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FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Children and Spouses of Troubled Families

SOURCE: Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

*The Children — Many children of dysfunctional families (termed CODF’s) have to cope with baffling and painful situations.  Children who are subjected to abuse of different kinds may receive little or no help from others, mainly because their teachers, neighbors, and church leaders may not realize their plight.  Without assistance from others, children try to fix themselves.  Clumsily, with childish hands, they suture the wounds, often leaving ugly scars or unhealed lesions that split open in later life.  All of this is an attempt to protect themselves from the abuse.  The home has the power to produce angry, rebellious, or disheartened children.  Families can aggravate serious psychological disorders.  Kids under stress can develop an abundance of physical and emotional problems even while in the womb.  Many scientists how believe that stress can program a fetus to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and other disorders in adulthood.  So sensitive is the brain to its environment that absence of emotional warmth can kill brain cells.  The loss of these cells is devastating during a child’s early years, when brain connections require learning skills for language, math, and getting along with others. As infants, if anything interferes with bonding with their mothers, they may have permanent emotional scars that will influence the outcome of the remainder of their development.  The extent of the damage done to CODF’s depends on lots of factors, for example, when in the life of the child the parent became addicted, how the family reacted to it, how long the addiction continued, and the severity of the abuse and neglect.

Thankfully, despite the severity of the situation, not all of these children will be severely wounded.  Psychologists call them resilient or stress-resistant children. Some CODF’s may have a strong orientation toward personal growth.  They are able to initiate and intentionally engage in the process of self-change.  Second, they may possess a trait termed hardiness.  Hardy people are actively involved in living, believing they can control their circumstances.  Some kids are less affected by their stressful family life because of the presence of another adult in their lives.

The children of troubled families may sometimes feel frustrated and unable to control their own lives. Their helplessness may be compounded by a feeling of failure.  This is due to their trying to solve the problem in their family.  Kids feel responsible for their parents’ problems partly because they are so egocentric, believing they are the cause of most everything that happens around them.  But they also may think they are to blame for the problem because the troubled parent tells them they are.  Taking such responsibility on themselves is usually destructive to children because they are doomed to failure.  Without someone explaining to them that they shouldn’t take the weight of the family on their shoulders, they may continue to do this into adulthood and even have trouble stopping then.  Their failure to solve the family’s problems may make them angry.  Thinking their good behavior will make their parents break free from their dependency or compulsion, they may be upset when they don’t get the hoped for results.  Their anger may take the form of resentment.

Expressing anger is complicated by the attachment the child has for the parents.  Besides needing the parents’ care, children are taught to love and respect them, making it very hard to accept the anger and hatred they feel.  Feelings are mixed – love and hate, pity and disgust, anger and sympathy.  The child plays the same Jeckyll-Hyde role the troubled parent is playing. Fear may also keep children from directing anger toward the parent.  And the “don’t feel, don’t talk” rules will make them keep their anger bottled up inside of them.  This may cause them to resort to sarcasm, forgetfulness, hostile jokes, and other passive-aggressive behaviors.  They may also overreact to normal events and become extremely angry with people who haven’t done anything to deserve such a reaction.

One way CODF’s express anger is by reverting back to an earlier stage of development.  Also, a child may make light of the stressful situation at home or resort to humor to handle it. Additionally, children may be deeply hurt by a parent’s abusive ranting and raving and lack what are known as “self-soothing” abilities.  They lack inner resources to calm themselves in the face of severe stress and intense emotions.  Finally, children in stressful situations may develop a false self.  Instead of the addicted parent’s encouraging the children to express themselves and commending them for it, the parent’s behavior demands that they become something else.  If the parent is also physically or sexually abusive, the squelching of the child’s personality can be extremely severe.

Shame is another emotion that inhibits children’s development of their true self.  Theirs is not a shame for what they have done, but for who they are—an absence of self-respect.  The time between eighteen months to three years is a time when a child gains a sense of autonomy.  Restricting the child, as dysfunctional families are prone to do, may make them doubt and dislike themselves.  Guilt feelings may also develop very early from ages three to six.  In an addictive family, the children may receive little affirmation for their ventures and be blamed for innocent mistakes, causing them to feel guilty for attempts to exert themselves.

They will also be shamed by the embarrassing activities of their parents.  Their shame may also be due to the fact that all children tend to identify with their parents.  Of course, constant parental criticism may result in children’s having little self-respect.  When little children are verbally harangued by their parents, told they are worthless or bad, they will believe these things.  They lack the maturity to realize these messages are lies of an evil, addicted, compulsive person.

Trust will almost always be a problem for the dysfunctional family’s children, too.  Consistent care teaches them that they can rely on others.  If their care is sporadic, harsh, or unkind, they learn to mistrust, making it difficult for them later to form close relationships.  Distracted and disturbed, a dysfunctional family may early breed mistrust in children.  The inconsistency of the wet-dry cycle probably is enough to instill distrust in a child.  Children in dysfunctional families are often compulsive and have a tendency to become addicted to something.  Or they may turn to an addiction as an escape from pain.  The enmeshed family system has taught them to depend on things outside themselves for happiness and satisfaction.  Additionally, children of dysfunctional families are often obsessed with pleasing others.

CODF’s cast themselves in various roles.  The child may choose the role as a survival tactic, or, because each role performs a function in the family system, the system itself will force the child into the part.  Sometimes a specific child will play more than one role or through time switch from one to another.  These roles help the family maintain its dysfunctional homeostasis and can eventually be harmful to the children.  The following are various roles:

Chief Enabler – shelters the addict from consequences of his or her behavior; cost to them is martyrdom;

Family Hero – keeps family’s self-worth, acts as family counselor; cost is a compulsive drive;

Family Scapegoat – diverts attention from the addict; cost is possible self-destructive behavior and often addiction;

Lost child – escapes family stress by emotional and physical separation; cost is social isolation;

Family Mascot – diverts attention from the addict by humor; cost is immaturity and/or emotional illness.

Family members learn “addictive logic” to deny the chaos.  They learn to lie and say the problem doesn’t exist so as not to betray the family.  To survive in an addictive system, children learn to deny healthy responses that tell them they are in danger; they have to keep increasing these dishonest coping skills as their situation worsens.  Also, a torrent of negative thoughts may be coursing through children’s innocent minds:  “I can’t do anything right; I am a failure; I’m not loved; I will be abandoned; I am ugly and bad…etc.”  They desperately need someone to tell them these are lies and help them see the truth about themselves and their families.

*The Spouses — Being married to an addict can be like a ride on a roller coaster – terrifying.  Life is chaotic and unpredictable, up one day, down the next, depending on how the spouse is behaving.  Emotions fluctuate and are mixed.  The dry period, when life is on the upside, inspires hope that it will last, along with nagging fear that it won’t.  In cases of spousal abuse, the cycle is well documented:  abuse followed by remorse followed by forgiveness followed by abuse followed by remorse, and so on.  The same happens in addictive marriages:  The husband manifests an addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober and pleads for forgiveness.  The wife forgives, and the two are reconciled.  The husband manifests the addictive/compulsive behavior, and the wife gets angry.  The husband becomes sober, and on and on.  The spouse will probably be experiencing many of the same emotions as the children – fear, anger, helplessness, loneliness, and the like.  Some will hate their husband or wife, their bitterness created out of years of broken promises and neglect.  Spouses will also blame themselves for their partner’s problem.  Shame too can be intense.  And to cover his or her embarrassment, the husband or wife of the troubled person will strive hard to make a contribution outside the home.  He or she may be driven to succeed in the workplace.  Some will devote themselves to social work or church ministry.  The marriage relationship will deteriorate.  Feelings of love that were likely present in the beginning of the marriage will slowly die as the partner’s addiction progresses.

Three of the most important marital resources – respect, reciprocity, and reliability – will be challenged.  Respect involves conveying to another person (through words, deeds, or simply being present) that the other is of value.  By their irresponsible behavior and neglect of family duties, addicts and the like will not be likely to keep this resource in their relationship.  Reciprocity in relationships refers to the balance of giving and receiving care and consideration.  Not much fairness will be felt in a dysfunctional family where the weight of maintaining the family falls on the addict’s spouse and/or children.  Reliability refers to the expectation that the person will be there for us on an ongoing, fairly consistent basis.  Broken promises and no-shows will destroy this resource.  An addiction, like any other violation of the relationship bond, will chip away at trust.  People married to the addiction/compulsive behavior often convey to their partners that they are not important.  This deterioration of the marriage and emotional struggles of the spouse will sometimes diminish his or her capacity to parent.  Sometimes the spouse, wrestling with the partner’s addiction/behavior, will dump his or her responsibilities on the children.  Because of this neglect, some adult children are angry at the spouse of their addictive/compulsive parent more than they are the one with the addiction/compulsion.

