From the beginning, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). He created us for relationship.
But when codependency enters the picture, the relationship dynamic can become distorted and unhealthy.
Codependency is defined as an excessive emotion or psychological reliance on another person (usually those closest to us). Codependents need a lot of support and can put a lot of strain on a relationship. In a nutshell, codependency can be described by saying, “If you’re ok, I’m ok. If you’re not ok, I’m not ok.”
In Christianity, we can get confused with bearing one another’s burdens (Gals 6:2) and laying our life down for someone (John 15:13) with a pattern of enabling unhealthy and even sinful behavior. So how do you know if you’re a caring, problem-solver, or codependent?
Here are 8 signs of a Christian codependent.
#1. Difficulty saying NO.
Do you feel that if you say no, you may lose the relationship or what it’s providing for you? Many who struggle with codependency struggle with setting healthy boundaries. And even if you muster up enough courage, you feel the need to explain yourself.
If you have trouble saying NO, or feel the need to justify your NO, it likely stems from your wanting to be seen in a certain light (forgiving, giving, caring, selfless) and you need the other person to give you “permission” to feel good about your boundary.
#2. Overly concerned with the feelings and needs of others.
God has given each of us unique preferences and desires, but if you’re codependent you’re not ok if others aren’t ok with you. Your feelings are dependent upon their feelings.
#3. Fear of abandonment (and being alone).
People who struggle with codependency need constant reassurance and validation and their worth is often found in others. Therefore the thought of being alone is terrifying to them. This can be made worse by those who deny this fear and pretend to be independent when in reality their fear of being alone is driving their every action.
#4. Struggle to identify your own needs and feelings.
When asked, “What would you prefer?”, many who struggle with codependent behaviors cannot easily identify their feelings and preferences without involving the other person. They often hope/expect others to read their minds and meet their needs without ever having to communicate them. This is because codependents are highly skilled at reading others’ emotions and anticipating expectations, and they hope/expect the same for themselves.
#5. Victim-like mentality.
Those struggling with codependent traits try very hard to please people, then get resentful when others don’t respond in the way you want or expect. If you are not sure if you have a victim mentality, watch for words like “you made me…,” “you make me feel…,” or, “I guess I now have to….”
Many of the behavioral traits that a codependent will exhibit could be defined as ‘caring’. But this is not the biblical definition of caring. The behavior is actually a form of manipulation, which is a form of witchcraft.
People who have a victim mentality don’t always do it intentionally, however, they’ve learned that it gains them sympathy and puts them into a favorable light with others.
#6. Insecure, fragile, and/or sensitive.
Many who struggle with codependency have never developed a sense of self. They don’t know who they are and the place they hold in this world outside of the needs and expectations of others. This insecurity breeds a constant need for reassurance. Codependents can often be described as needy and clingy.
#7. Feeling resentful.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” says Acts 20:35. Those struggling with codependency take this scripture to heart. The problem is you are giving not from the heart, but rather from obligation and your need to please. God called us to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7), not give until it hurts.
Want to guess what givers attract? Takers! When you’re struggling with codependency, it’s common to point the finger outward at the taker. What needs to happen is if you’re feeling resentful and can’t give cheerfully, stop giving.
#8. Accusations of being controlling (but it’s not your true heart).
Many codependents do not see themselves as controlling people. In fact, they feel the opposite–they feel defenseless. God has given us all the ability to stand up for ourselves and not be victims, but the codependent’s desire to say no conflicts with their desire to be seen in a favorable light, so they take a more indirect approach to controlling—manipulation by guilt.
I realize this can be a lot to take in. But awareness is the first step. Join us in future teachings on how to find freedom from codependency.
In the meantime, join me in asking the Galatians 1:10 question: Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?
If you are trying to please people, you are not being a servant of Christ.
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