Do you like your life? Do you like you? Most of us like neither of those things. We can know that Jesus loves us no matter what. No one can be the perfect person that we have envisioned that we should be.
We are made in the image of God. But, all our lives people have been trying to make us in their image. We take on beliefs that color how we look at ourselves and others. If someone does not do things the way we think they should, we try to remake them into people that we think they should be. We try to make them in our image. As a result, we develop codependent relationships, fully entangled with trying to fix each other. And the cycle continues. We do that to children, spouses, friends and anyone else who makes us feel uncomfortable with who we are. We have a standard that no one can keep without losing themselves.
We cannot fix other people. We want to be accepted for who we are, but when other people behave out of who they are, we are very uncomfortable and try to change them. The problem with that is:
1) We do not know who God wants them to be so we try to change them into who we want them to be. Or, we know the scriptures enough to know what type of character they should have and we, out of love, try to change what we see as bad behavior, but do it by trying to change the person.
2) All of our efforts to change them lead to a life of entanglement that exponentially compounds the primary problem.
What is the primary problem?
When we were children, our parents, doing the best they knew how in raising us, trained us to be a certain way. That was by example, by discipline, and by passing on both the truth and the lies they were taught in their childhood, at home, school and later in the workplace, or from reading and media. As we were growing up, we took those things in, either by choice or subconsciously, from our parents and other places of influence like our parents did. With it, we took on hurts and beliefs that we concluded or learned ourselves. We then began to pass that way of thinking on to our children and others in our sphere of influence. We are imperfect people. We may believe that what we are doing is the right thing to do, especially when we are motivated by what we feel.
What is the result?
The result is often broken hearts and relationships that are spinning their wheels in the muddy ruts we make from trying to change others rather than accepting them for who they are. We cannot change anyone else’s belief system. It is their belief system that makes them behave the way they do. It is our own belief systems that make us hurt enough to try to manage the pain by changing them. That is the very thing that causes us to be codependent. It is a very unhealthy place to stay. I am not saying a parent should not correct or discipline their child. I am saying that in the process we often try to modify who they are rather than teach them character qualities.
Here is Wikipedia’s definition of codependency:
Codependency is a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency, the most common theme is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. Given its grassroots origin, the precise definition of codependency varies based on the source but can be generally characterized as a subclinical and situational or episodic behavior similar to that of dependent personality disorder. In its broadest definition, a codependent is someone who cannot function from their innate self and whose thinking and behavior is instead organized around another person, or even a process, or substance. In this context, people who are addicted to a substance, like drugs, or a process, like gambling or sex, can also be considered codependent. In its most narrow definition, it requires one person to be physically or psychologically addicted, such as to heroin, and the second person to be psychologically dependent on that behavior. Some users of the codependency concept use the word as an alternative to using the concept of dysfunctional families, without statements that classify it as a disease.
Based on that definition, I would say that everyone is codependent to some degree. We all have areas of our lives where we have an unhealthy level of dependence on someone or something. What I would personally add to that definition is that codependency is pain management even in its smallest degree and it is entirely based upon our own belief about ourselves in relationship to that other person or thing. So, because we feel the need to be comfortable, we engage in pain management behavior by trying to change the person or circumstance.
What is the solution?
Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable without changing anything or anyone externally. Examine the discomfort and go to the place in our hearts where that discomfort comes from. Invite the Holy Spirit in to minister in that place. If you feel stuck with it, ask the Holy Spirit to ask you the questions that will get you to the right place and source issue. Follow His lead. He will never tell you anything that goes against scripture. Allow Him to minister to your heart in the places He wants to work in your heart. That is how you allow God to make you new again, a person in the image of God, not man. The way to test whether you are finished or not with that issue, is to return to the present issue and see if it is peaceful or not. If it is not totally at peace, ask God to guide you to the next place He wants to work with you in this issue. Continue that process until the present situation is completely peaceful even when the other person has not changed. Keep in mind that codependency is an addiction and therefore will have it’s roots in multiple memories and beliefs. Those memories and beliefs can be seen as a representative image of some type that the Lord ministers to. This is a simple process of mind renewal. You are not alone with this problem. Because we live in a fallen world with many hurts and misconceptions, everyone is codependent to some degree.
John 14:27 (NIV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Galatians 5:1 (NIV) “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
When Christ died on the cross, he set us free. Even before we were conceived, we were set free because the work was finished on the cross. The problem is that we in our inward parts, as David would say, do not know we are free yet. In India, when an elephant is young, he is trained to believe that he is bound to a stake that he cannot escape from. When he has learned that lesson, the trainers no longer need to tie him to the stake. When he is an adult, he still believes he is tied to the stake so, he will not wander away. In the same way, We have learned we are bound to stakes in our lives. We have beliefs that are no longer true. They may have been at one time, but Christ set us free. Yet we still believe we are bound. That binding is done in the secret places of our hearts. We need the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth, that we are free; that the beliefs we have are false. We need Him to replace those beliefs about ourselves with His truth. His truth will set us free. We cannot change others, but God can. We cannot even change ourselves without the help of the Holy Spirit. The more lies and misconceptions we have removed and replaced with truth by the Holy Spirit, the less codependent we will be.
If someone you care about is misbehaving, please remember that it is because they are managing their pain. Don’t try to change them. Lead them into the presence of the Lord. He knows how to transform us into the people He wants us to be. Self effort is only a bandaid. But the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is maintenance free healing.
Jesus said in John 16:14 (NLT) “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”
That Advocate is the Holy Spirit who dwells in the heart of the believer. Other translations use the words Helper, Counselor or Comforter.
Later, in John 16:13, Jesus says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.
If He is the Advocate, Helper, Comforter and Counselor, and He is going to lead us into all truth which will come from the Father, we can know that where He leads us is going to be to places where there is falsehood to be replaced with truth. Truth not only sets us free, it makes it possible to more easily follow the Lord, hear Him, and obey Him. It helps us to deal with all that is to come.
May God enrich our hearts each day as we seek Him and follow where He leads us.