*The Role of Codependency — Codependency is another form of enmeshment.  The spouse of the troubled individual is referred to as the “co-addict.”  This can be described as one person’s addictive patterns aligning themselves with another’s so that there is some degree of systemic collusion or addictive pattern.  Essentially, a codependent is related to another in an unhealthy way.  One person cares so completely for the other that he or she neglects himself or herself, living almost entirely for the other person.  Being an enabler is sometimes part of such a relationship.  Enablers don’t usually consciously do things to help their partner continue his or her destructive behavior.  In fact they will probably attack their partner’s problem with a vengeance, doing everything possible to get him or her to straighten out. Yet, at the same time, they will do things that facilitate their spouse’s behavior.  For example, they will protect their spouse from the consequences of his or her actions:  phoning his boss to report him sick when he can’t go to work because of the addictive behavior; giving money to a wife who has a money related addictive problem; making excuses to the kids for a parent’s absence, and so on.  Then, too, the partners contribute to the addicts’ problem by facilitating the reorganization of the family around them.  Children, too, can play the role of codependent.

Codependents sacrifice unnecessarily and to the detriment of others as well as themselves.  Following Jesus’ example, Christians are encouraged to make sacrifices, but they are not to make senseless ones.  Jesus’ sacrificial offering of himself benefited others.  But the codependent’s sacrifices are harmful to the one for whom they are made.  It is not really loving.  Love, as conceived in the New Testament, is concern and care for a person’s highest good.  Preventing an addicted/compulsive spouse from suffering their own consequences is not showing this type of concern and care.  This troubled spouse needs to see the results of his/her lifestyle and choices.  As Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”  Love is sometimes expressed by not doing something for someone.  Also, codependents need to understand that it is not wrong to care for themselves.  As indicated in Lev. 19:18 and Matt. 19:19, we are commanded to respect others as we respect ourselves.

Some write that codependency is defined as “a pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity.”  By this, they mean that people who live in enmeshed families develop a tendency to live this way in general, even with people outside the family.  Symptoms include the following:

* Thoughts and attitudes dominated by the other person: “I think more about your life than mine.”

* Self-esteem related to the other person: “I value your opinion more than my own; I need to help you in order to feel good about myself; I need to be needed.”

* Emotions are tied to the other person: “When you are hurting, I often react more deeply than you do.”

* Interests geared to the other person: “I know more clearly what you want than what I want.”

* Relationship to others is affected by the other person: “I neglect my friends to get overly involved in fixing you; I am compulsive about pleasing others, yet I get upset by their demands on me.”

In selecting a mate, some men and women seem to be attracted to a person who needs their care.  Besides the obvious shortcomings, one major problem of this type of relationship is the powerful dependence these partners have on each other.  They become so enmeshed that they seem unable to function as individuals.  They become so intertwined that it becomes difficult for the other to leave the relationship regardless of how dysfunctional it is.  Codependents will have considerable psychological distress.  They will suffer from poor self-esteem, since they may feel little worth apart from what is derived from rescuing others.  They will also suffer from an extreme need to be needed, making them depressed when they feel they are not.  Also they may have an unhealthy willingness to suffer, somehow believing that suffering for someone will make that person love them; being a martyr will make them feel rewarded.

Despite codependents’ sorry state of affairs, they will have a strong resistance to change.  Leaving the troubled spouse, even as a step toward healing, accountability, and re-creation of the marriage,  is not an option, because they fear feeling guilty, living alone, or not being able to make it financially.

In conclusion, when we or our families experience trouble, we must call upon the Divine weapons and resources that God has provided us.  We must remember that we cannot face the vast array of past and present problems on our own. Therefore, we must keep our focus on the Lord since we don’t know how to deal with these things (2 Chron 20:12b).  He has the willingness and power to do the impossible, demolish the past and present strongholds that have enslaved us, and make us to be who He created us to be (Phil 2:12; Luke 1:37; 2 Cor 10:3-5).

FAMILIES EXPERIENCING TROUBLE: Addictive/Compulsive Families

SOURCE:  Adapted from Helping Troubled Families by Charles M. Sell

Helping Troubled Families: A Guide for Pastors, Counselors, and Supporters

An addictive or compulsive family member troubles the whole family, just as an injured part of the body affects the whole person.  So too family members will compensate for an addicted/compulsive’s erratic and unreliable conduct by behaving in ways that might worsen the situation.  This may shock spouses and children who thought all their problems would go away once the alcoholic stopped drinking or the workaholic took more time off.  They were not aware that the whole family, not just the addict, would need to be fixed.

Dysfunctional Family Organization

Typically a troubled family organizes itself around the troubled person with the person becoming the center around which family members orbit.  Families need leadership, the kind that empowers its members to express themselves and mature.  The kind of control discussed here results in demoralizing family members and stifling their growth.  When family life is regulated by such persons, their chaotic, unpredictable, unmanaged life creates a chaotic, unpredictable, unmanaged household.  Individual family members’ behavior becomes tied to the troubled person.  The tension family members feel makes them describe living at home like “walking on eggshells.”  The family’s adjustment to the addiction or compulsive behavior of one of their members is similar to their accommodating themselves to a parent’s working schedule.  The effort to make these adjustments is what family systems experts call a process of homeostasis.  The family adjusts itself to keep things stable when circumstances disrupt family life.  When one person’s behavior changes drastically, the family will adjust to that.  They’ll do this for addicts because they care about them and because his or her welfare is tied to their own.

Because the family members are bound together with the abuser, they cannot simply ignore him or her.  The troubled person’s erratic, irresponsible behavior becomes unsettling, serious, even traumatic, and family members feel they must do something to get the person to gain control of himself or herself.  They will try any commonsense thing to get the person to stop – plead with or threaten him or her, cry, and tell the person how badly they feel.  And if those tactics don’t work, they pour the person’s liquor down the drain or send someone to the bar to tell the drinker to come home.  Some of these strategies may work, especially in the case of someone whose addiction problems are not terribly out of control.  But if these efforts don’t work and the problem persists, the family will make subtle, slow adjustments to accommodate the addict’s behavior, even though they don’t approve of it.

These families will alter their life in a number of areas including:

*Routines – through routines families maintain some stability and order.  A strong family is one where these routines are consistently carried out.  When families allow their routines to be determined by someone who is out of control, like an addict, the family behavior will become as inconsistent and chaotic as the addict’s life.

*Rituals — Rituals are routines with an added ingredient – significance.  Rituals govern the way the family carries out important activities, like praying together, celebrating special occasions, etc.  For an example, a mother with an anger problem, under stress of preparing a Thanksgiving Dinner, might lose control of her temper, dampening the family’s holiday mood.  If these become regular holiday occurrences, families will begin to expect them and do what they can to lessen the impact.  When rituals are modified, their significance may be greatly diminished.  Rituals are ruined when the emotions and meanings associated with them are supplanted by the anger and disappointment of having to deal with the problem behavior.  It should be noted that all of these alterations in the family are designed to deal with the troubled parent’s behavior not by ignoring it or continuing in spite of it but changing to accommodate it.  Families least likely to reproduce addicts were those who did not permit the troubled person’s presence to disrupt the family’s routines and rituals.  They distanced themselves instead of accommodated themselves.

*Problem-Solving Procedures – Besides routines and rituals, the family also tries to regulate itself by modifying its problem-solving procedures.  These modifications involve doing things to bring a member back into line if that person threatens the family’s stability.  Troubled families may use two distinct problem-solving methods.  First, they vigilantly guard the status quo, because they tend to be unusually sensitive to any destabilization of the family.  Once the family has stabilized around the out-of-control person, they appear to be uncommonly threatened by any other change.  Dysfunctional families are generally rigid.  Strong families are flexible.  As children get older and conditions change in the family, the family needs to adjust.  Many of these changes are related to the family’s life phases.  All change (good and bad) is stressful, and it can be both good and bad at the same time – like the birth of a child, for example.  Arriving at a life stage may trigger a crisis in the family if it is too rigid to handle it properly.  The second distinct feature of the troubled family’s problem-solving procedure is using the problem person’s behavior to assist the family in dealing with problems.  If this happens, the addictive problem becomes a part of the family’s normal functioning.  This has major implications when, for example, an addict stops drinking.  The alcohol that has become necessary for the family to function is now gone.  Learning how to operate without it may become very difficult for all of them.

*Family Devastation – These changes are especially devastating because the family’s stability now depends on the continued behavior by the addict.  This insight helps us understand why it is crucial that the family system change when treating an addictive/compulsive behavior.  Otherwise, the system will continue to pressure the troubled persons to stay as they are.  Despite the conscious wish to see the troubled person change, family members may have an unconscious desire to have the person continue as he or she is.

Codependency: Definition – Signs – Characteristics – Resources

SOURCE:  Mental Health America

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

Who Does Co-dependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.

What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Co-dependency?

A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

How Do Co-dependent People Behave?

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale. Please note that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency; not everyone experiencing these symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating co-dependency.

How is Co-dependency Treated?

Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment includes education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients getting in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood and on reconstructing family dynamics. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

When Co-dependency Hits Home

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to understand it. It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships. Libraries, drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and mental health centers often offer educational materials and programs to the public.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The co-dependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no,” to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant. People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more. The more you understand co-dependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Other Resources

Co-dependents Anonymous
PO Box 33577
Phoenix, AZ 85067
Phone:
(602) 277-7991 {This number provides only meeting information}
(888) 444-2359 {Toll free}
(888) 444-2379 {Spanish toll free}
Website: http://www.coda.org/

Rescuing is not caring for someone

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often that needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others.

