A couple of years ago, I realized that I struggled with co-dependency. I have probably struggled with co-dependency most of my life. I still struggle with it now. The co-dependency definition that closely relates to me is a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from others for your self-worth and identity.
Edward Welch wrote a book called When People Are Big and God Is Small. I have read this book a couple of times. The book really spoke to me about my struggles with needing people. “I suddenly realized that I had mutated into a walking love tank, who was empty inside and looking for someone to fill me” (Welch, 1997, p.13). I can identify strongly with that statement. The statement reflects our dependence for people to meet our wants and needs. There are many different reasons for this dependence such as acceptance, praise, fear, and awe from others. I was lonely in high school due to my lack of friends. When I started making friends, then I enjoyed that feeling of being accepted and valued by people. I desired that acceptance, support, and love from people constantly. I realized that I depended on my friend’s acceptance and praise.
Sometimes I wonder how I became so insecure about myself. I continually struggle with these insecure thoughts and feelings. Romans 3:23 states that “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. We are bound to feel insecure about ourselves due to our sinful nature. When we compare ourselves to God, then it is inevitable for us to feel inferior. Nobody is perfect. Adam and Eve were the first to experience these feelings, when they ate from the Garden of Eden. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8).
Once Adam and Eve committed the first sin of humanity, then they started to feel insecure about themselves. They would cover themselves to compensate for their own inadequate feelings before God and each other. There is going to be a natural fear of God and man due to our imperfection. “Because of sin still present within us, we experience embarrassment, shame, the feeling of being exposed and vulnerable” (Welch, 1997, p.37). It is normal to feel insecure. Naturally we are going to find ways to fill that insecurity.
I developed a pattern of expecting and yearning for encouragement and praise from my family, friends, and others. I thought it was justified because I was being such a “good” person and doing “good” things for them. When a part of me was doing it for myself. I realized that I was being selfish and prideful. “Do nothing from selfishness or vain conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
When we become Christ followers, we should naturally value others more than ourselves. Ultimately when we serve and encourage others, then we should not expect anything in return. Our motives should be to glorify God.
The issue with codependency is that people need and want people to fill them. People are not capable of filling all of our needs and wants. We may have the most supportive and loving family and friends (I know I do). We need to realize that they can only do so much! They are imperfect too, so it is unfair to have such perfect standards for people. Fortunately we have an opportunity to have a deeper relationship with God our Father who can fill our needs and wants. God knows and loves us. Romans 5:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.
One of the best things about relationships is witnessing and reflecting upon the growth of those relationships. Sometimes it is hard to see our growth in our relationship with God. The verse reflects on how God can be the one to provide for us. It is important that we invest and trust Him to fill us where we are weak. Sometimes our wants and needs do not meet our expectations. He truly knows what we need. He provides the Holy Spirit to guide us through our time on this Earth.
Co-dependency is a tricky subject because we are designed to have relationships and community with one another. There are times that we do need people to step up and be there for us. There are times where we do need encouragement and acceptance from our family and friends. Community is an essential, powerful, and necessary resource for all believers in Christ.
God designed us to have relationships with one another. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). God created Eve, so that Adam would not be alone. God sees value, reason, and purpose in community.
When people become big in our lives, it is because we have made God small. People are going to fail and disappoint us. When we rely on them to be our savior, then we are setting them up for failure. “We need to need people less and love people more” (Welch, 1997, p.167). I am not going to lie to you this is hard to do. There may be times where we love and pour into people. They might not love us back and that is hard to not take personal.
We are called to love people regardless of the results. Jesus set that example for us by dying for our sins. We can take comfort and believe that God will continue to provide and love us according to His will and plan. He knows what is best for us. We need God to be bigger in our lives, which will lead to a more secure purpose and identity in Him.