My name is Lynne. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with co-dependency.
That’s how I introduce myself when I attend Celebrate Recovery (CR). I never thought I’d need that kind of organization. I didn’t drink, smoke, take illegal drugs, or even over-medicate on the legal kind. I was in the camp that thought the recovery scene belonged to the blatant addicts.
When CR boasted they minister to people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups, I explored. I’d been hurt, and I knew my legalistic upbringing had left me with some hang-ups. In fact, I figured I might have some bad habits even if they weren’t addiction related. I learned a lot when I went through those steps, but the most profound was the knowledge I could be addicted to people-pleasing and problem-fixing.
That’s the simplified definition of co-dependent. It expresses itself in many ways. Some folks become doormats allowing folks to walk on them rather than upsetting the apple cart. Others walk on eggshells to avoid confrontation. Most of us have a deep desire to fix the problem that’s causing the person we love to be so angry, moody, or dependent on a substance for their mood. So, some co-dependents come across as controlling and opinionated.
I wonder if Paul wrote Galatians 6:1-3 for the co-dependent:
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
It’s easy to think Paul is telling us to call people out for their sins and help fix them so they stop; however, the apostle gives us a couple of clues that expose our faulty translation.
First, only those who live by the Spirit get to help correct those incorrigible sinners. In other words, if we aren’t letting the Holy Spirit lead, we need to stop. Our humanness will get this one wrong every time. If we truly want to help someone overcome their blatant sin, we have to make room for Christ’s Spirit to work.
That means coming alongside the person and loving them. That’s the second clue—restore them gently. I prefer overnight transformation; but it didn’t happen when I gave my life to Jesus, and the longer we wallow in sin, the longer the change takes. Granted, the Almighty has been known to perform miraculous healings among the addicted. When that happens we praise God with all we have, and when the changes are slow with setbacks after every step, we need to praise God just as energetically.
The third clue is the one we miss most often. “Watch yourselves, or you also might be tempted.” We think of this as a warning to avoid falling into the sin of our mentee. Unfortunately, for co-dependents, we are more likely to be tempted to switch into fix-it mode. I have no problem avoiding drugs and alcohol. Even my bent toward overeating has been curbed. The enemy knows my weakness. When I’m following the Spirit to restore someone gently, my adversary whispers lies—you can help him, you can make him better, you can fix him. Those statements sound noble, but they are false. Only Jesus can help. Only the Great Healer can fix. My job isn’t to restore a person to being socially acceptable. My job is to help carry their burdens so the relationship between my friend and Jesus can be restored.
It’s when we forget what our responsibility is that we miss the final clue. When we begin to believe we can help or fix, we start to think we are something when we are not. Our inflated ego gets in the way, and our friend can’t see Jesus for our big head. When we believe we can do anymore than follow the Spirit and love our mentee into the arms of Jesus, we deceive ourselves.
It takes a lot of prayer to get out of the co-dependent trap and twice as much to stay out of it. Fortunately, when I follow Galatians 6:1-3, letting the Spirit lead while I love and gently help others to see their worth in Jesus Christ, I feel full. Because when I live in obedience to my heavenly Father, He pours out His blessings, and I understand the true meaning of abundant life.