While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible “to” others, the codependent becomes responsible “for” them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing.

Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility.

Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Five Good Reasons to say “No!”

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sarah came to her coaching call astonished that it has taken her fifty years to finally learn how to say “No”. “I’ve always put everyone else first,” she said. “Now I see that I’ve only enabled my husband’s and children’s self-centeredness to flourish.”

One of my relatives recently shared a similar story. At 74 years old, she wired up her courage and said, “No” to her overbearing sister. “Stop telling me what to think, or to do,” she said. “I am my own person and have my own thoughts and my own ways of doing things.” She said it felt really good to say no.

One of the reasons that many of us find it so difficult to say no to people is that we genuinely don’t desire to hurt anyone’s feelings or have them upset with us. Therefore, we’ve learned to please, to placate, and to pretend so that we don’t make waves.

In addition, many of us have been taught that as Christians we should go the extra mile, do more, submit to authority, and always think of others before we think of ourselves. Therefore, whenever we do say no, we feel guilty and selfish.

Yet the Bible tells us stories of people who said “No”. One of my favorites is Queen Vashti. If you don’t know her, she was Queen Esther’s predecessor. Queen Vashti refused to allow herself to be treated as a sexual object for her husband’s drunken friends to ogle. When her husband ordered her to parade herself before them, she said “No.” (See Esther 1 for the story.)

Abigail was another brave wife who did not go along with her husband’s foolish decision. Instead of submitting, she overruled him by taking charge when her family faced the fiery wrath of David and his men (1 Samuel 25).

Earlier in Jewish history we find two midwives who said “No”. They refused to obey the Pharaoh’s orders to murder Hebrew babies (Exodus 1:17).

Jesus himself said “No” when Peter asked him to return to his house and continue healing the sick who had camped out there overnight. Jesus told Peter he needed to move on to Jerusalem to preach. (Read Mark 1 for the story).

Here are five good reasons to say “No”.

  1. Saying “No” acknowledges both to you and to others that you are a finite, limited person. You cannot do two things at the same time or be in two places at once. Jesus couldn’t say “Yes” to Peter’s request and also preach in Jerusalem. He had to choose. All of us have limited resources of time, energy and money. If we say “Yes” to one thing, it means we are saying “No” to another. When we say yes because we’re afraid to say no, we often allow good things to take the place of God’s best. 
  2. Saying “No” to others, especially early in a relationship helps you discern fairly quickly whether the other person can be respectful of your time, your needs and your priorities. Try it. Next time you’re on the phone with someone and you’re busy, be honest. Tell him or her, “I can’t talk right now, I have to go.” Pay attention to her response. Does she hear you? Or, is she so focused on her own needs that she totally ignores what you said? Or perhaps he may pressure you to stay on the phone longer, or make you feel guilty for not having the time to talk right now. Noticing these particular patterns early on can help us weed out manipulative and toxic individuals before we get too close to them. 
  3. Saying “No” to people, even those you dearly love, helps them not become overly dependent on you to meet needs that they should be capable of meeting on their own. When we do too much for people they grow lazy, self-centered, and self-absorbed. They also begin to adopt an entitlement mindset rather than being grateful.

  4. Saying “No” to sin, injustice, and abuse, is not simply sticking up for yourself, it’s standing up for what’s good, right, and just. Jesus always stood for what was right and against what was wrong. He confronted the legalistic views of the Pharisee’s and healed on the Sabbath, even when it angered the religious rule keepers. Jesus taught that the law of love always comes first. 
  5. Saying “No” to foolishness can rescue a person from the error of his or her ways. Abigail not only saved her own life, she saved her entire family’s life. She also helped David come to his senses when she challenged his decision to repay Nabal’s foolishness. James reminds us “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19).

When have you been too afraid, too nice, or too passive to say “No”? What has it cost you or others?

Ask God to give you the courage to say “No” when necessary for your good, for another person’s good, or for His purposes and glory.

Codependency Defined

SOURCE:  Living Free/Jimmy Ray Lee

“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Romans 1:25 NAS

Codependent behavior has existed nearly as long as men and women have walked the earth. A codependent person is addicted to another person, creating an imbalanced relationship.

If another person’s misbehavior is affecting your sense of well-being and you have become obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior, you are in a codependent relationship.

Codependents take ownership of another person’s problems, get their sense of well-being from managing the behavior of the dependent person, and end up being controlled by the person they are trying to help. By centering their lives on the person they are trying to help, they exchange the truth of God for a lie, worshipping and serving a created person rather than God the Creator.

Codependency is sinful because the person becomes mastered by a loved one’s problem or becomes a loved one’s master (playing God).

Think about whether you have seen any of these indications of codependency in your own life or anyone else’s. If you see codependent traits in someone else, pray for their eyes to be opened. If you see them in your own life, ask God’s forgiveness and his help. Recognize your helplessness and place your trust in him.

Father, I recognize some of these codependency symptoms in my own life. I’m beginning to see that I’m not able to help my loved one this way. Please forgive me. I need you and want to place my trust in you and you alone. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Am I “Supportive” or “Enabling”?

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (Galatians 6:1 NLT)

Enabling can become a habit. Your loved one needs you to support their denial and deceit. They become expert at making you feel guilty if you try to stop your enabling behavior. They may say, “If you love me you’ll . . .”

So what is your responsibility to your troubled loved one? You should be supportive — without enabling.

Consider This . . .

Think about the differences between enabling and supporting.

Enabler: Tries to fix
Supporter: Shows empathy

Enabler: Attempts to protect
Supporter: Encourages

Enabler: Repeatedly rescues
Supporter: Permits the person to be responsible for their own actions

Enabler: Attempts to control
Supporter: Lovingly confronts with truth

Enabler: Manipulates
Supporter: Levels, speaks honestly

Enabler: Expects the other person to live up to “my” expectations
Supporter: Expects the other person to be responsible

Where do you see yourself?

Lord, I realize I often enable more than I support my loved one. Teach me to gently and humbly help them get back on the right path. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 

 Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

The Process of Developing a Life-Controlling Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

John and Becky are 50-year-olds who attend church every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. To look at them on Sunday morning, it would seem they are a happy Christian couple; however, the police know their address very well. During the last two years, they have become regular visitors to this home.

There are two life-controlling problems in this home.

John has uncontrolled anger, and Becky, though frequently physically and verbally abused, covers for his violent behavior because she believes it is the Christian thing to do. This violent behavior and unhealthy cover-up have gradually worsened over the years. John, who was abused by his father when he was a child, has been abusing his wife for years, but it has escalated to the point where her wounds can no longer be covered up.

These mastering problems have not only trapped John and Becky, but because they have been covered up and not dealt with, their children have also been caught in this web of pain.

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters (or controls) a person’s life. Many terms have been used to describe life-controlling problems. Someone may speak of a dependency, a compulsive behavior, or an addiction. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul uses the word stronghold to describe an area of sin that has become a part of our lifestyle when he writes that there is divine power to demolish strongholds.

The easiest life-controlling problems to identify are harmful habits like drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling, tobacco use, and the like. Life-controlling problems can also include harmful feelings like anger and fear. The word addiction or dependency can refer to the use of a substance (like food, alcohol, legal and/or illegal drugs, etc.,), or it can refer to the practice of a behavior (like shoplifting, gambling, use of pornography, compulsive spending, TV watching, etc.). It can also involve a relationship with another person. We call those relationships co-dependencies.

The Apostle Paul talks about life-controlling problems in terms of our being slaves to this behavior or dependency that masters us. He writes in Romans 6:14, Sin shall not be your master. In 1 Corinthians 6:12b, he says, Everything is permissible for me ‘ but I will not be mastered by anything [or anyone]. According to 2 Peter 2:19b, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Anything that becomes the center of a person’s life if allowed to continue will become master of that life.

Because we live in a world today that can be described as an addictive society, most people are affected in some way by a life-controlling problem — their own or someone else’s. Everyone has the potential of being mastered by a life-controlling problem. No one plans for it to happen, but without warning, an individual (and those who care about him) can be pulled into the downward spiral of a stronghold.

Addictions and Idols

Idolatry leads to addiction. When we follow idols, a choice has been made to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions that can be provided only by God. We have a felt need to serve a supreme being; if we choose not to serve God, we will choose an idol to which we will become enslaved. Jeffrey VanVonderen says:

Anything besides God to which we turn, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry: money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ’s performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous: robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything!

Following idols, which leads to addictions, prevents us from serving and loving God freely. All kinds of substance and behavioral dependencies lead to enslavement because everyone who makes sinful choices is a candidate for slavery to sin (see John 8:34). Jesus states in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. God spoke to Moses in Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. Sin, when unconfessed, strains the relationship with God that is meant to be enjoyed by the believer (see Proverbs 28:13; Jonah 2:8).

