creating a church culture of interdependency begins by taking our focus off ourselves and placing our focus on Jesus.
Jesus often asked his followers and crowds questions. He pushed them to use their minds to think for themselves. The people left empowered instead of Jesus dictating their next move. When we try to make other people like “God” in our life it has devastating effects.
Being helpful is natural. Serving is the hallmark of a Christ follower. Even Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. But a Christian must constantly point back to God, not to herself. People must put their hope in Jesus.
The one person who never fails forgets or breaks His promises. Putting our hope in anything or anyone else will only end in disappointment and dismay. Interdependency in the church means we help each other daily to deepen our dependence on God and strengthen the church body as a result.
“Seesaw Crossing”, Courtesy of Rachaelvorrhees, Flickr.com;CC BY 2.0 License; “Help,” courtesy of Cristian Newman, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Face-off”, Courtesy of Silvia and Frank, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “Lean on me,” courtesy of Rosie Ann, peels.com, CC0 License