A very controversial question arises: Is an addiction a sin or a disease?

Those who believe addictions are sin point to the acts of the sinful nature which include a substance (drunkenness) and behavioral (sexual immorality) problem in Galatians 5:19-21. Another reference to the sinfulness of addictions is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which shows that a definite change occurred in the lives of the Corinthian Christians: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Those who believe addictions (particularly alcoholism and other chemical dependencies) are a disease state the characteristics are progressive, primary, chronic, and fatal. In the latter stages, the victims are incapable of helping themselves because there is a loss of control and choice. In the 1950s the American Medical Association voted approval of the disease concept of alcohol dependence. The term disease means deviation from a state of health (Minirth, 57).

When sin and addiction are compared, they show similar characteristics. Both are self-centered versus God-centered and cause people to live in a state of deception. Sin and addiction lead people to irresponsible behavior, including the use of various defenses to cover up their ungodly actions. Sin and addiction are progressive; people get worse if there is not an intervention. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda and later saw him at the temple. Jesus warned him about the progressiveness of sin: See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Sin is primary in that it is the root cause of evil. Sin produces sinners as alcohol causes alcoholism. Sin is also chronic if not dealt with effectively. Finally, sin is fatal with death being the end result.

Although addictions do have the characteristics of a disease, I must stand with the authority of God’s Word as it pronounces various addictions as being a part of the sinful nature (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). They are sinful because God has been voided as the source of the solution to life’s needs, and these choices often develop into a disease. A noted Christian psychiatrist says:

Physiologically, of course, some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, even after one drink. And often guilt drives them to more and more drinking. But then some people also have more of a struggle with greed, lust, smoking, anger, or overeating than others. Failure to contend with all of these is still sin (Minirth, 57-58).

Anything that becomes the center of one’s life, if allowed to continue, will become the master of life. If God is not the center of a person’s life, that person will probably turn to a substance, behavior, or another person for focus and meaning. David describes his enemy in Psalm 52 as one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (v7).

The young, rich ruler described in the gospels (see Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life. When Jesus told him he would have to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him, the young man went away sad. This rich man’s stronghold was the love of money. Everybody, not only the rich, must guard against this greater love of the rich young man. Paul writes: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This stronghold, the love of money, is the root cause of most addictions that plague our society. Although alcohol is a major cause of deaths, sicknesses, broken families, and relationships, it continues to be advertised with marketing strategies which appeal even to America’s high school and elementary-aged children. The demand for cocaine and other substances would soon cease if there were no profits to be made. Sexual addictions are fed by an $8 billion industry of pornographic materials, appealing television commercials, and provocative movies. Compulsive gambling is fed by state-run lotteries. I wonder how much the love of money contributes to eating disorders. Many young women starve themselves to sickness and even death because of a greedy society that promotes an unhealthy thinness as beauty through media appeal and modeling agencies.

As the creation of God, each of us has a need to be dependent. There is a vacuum in the heart of every human since the fall of Adam and Eve that can be filled only by Christ. After our first parents disobeyed God, they immediately recognized their nakedness. Without God’s covering, they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). They soon learned they could not escape from God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8).

It is interesting that Adam and Eve hid among the trees. They hid there because of guilt. Idols, which are false gods, can also become hiding places. Isaiah writes: for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [or false gods] our hiding place (28:15).

In a life where Christ is not the focus, a person is likely to center attention on a substance, behavior, or another person which will eventually become a god to them. David recognized the need to have God as his tower of strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me (2 Samuel 22:2-3).

The disease concept of addictions should be approached with caution. Assigning addictive substances and behaviors to the disease model tends to overlook the sinful nature of mankind. Although it is popular to label every stronghold as a disease, the Church must warmly care for those caught in the web of deception with ongoing support. It takes more than a pat on the back to cure them of their stronghold. Sinful choices develop into lifestyles that are self-centered and destructive. The fall of man puts us all in need of recovery.

How the Trap Works
Addictions and dependencies generally fall into three categories: substance addictions, behavior addictions, and relationship (interaction) addictions.

1. Substance addictions (the use of substances taking control of our lives)

  • Drugs/chemicals
  • Food (eating disorders)
  • Alcohol Other addictive substances

2. Behavior addictions (the practice of behaviors taking control of our lives)

  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Use of pornography/other sexual addiction
  • Love of money
  • Sports
  • Other addictive behavior

3. Relationship (interaction) addictions (You may have heard a relationship problem like this referred to as co-dependency. )

Everyone has the potential of experiencing one or more of these life-controlling problems at some time. Maybe you find yourself already involved in an addiction or another problem behavior that has taken over your life. Sometimes it is hard to identify a life-controlling problem.

Here are some questions that may help in that process:

Is my behavior practiced in secret?
Can it meet the test of openness or do I hide it from family and friends?
Does this behavior pull me away from my commitment to Christ?
Does it express Christian love?
Is this behavior used to escape feelings?
Does this behavior have a negative effect on myself or others?

These questions help us identify problems that have reached (or are in danger of reaching) the point of becoming life-controlling problems.

The next step is to look at the ways these behaviors and dependencies tend to progress in a person’s life. Researchers have identified a pattern that follows some very predictable steps. Most people get involved with an addiction to receive a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol or other drugs, sex, pornographic literature, gambling, and so forth, produce a temporary high or euphoria.

Vernon E. Johnson, the founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, has observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them . . . we came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency. Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: (1) learns mood swing, (2) seeks mood swing, (3) harmful dependency, (4) using to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including myself, can also be related to other types of dependencies although the terminology may differ.

We call it the “Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is really happening.

Every person has the potential of experiencing a life-controlling problem. No one is automatically exempt. Even though no one plans to be trapped by such a problem, it can happen without a person’s even being aware.

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Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Your Family Voyage: Codependency – Characteristics

SOURCE: Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Codependency is sometimes defined as a tendency to have compulsively unhealthy relationships. Originally the term was used to describe the condition of spouses of alcoholics. These people had developed a living pattern that was not only unhealthy for themselves but actually promoted the alcoholism. They were obsessed with “fixing” their partners; without someone to rescue, they had no direction or purpose in life. Being emotionally dependent on their chemically dependent partners they were “codependent.”

Today we have a much broader understanding of this condition. The term codependent is used to describe an individual who is so preoccupied with others that his or her own life suffers or becomes unmanageable. Codependency is a futile attempt to deal with internals – fear, hurt, anger, insecurity – by trying to control externals – people, events, objects.

Compulsion is an old, familiar term rooted in the verb compel. A compulsion is a behavior we feel compelled to perform, repeated behavior patterns that are extremely resistant to change even though they cause numerous personal difficulties. Symptoms of an internal, emotional struggle, compulsions may take a variety of forms: gambling, criticizing, excessive shopping, nail biting, arguing, excessive hand washing, and lying are some examples.

Characteristics of Codependency. Having these problems does not mean we’re bad, defective or inferior. Some of us learned these behaviors as children. Other people learned them later in life. We may have learned some of these things from our interpretations of religion. Some women were taught these behaviors were desirable feminine attributes. Most of us started doing these things out of necessity to protect ourselves and meet our needs. We performed, felt, and thought these things to survive – emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically. We tried to understand and cope with our complex worlds in the best ways. We have done the best we could.

However, these self-protective devices may have outgrown their usefulness. Sometimes the things we do to protect ourselves turn on us and hurt us. They become self-destructive. Many codependents are barely surviving, and most aren’t getting their needs met. These characteristics are typical of codependency:

1. Discontentedness. The codependent lives with the sense that something is missing in his or her life. This chronic discontentment is the driving force behind much of his or her behavior.

2. Blame. The codependent consistently looks to others as a source for his or her own happiness. The resulting unmet expectations amplify discontentment. The codependent often feels like a victim and blames others for his or her circumstances.

3. Guilt. The codependent is inwardly self-critical and frequently feels guilty. Never feeling quite “good enough”, he or she minimizes or rejects compliments or praise. Nevertheless he or she has a low tolerance for criticism and is defensive when corrected. The codependent attempts to bolster his or her low self-concept by helping others.

4. Over-responsibility. The codependent takes unreasonable responsibility for others and feels compelled to solve other people’s problems. He or she is attracted to needy people and often feels empty without a problem to solve or someone to rescue.

5. Control. The codependent is consistently worried about and preoccupied with situations beyond his or her control. Control is a major motivation in the codependent’s life, and he or she attempts to control others through manipulation, blame, guilt, helplessness, threats, coercion, or directives. The codependent feels frustrated and angry when his or her attempts to control fail, and he or she in turns feels controlled by others.

6. Approval. The approval of others is very important to the codependent. He or she has a deep fear of rejection and abandonment and as a result says yes when meaning no, over commits and neglects his or her own needs. The codependent may compromise his or her values and preferences to avoid disapproval.

7. Extremes. The codependent’s lifestyle and relationships are a series of extremes, frequently involving other compulsions. He or she vacillates between love and hate, hoarding and spending, hot and cold, up and down. He or she may lack a sense of healthy balance in one or more life areas.

 

How Codependency Affects the Quality of your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often that needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others. While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible to others, the codependent becomes responsible for them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing. Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility. Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Codependency unchecked can take you right off the rails of what you want to achieve in your life, get in the way of goals and sabotage your dreams. And it’s all too easy to be completely unaware of it. This is because while distractions, toxic people and worthy-but-untimely things are outside of you, codependency is within you. Sometimes it’s just too close to see. But it is there, at least in small part, in most of us.

For example, you are late to your night class in the MBA track because a co-worker drops the ball and asks you to work late to bail him out. Or you want to take flying lessons, but your wife doesn’t like to try new things and prefers to stay at home. Since she feels lonely when you are gone, you stay home, which actually ends up being worse for the both of you. Or perhaps you feel guilty for the fact that your efforts at online dating are paying off, while your girlfriends are moping and complaining about their lack of prospects. So you hid your success from them, or even slow down the process.

Most of the time, the problem caters on the unhappiness of the other person. Since we care about them, we don’t want them to be sad, hurt, disappointed or unhappy. And that kind of care is a good thing. However, no one has ever yet made an unhappy person happy. You can’t take the emotions of another person and change them. You can help, love, accept, empathize, advise, challenge, confront and support. But at the end of the day, their feelings belong to them. So you must say no to enabling and rescuing behaviors. Life gets better and people become more successful when they are able to shoulder their own responsibilities.

When you start saying no to your own codependency, however, you will also find yourself saying no to people you have been rescuing. So be ready for some twinges of guilt. You may feel like the bad guy or fear that the other person will think badly of you. These feelings are normal; consider them part of the price of reaching your dreams. Just remember to stay loving and caring while respecting the line of responsibility. The guilty feelings should resolve in time, and you will become a freer person.

True Guilt and False Guilt — What’s the Difference?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

What’s The Difference Between True Guilt and False Guilt?

Question: How do I discern true guilt from false guilt? I want to please God and serve others for Him, but I don’t want to give in to manipulators, either in my family or my friends.

Answer:   If a manipulator can make you feel guilty for saying no, he or she is much more likely to be successful in getting you to back down. Their strategy is to make you feel as if you are doing something wrong or you are being selfish when you won’t do what he or she wants. A manipulator’s thinking is simple. He believes, “If you love me, then you’ll always do what I want.” Therefore, if you say no, then you must not love me or you are selfish.

A two-year-old uses this tactic on his mother to get her to buy them something while standing in line at the grocery store. Most mothers are wise enough not to be manipulated by these tantrums. We know that a firm “no” to our child is the most loving thing we can do. The same is true for other relationships. Saying no to manipulation is actually taking a stand against someone else’s sin. This is a good thing.

However, when the manipulator is not our child, but our mother or husband or adult child, it’s much harder not to get sucked into his or her drama. It doesn’t help that they often accuse us of being unloving and selfish because we are not giving into their demands, and consequently, we’re tempted to feel guilty.

So what’s the way out? Let’s first look at Jesus. He never sinned, never was selfish yet he did say, “no.” He didn’t always do what people expected or wanted him to do. Jesus took time out for friendship, rest, relaxation, and prayer (Mark 6:30-31,46). When you feel guilty because you’ve said no to someone, take a moment to read Mark 1:29-39.

In this passage, we learn that Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house for a relaxing dinner, but people brought the sick to Jesus and the whole town gathered at the door. Can you imagine the pressure Jesus felt with everyone pressing in on him to do something? That evening he healed many people, but he eventually said no more and went to sleep. Those who were left behind unhealed must have felt disappointed.

While it was still dark, Jesus woke up and went off by himself to pray. Peter eventually came looking for him. “Jesus, where have you been? Everyone back home is waiting for you.” Jesus answered Peter saying, “I’m not going back to your house. Let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Jesus knew he could not do everything everyone wanted him to do and still do what God wanted him to do. During that quiet time of prayer, Jesus asked the Father to help him discern between the good things and the best things. Just like we do, Jesus had to make some hard choices – to please God or to please others. He chose pleasing God. This priority regularly cost him the disapproval and disappointment of others, including his disciples, religious leaders, and his own family (see Matthew 26:8; Mark 3:21-22).

To break free from the guilt trip, we must all learn to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt is a God-given warning signal that we are violating God’s moral law. False guilt arises when we or another human being judges our actions, ideas, or feelings as wrong, even if there is nothing sinful about them.

So next time you’re struggling with guilt, do these three things.

  1. Go to God’s word for clarity. Am I breaking God’s moral law or is it some other human being’s law such as “Thou shall never say no to me”?
  2. Invite the Holy Spirit to search you and see if there is any wicked way in you (Psalm 139:23-24). You may find you have more guilt over feeling angry and resentful that you said “yes” when you wanted to say “no” than you would have if you had just said “no” in the first place.
  3. Ask yourself this question. If I say “yes,” am I saying, “yes” because I want to or because God asks me to? Or do I feel I pressured to say “yes” because I’m afraid to say “no”?

Remember, you are a finite, limited human being. When you say “yes” to something, you also always say “no” to something else.

When you repeatedly say “yes” to a manipulator, keep in mind that you are also saying “no” to your own needs, to perhaps your children’s needs, or to the greater good of what God wants for you. When you accept that you can’t always make everyone happy with you, (Jesus couldn’t either) then the false guilt will dissipate.

Q&A: Am I Enabling Or Being Godly Wife?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: I would like to have you explain what “enabling” the emotionally abusive person means? The balance of walking the Christian walk, submitting to my husband but not enabling is a very difficult line to draw. I don’t feel I enable, and my husband is not physically or verbally abusive, but he is emotionally abusive, without knowing it, even though I have tried to raise his awareness of it. The Christians I confide in say that I am an enabler, but I do not like that term and I don’t feel I am. Can you clarify?

Answer: It’s difficult to hear people tell us something about ourselves we don’t believe is true. And, you’re right sometimes it is a fine line. It might be helpful for you to ask them what they see in you that make them think you enable your husband’s emotional abuse. But let me ask you to look for a few red flags that might indicate enabling behavior.

1. Do you ever lie, cover up, or make excuses for your husband’s emotionally abusive behaviors? You might believe you have a very good reason like you don’t want to embarrass him or disrespect him by calling it what it is, but right now, just be honest with yourself.

Sometimes we think that this is our duty or responsibility as a submissive wife or godly person to cover up sin, but I don’t believe God wants us to exchange the truth for a lie or call evil good.We can speak the truth with a gentle spirit and in love (with their best interests in mind).

The apostle Paul says that we are to having nothing to do with the unfruitful deeds of darkness but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). When abuse remains hidden and secret, it flourishes.

2. Do you do regularly change your behaviors, stuff your feelings, or guard what you say just to keep the peace, prevent an argument, or make him happy?

Again in any marriage there is a fair amount of give and take and at certain times for good reasons we might do any of the above. But when we are the one who is doing most of the accommodating or significantly changing who we are or stuffing how we feel then the relationship is unhealthy.

For example, perhaps your husband is insecure and jealous. For these reasons he does not want you to work, or go to Bible study, or even go to the mall without him. To accommodate such controlling demands actually enables his insecurity and jealousy to flourish, not to change and heal. That’s where the fine line between submission and enabling starts to blur. Do you submit to your husband’s demands to stay home all the time or it actually better and healthier for you, for him, and for your marriage to challenge them?

3. Are you doing things for your husband that he should be doing for himself?

Again in marriage, there are times spouses do extra and do favors for one another. But when you are the one doing the most of the work and your spouse is not sharing those responsibilities, you are enabling him to be selfish, lazy, and indifferent.

4. Are you taking the responsibility or blame for things that you are not responsible for. For example, when your husband loses his temper and says “if only you were more organized, or more submissive, or cooked better, or didn’t upset him” do you enable him to blame shift and make you responsible for his bad behaviors?

In each of these things, you cannot change your husband. You may be doing all you can and he still may be abusive. You can’t make him help you, or take responsibility for his own emotional outbursts, or be more secure and less threatened.

I don’t know your particular story or what your spouse is doing that you feel is emotionally abusive, but you can and must look at the part you play in enabling his behaviors to flourish and grow without protest or consequence.

Confronting Discontentment in My Marriage

SOURCE:  Jennifer Smith/Family Life

 I had a plethora of marriage expectations that were formed as far back as early childhood. Many of those expectations were veiled, hidden in the deep places of my heart. For years I justified my notions of life and marriage, unaware of the devastating effects of those expectations if left unmet.

Entering marriage with such high expectations set my husband and me up for ruin. For example, trusting in my husband to be my everything was one of the most detrimental ways I hurt our marriage. I set my husband up for failure when I expected him to fulfill me completely.

When I wanted to feel worthy, I sought my worthiness in my husband. When I wanted to feel loved unconditionally, I sought love from my husband. When I wanted to feel comforted, cherished, validated, or encouraged, I sought those things in my husband and only in my husband. However, because my husband is human and prone to sin, inevitably he let me down and could not fulfill my needs completely. And in those times, I felt unworthy and unloved.

While some expectations are good—for example, I expect my husband to be faithful to me—when they move into unrealistic and unattainable places, they become destructive. My expectations were so lofty they hurt him. Aaron could never be my everything—he was never designed to be! And whenever I tried to make him fit that role, I unintentionally placed him as an idol above God, believing that he had the capacity to do more for me than God Himself.

With the strain Aaron and I were experiencing, we tended to be overly sensitive to conflict. It did not take much for us to offend each other, and I am embarrassed to admit I took advantage of retaliating when I felt I deserved something I was not receiving. When I became aware of any opportunity to point out fault, I didn’t hesitate to blame him. I complained about our living situation, about not having enough, about having only one car, about our finances, about our sexless life, about my husband’s flaws, about work, about anything I deemed worthy of complaint. Those unmet expectations flowed over into discontentment, which too often I nursed in my heart.

Not only did discontentment grow, but pride did as well, which grew into a sense of entitlement: I deserve better than this. And that mentality seeped not only into my marriage, but into my relationship with God. Unmet expectations of God’s role in my life lit a fire of anger within me. I believed being a daughter of the King meant that I would receive the best of everything. When it seemed as if God didn’t intervene, that anger spread like wildfire, consuming everything inside me, including my faith. I had high expectations for God to do the things I wanted, unable to grasp that God was more concerned about my character than my comfort. But in the midst of my pain and self-centered complaining, I exhausted my husband and I believe I saddened God.

After I spent several years repeating this same offense and suffering the consequences, God opened my eyes to the destruction of unmet expectations. God needed to transform me. He could do that only as I humbled myself and let go of my unrealistic and unmet expectations. Each time God humbled me, He used that experience to mold my attitude and character to reflect that of Christ and to shape my expectations to more closely align with His, which in all honesty are better than what I could ever dream of.

The transformation I underwent didn’t happen immediately. Rather, the process was spread out over time as I sought to know God and make myself known to Him—a process that continues to mature me every day.

Joy and contentment defend me from the barrage of unmet expectations. If I don’t have joy, those notions wreak havoc in my heart, turning it against the ones I love. I know because it happened countless times. It took me years of suffering and loathing in self-pity, guilt, and brokenness even to begin to understand the power of pure joy.

Joy springs up where contentment thrives, and contentment is produced through sincere thankfulness. The greatest constant I have found to help sustain me and give me strength and hope, no matter what the circumstance, is to cling to the joy of the Lord. God’s Word tells me, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).

God taught me how to be thankful by sharing specific things I am grateful for with God and with my husband. As thankfulness fills my heart to the brim with contentment, I find myself living with extraordinary joy, regardless of unmet expectations or circumstances or past hurts.

God showed me the value of being a wife of faith, a wife who trusts Him wholeheartedly, who is confident of her worthiness and purpose. I choose to be a wife who believes she can change and believes her husband can be transformed into the man God designed him to be, and I choose to strive to affirm him in truthfulness.

I desire to be a wife of faith who can persevere no matter the circumstance because she is full of hope, which is the foundation of her motivation. I believe as I choose to walk in the Spirit, love will pour out and bless my marriage. With God’s help I can endure. I can have a thriving marriage. But it requires faith and hope.

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Taken from The Unveiled Wife, copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Smith.

 

The Codependency Checklist: Am I In A Codependent Relationship?

SOURCE:  June Hunt

The Codependency Checklist Test

Are you unsure about someone who is significant in your life? Is it possible that you are in a relationship that others would call “codependent”? If so, how would you know? Read through the Codependency Checklist and make a check mark (√) by what is applicable to you.

□ Do you struggle with feeling loved; therefore, you look for ways to be needed?

□ Do you want to throw all of your energy into helping someone else?

□ Do you say yes when you really want to say no?

□ Do you feel compelled to take charge of another person’s crisis?

□ Do you feel drawn to others who seem to need to be rescued from their problems?

□ Do you have difficulty setting and keeping boundaries?

□ Do you find it difficult to identify and express your true feelings?

□ Do you rely on the other person to make most of the decisions in your relationship?

□ Do you feel lonely, sad, and empty when you are alone?

□ Do you feel threatened when the other person spends time with someone else?

□ Do you think the other person’s opinion is more important than your opinion?

□ Do you refrain from speaking in order to keep peace?

□ Do you fear conflict because the other person could abandon you?

□ Do you become defensive about your relationship with the other person?

□ Do you feel “stuck” in the relationship with the other person?

□ Do you feel that you have lost your personal identity in order to “fit into” the other person’s world?

□ Do you feel controlled and manipulated by the other person?

□ Do you feel used and taken advantage of by the other person?

□ Do you plan your life around the other person?

□ Do you prioritize your relationship with the other person over your relationship with the Lord?

If you responded with a yes to four or more of these questions, you may be involved in a codependent relationship!

When we find ourselves in unhealthy patterns of relating, we need to change our focus, change our goals, and change what is hindering us from running the race God has planned for us. Our primary focus should be not on a person but on Jesus.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
(Hebrews 12:1)

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Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Codependency: Balancing an Unbalanced Relationship (p. 10). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

8 Signs You’re a Codependent

SOURCE:  Elements Behavioral Health

Many people who love an alcoholic or addict begin to lose themselves in the relationship. They frequently struggle to control or change the person they love and after a while they become reactive and may barely be able to remember their own goals and dreams. In many cases, loving an addict affects people to their core and overtakes their lives.

When this happens, the addict is no longer the only sick person in the relationship. The other person has developed a disorder called codependency.

How do you know if you have developed this disorder? One way to describe it is that codependency is an unhealthy way of relating in which you have made your relationship more important than your own well-being. You may not be addicted to drugs or alcohol yourself, but you are addicted to the addict. You revolve your life around drama and unpredictability. You forget how to focus on anything except the addict.

There are many other characteristics of people who are codependent. You may have all of these characteristics or only one or two.

  • Low self-esteem – Codependents often don’t feel very good about themselves, and they look outside themselves for someone to let them know they are OK. People may feel unlovable deep down even if they appear to be self-assured. 
  • Strong nurturing tendencies – If you like taking care of other people and tend to put their needs ahead of your own, you may have a problem with codependency. You may put a lot of energy into fixing other people, solving their problems or trying to do things for them that they should do for themselves.
  • Desire to be in control – What do codependents get out of remaining in dysfunctional relationships? In many cases, they have a strong desire to be in control. By taking care of an addict or another person who appears incapable of managing his or her own life, the codependent gets to run the show.
  • Desire to be pleasing others – If you’re a codependent, you may spend a lot of time desperately seeking approval from other people. You may bail the addict out of his problems or lie for him or try to solve all of his problems because you don’t know how else to get love.
  • Being reactive – Are you a bundle of emotions all the time? Do you spend a lot of time and energy imagining the worst possible outcome of things that happen? Do you find yourself reacting to what you think other people are thinking? If you are a codependent, you may fly off the handle because you think someone gave you a “dirty look,” or you may pick up on emotions that other people are feeling because you are so other-centered.
  • Failure to set healthy boundaries – You may have a hard time distinguishing where other people end and you begin. You may obsess about other people’s problems as if they were your own.
  • Dependence – If you are a codependent, the thought of not having someone to revolve your life around feels like the end of the world. You may have a strong fear of abandonment, or you may panic at the thought of rejection. You may remain in a painful or abusive relationship because you are terribly afraid of being alone.
  • Often experiencing negative emotions – You may be filled with a lot of negative emotions. You may be sad, angry, depressed, resentful, fearful, irritable or anxious. Life may seem to be full of one disappointment after another and you may feel hopeless. Or you may be so weary of feeling negative emotions that you have learned to numb out your feelings.

Codependents often deny that they have any kind of a disorder. They believe their problems are caused by others, so they continually obsess about fixing the other person. But if you’re a codependent, the only person you can fix is you.

If you recognize yourself in some of these behaviors, consider attending a meeting, try Codependents Anonymous or Al-Anon. You can also approach a therapist or minister to talk about your behavior patterns or struggles. Recognizing that you have a problem with codependency is the first step toward self-love and healing. 

Codependency and Relationship Dependency

SOURCE: Excerpted from  Jeff  VanVonderen – Families Where Grace is in Place

CODEPENDENCY

On a recent talk show, I heard a man who had the dream of becoming a professional athlete in a certain sport. He spent up to eight hours a day, six days a week, playing that sport. He had no job. He had no real marriage. His relationship with his kids was nonexistent. The family was in danger of losing the house and all of their possessions. Audience members accused him of lacking respect for his family. He was appalled. He just liked to play his sport.

Members of the audience also accused him of preferring to play rather than work. He admitted it. He just wanted to play. As far as he was concerned, if he could just play six days a week without having to listen to the gripes of his family, life would be just fine.

This scenario recalled for me a book I’d read entitled The Peter Pan Syndrome.1 It was written to help women who thought they had married a man, when really they had married a “Pan.” You will recall that Peter Pan and the lost boys lived in Never Never Land, where no one ever had to grow up. They just played all day long, going from one incredible adventure to another. The gentleman on the show was very much like a lost boy.

As incredibly out of touch as this man was, my attention was drawn to his wife.

While she hated his lifestyle, she funded it. She believed him when he said he respected her, even though all of his actions communicated blatant disrespect. Where he fell short, she took up the slack. Why was she willing to waste her entire life playing “Wendy” to the “Peter Pan” in her husband? She was obviously the smartest, most capable of the two. Yet she lived as if she had no life without him.

Why?

Because she was a codependent—that is, stuck in a controlling, rescuing relationship that was wearing her out. And the model she provided for her kids, about how to have an adult relationship, was every bit as dysfunctional as that of her husband.

As I said earlier, codependency is another word for relationship dependency. At its very core, it is a spiritual idolatry. Remember, idolatry occurs when one person turns to anything or anyone besides God in order to gain life, security, and value. In a codependent relationship, God is not the source. Pat Springle, Senior Vice-President of Rapha Hospital Treatment Centers, defines codependency as “a compulsion to control and rescue people by fixing their problems.” The codependent needs the loved one to be “fixed” in order to feel good about themselves or as an attempt to have their own unmet needs satisfied.

It is never your job or mine to protect our loved ones from bad news. We can, instead, support them as they learn to cope with the tough challenges of life. We do not have to sacrifice our own needs, feelings, or values as we try to help others with theirs. We can take care of ourselves and be resources to our loved ones as they learn to be responsible for their own needs.

You don’t have to live in ways that are codependent. If you are not able to stop, get help. Living this way will enable those around you to stay sick or irresponsible.

 

Relationship Addictions

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP)

When we think of addiction, our minds usually turn to thoughts of substance abuse. However, relationship addictions are just as real; and can be devastating. There are several types of such addictions.

Here are a few:

Emotionally dependent relationship: a relationship in which you are so attached to another person that you are controlled by that person’s moods to the point of being overwhelmed.

Physically dependent relationship: a relationship in which you are physically dependent on another person, especially in the area of physical attraction. You become obsessed with spending time with him or her.

Spiritually dependent relationship: a relationship in which you have no spiritual identity or relationship with God apart from your relationship with another person. You depend on this other person to define your walk with God.

Codependent relationship: a relationship in which another person’s misbehavior is affecting your sense of well-being, and you become obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.

Codependent relationships are major distractions. Today’s scripture reminds us we are to look away from all distractions and focus on Jesus. May these thoughts encourage you to identify distractions in your life and turn your focus fully on Jesus.

God, my life is out of control. I do believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me, and help me turn from my sin and trust in Jesus. I cannot do this alone. I need you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

A PRAYER FOR WISDOM ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONS

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

   If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Dear heavenly Father, what a great Scripture with which to begin (and continue) this day.

I praise you for the free, full, and perpetual access we enjoy with you, all because you’ve declared us to be perfectly righteous in Jesus. And I praise you that as we come seeking wisdom, we’re kissed by your welcome and inundated with your generosity.

Indeed, Father, I need your wisdom about a few matters that confuse me, all of them having to do with relationships.

I need you to show me the difference between a costly investment in people’s lives, versus co-dependent entanglement and enmeshment. I know that loving well—as Jesus loves us, always requires more than we’d easily give, but I’m not always sure what that looks like.

I need wisdom for knowing the difference between rightly validating the emotions of those I love versus wrongly taking responsibility for their emotions. My broken default mode is to try to “fix” people; but I know you’re not calling me to fix anyone, but to love everyone. Grant me wisdom, dear Father; grant me wisdom.

I need wisdom, Father, about my own emotional world. The emotion of anger has always confused and threatened me. Help me to know when the anger I feel is nothing more than my selfishness on display. Help me to know when to express appropriate anger in ways consistent with the gospel. Help me to listen and understand the emotion of anger in others, and not rush to judgment or rush out of their story too fast.

Father, just praying this prayer stirs up many other thoughts and feelings inside my heart. My joy is in knowing that we can keep this conversation going throughout the day. My great joy is in knowing that you will give us the wisdom we need, and you will do so generously. My even greater joy comes from resting in the gift of your Son, Jesus—”who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30)

So very Amen I pray, in his mighty and merciful name.

Enabling: Allow Consequences To Work

SOURCE:  Living Free

“The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.” Luke 15:12-13 NLT

Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior. Enabling behaviors may actually hinder what God is doing in our loved one’s life.

In Luke 5:11-32, we learn that the father of the prodigal son understood the dangers of enablement. The prodigal son chose to take his part of the inheritance and leave home. He went to a distant country and wasted his wealth. Finally, out of money and working in a field feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go home and ask his father’s forgiveness.

Although it had been painful to see his son leave, the prodigal’s father allowed him to be responsible for his own actions … all the while, praying for him and waiting to receive him with open arms when he returned. But in the meantime, the father did not send care packages to the pigpen.

When the son recognized his sin and confessed it, his father welcomed him home and showered him with mercy and love.

It is vital that we don’t try to deliver our loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions, but instead allow God to work his perfect plan in their lives.

Father, help me not to interfere with your plan for my loved one’s life. Help me not “jump to the rescue” when I should stay back and trust you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 

 Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Codependency Self-Test

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

[This test was taken with permission from Breakthrough by Tim Clinton & Pat Springle (2012) Worthy Publishing.]

Indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

1. I am in a significant relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance or a behavior, someone who is depressed, or someone who is very needy.           Yes___ No___

2. I often feel the weight of responsibility for others’ happiness and well being. Yes___ No___

3. I can’t say “no” without feeling guilty. Yes___ No___

4. I can accurately “read” other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice. Yes___ No___

5. When I am able to fix others’ problems, I feel strong and valuable. Yes___ No___

6. I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted, out-of-control, or depressed person in my life. Yes___ No___

7. I live in such a way that no one can ever say I’m selfish. Yes___ No___

8. I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at him or her. Yes___ No___

9. I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done more or spoken better to relieve stress and solve problems.                   Yes___ No___

10. I feel very frightened of angry people. Yes___ No___

11. I am quite offended by personal criticism. Yes___ No___

12. To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me. Yes___ No___

13. I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad.” Yes___ No___

14. Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone. Yes___ No___

15. I trust people too much or not at all. Yes___ No___

16. I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.                    Yes___ No___

17. I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises, even if he or she has broken countless promises before. Yes___ No___

18. Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed, and ambivalent. Yes___ No___

19. I often give advice, even when it isn’t requested. Yes___ No___

20. I tend to confuse love with pity, and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems. Yes___ No___

21. I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy. Yes___ No___

22. I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships. Yes___ No___

23. I am looking for somebody who will love me completely and unconditionally. Yes___ No___

24. My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life. Yes___ No___

Total:     Yes___     No___

—If you answered “yes” to 4 or fewer statements, you probably have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence, and wisdom in relationships. You can care about people without feeling responsible for their choices.

—If you answered “yes” to 5-12 statements, your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You often feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones. You would benefit from the input of a competent counselor or support group.

—If you answered “yes” to 13 or more statements, you have lost your sense of identity, and you are consumed by the problems of addicted or depressed people in your life. You can’t be happy unless you are rescuing irresponsible people from their destructive decisions. In reality, however, your hope for sanity and emotional health is not in that person getting well. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not. Find a counselor or support group to help you gain wisdom and strength.

Some common characteristics of codependency include:

  • worry or anxiety
  • “bending over backwards” to take care of others
  • not knowing or not trusting one’s own feelings
  • feeling guilty for “not doing enough”
  • feeling isolated or depressed
  • staying in bad relationships (or sabotaging potentially good ones)
  • trouble with emotional connection and intimacy
  • workaholism
  • sexual problems
  • lack of energy
  • low self-esteem
  • inability to set boundaries
  • perfectionism
  • inability to share (or experience) feelings (emotionally numb)
  • striving for achievement (at any cost)

Codependency Is Painful

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6 NIV

Codependents live in a pain-filled world of shame and fear.

They often suffer emotional stress that may result in health problems.

To cope with this pain, they sometimes make poor decisions that lead to personal addictions of their own or other harmful behaviors like extramarital affairs. They may even lose faith in God. The one they are trying to help cannot give them support, so they lose trust and shut down their feelings. Because they are hiding the problem, they cannot talk to anyone.

They are not helping their loved one; in fact, they are enabling him or her to continue the misbehavior. And they are hurting themselves.

The simplest definition of codependency is “to be dependent along with.”

That does not mean we necessarily use the same substances or participate in the same kinds of behaviors. What it does imply is being so deeply drawn into another person’s life that we are filled with guilt and blame and other downgrading thoughts.

But that is not who we are . . .

We must remember that our significance is in Christ. Only in him can we find healing from the pain. Only through him can we be free and confident. Learning to live out the reality of who we are in Christ begins with making a choice: Whom will we honor? After making that choice, we will have to practice putting that reality to work in our lives.

Father, I have been in so much pain. Guilt and frustration have overwhelmed me. I need you. I do know that my only hope is in you. Jesus is my rock and my salvation. I am special because of your love for me. Help me remember that as I keep my eyes on you, I cannot be shaken. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

I Can’t FIX… It…Him…Her………

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6 NLT

Some of us—if not all of us—have known the frustration of being caught up in a situation we can’t control and can’t fix.

Are you suffering pressures, stress and pain from dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem?

Those pressures are very real, but even in the middle of that frustration and tension, you need to believe that there is hope.

This kind of hope can be described as the confident expectation of something good. It is hope based on our knowledge of God and his willingness to meet us right where we are. He is here now and is ready to work in us and in our difficult circumstances.

If you are not already doing so, determine to begin spending regular time praying and studying the Bible. When feelings of hopelessness fill your mind, go to God in prayer. Ask him for his strength. Ask him to bring to mind the promises you have studied from the Bible. Ask him to work his will and his plan in your life and in the life of your loved one. He loves you and he will meet your need.

Lord, thank you for this reminder that there is always hope if I am willing to trust in you. You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Dealing With Consequences of a Loved One’s Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free/Jimmy Ray Lee

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

Dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem is difficult.

Pain, stress and frustration often build up to an overload level. Living in that overload condition can do harm. It can affect our emotional and physical health—virtually everything in our lives.

In order to avoid this state of overload, we must believe that there is hope. Not hope in our loved ones’ ability to overcome the problem on their own. Not hope in our own ability to fix the problem. As much as we may want to, we can’t take charge and make things right.

There is only one real hope—faith in Jesus Christ. 

Faith in his love—he cares greatly about where we are and what we need. 

Faith in his power—he is able to deliver us from the fears and stress. 

Faith in his plan for us—he has a plan for our future that will not harm us, but will prosper us.

God won’t force our loved ones to change, but he will help them when they are ready to reach out to him. In the meantime, he will comfort and strengthen us. Ask him to help you approach each day with an attitude that confidently expects him to do good things in your life and in the lives of those you care about.

Father, sometimes I really do feel as though I am running on overload. Thank you for reminding me that I don’t have to—that I am not alone. Teach me to trust Jesus instead of being overcome with worry. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. 

Our Choice: People-pleasing or God-pleasing

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Are You a People-Pleaser or God-Pleaser?

For many of us, fear of people’s opinions is so deeply ingrained in our minds and our hearts that it’s woven into the daily fabric of our lives and decision-making. Fear debilitates us in multiple ways and in so many relationships. Fear of bodily harm forms a blatant impact. But although it’s common when we are children, it is fairly uncommon within adult relationships, except for the tragedy of domestic violence.

Fear of others creeps up on most adults in more subtle ways. Like the fear of being rejected … or being left out … being rejected … or looking foolish to another person … being judged as incompetent … or just not being valued. We never set out to be afraid of these things. But because of past hurts or mistakes, these anxieties secretively, but powerfully, warp our relational lenses. Our fears can affect our relationships with those very close to us like our spouses, and also how we act in front of total strangers.

While trying to be a “people-pleaser” may appear harmless on the surface, it can create crippling fear. Elevating other’s assessment of us to idol status, worshipping it, is what we are actually doing. People-pleasing usually requires us to compromise truthful, healthy functioning and replace it with dysfunctional, distorted processing and behavior. Often, we ultimately choose to please others and displease God, instead of displeasing others to please God. Fear of displeasing others allows this downward spiral to accelerate and we then feel out of control, because we have given control and power of our life-steering mechanism to the people whose positive opinions we crave.

Today, watch you interactions with others. How much of your conduct is shaped by wanting to please them? Do you think about what God wants from you in that situation? Begin replacing the fear of displeasing others with the sadness of displeasing the One who faced total rejection and death for you, Your Lord. Make pleasing Him your highest priority. In general, we try to please people so that they will give us what we want … approval, value, importance, hope, love, acceptance, forgiveness, destiny, safety, or comfort. Turn your trust to God who is the only source of providing all these things, and so much more…everyday. Whether your goal is to please God or instead, the dysfunctional requests and needs of peers is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I am just beginning to realize just how fearful I am of others. I confess, Father, to being a “people-pleaser.” I am too concerned about displeasing others and looking foolish in their eyes. Help free me of this fear, Father, by developing a deeper trust in You. I know that trusting in others is risky while trusting in You is safe. I know that You have everything I need…that Your riches will never run short. Father, I desire deeply to change and to eliminate my fear of others. I pray in the name of the one who was rejected by the world to please You, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”   John 6:20

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.   Proverbs 29:25

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?  But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Daniel 3:13,14,17,18

I Can’t Fix Your Problem

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:5 NLT

Do you sometimes feel as though your life centers around the problems of someone you care about?

It is vital for us to give up ownership of our loved ones. We should continue to pray and to care, but not make their problems ours. It is important that we don’t take away their personal responsibility. They must understand that their choices bring consequences. Although the Bible encourages us to help each other, it also makes the fact clear that each person is responsible for his or her own actions.

Take steps to remove yourself from the control your loved one has over you. Stop building your life around their dysfunctional lifestyle. Don’t let them control your walk with God, your relationship with other family and friends, church attendance, employment performance, or any other part of your life.

The Bible tells us to put God at the center of our lives. Keep an active prayer life. Get involved in a Bible-believing church. Participate in a Christ-centered support group where you can receive love and friendship.

Keep the communication lines open with cards, notes, letters and calls to let your loved one know you are there to help them find help. But they must make the decision to change.

Facing the consequences of their actions and seeing you model God’s love will help them learn to build a healthy relationship with God, themselves and others.

Father, I have been feeling so frustrated and stressed from trying to fix my loved one’s problems. Thank you for this reminder that we are all responsible for our own actions. Help me to love and encourage without trying to control.
In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Helping Others By Taking Care Of Yourself FIRST!

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” 1 Peter 5:7 AMP

When trying to help a loved one struggling with a life-controlling problem, we need to be aware of the “Three C’s”: cause, control and cure.

We did not cause our loved ones’ problems. They are responsible for the choices that led to where they are, no matter what the circumstances may have been.

We cannot control our loved ones’ problems. As much as we might want to, we cannot fix them—only God can do that. Accepting this fact of powerlessness is the first step toward recovery for you as a helper.

We cannot cure our loved one’s problems, but the Bible tells us that Jesus cares and we can trust him to help us through any situation.

We must commit our struggling friend or loved one into God’s care.

The best way we can help others is to take steps to get and keep our own life on the right path. As we trust God and make him the center of our life, he will take care of the rest.

Lord, I’m beginning to realize that I can’t fix my loved one’s problems, but it’s so hard to let go. Help me turn all my anxieties, all my worries, all my concerns over to you once and for all. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Supporting or Enabling — Discerning the Difference

SOURCE:  Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Proverbs 19:19 NIV

When someone we love is in the grip of a harmful substance or behavior, we naturally want to help. In spite of our best intentions, our efforts are sometimes harmful rather than helpful. Enabling is good intentions gone wrong.

Enabling allows people to continue in their self-destructive behaviors without feeling the painful consequences that might convince them to stop before the problem spirals out of control. Today’s Scripture cautions us that if we rescue a person from the consequences of his or her choices, we’ll just have to do it again … and again.

Do you find yourself covering up the behavior of a friend or loved one, or bailing them out of jail? You might make excuses for them or even blame yourself for their problem. And it’s very easy to give them “one more chance” over and over again. These are common examples of enabling.

Our responsibility to our troubled loved ones is to be supportive. We need to empathize but not fix. To encourage but not protect. We must allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions and not rescue them. To confront them with truth, but not try to control. All of us need to look at whether we are helping … or harming … the struggling people in our lives. And then we can begin the process of being a supporter instead of an enabler. We need to “let go and let God.”

Lord, it’s so hard not to fix my loved one’s problems. But when I come to the rescue instead of letting him suffer the consequences of his actions, I do find that I have to come to the rescue again and again. Nothing really gets fixed. Teach me to be a supporter instead of an enabler. Help me to trust you more. In Jesus’ name …

 

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Fixing Problems or Trusting God

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 AMP

Life-controlling problems are things that master our lives … things like addictions, destructive behaviors and even certain types of relationships.

Is someone you care about struggling with a life-controlling problem? Do you want to help? That’s wonderful … but it’s vital for you to realize what you can—and can’t—do.

In order to help your loved one, you must examine yourself to see if you are experiencing the “Messiah Complex” … and rid yourself of it if you are. The Messiah Complex describes the situation when we want to see a person receive help so much that we take on the role of God. Our goal should be to trust God versus please God by fixing the problem; otherwise, we may find ourselves driven by guilt and hopelessly resigned to making things happen on our own.

God doesn’t want us to take on God-sized problems. He wants us to trust him. We simply need to take a deep breath and realize that he is God.

Are you in a frenzy of confusion? You want to help but nothing you try seems to work? Feeling frustrated, and maybe even a little frantic? Take time out to “Be still and know that I am God.”

He is power … he is all-knowing … he is love … he is able.

Lord, I get in such a frenzy sometimes trying to fix everything myself. And it just doesn’t work. Help me to remember to be still … to be calm … and to know, really know, that you are God. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Q&A: My Husband is Draining Our Finances With His Addiction. I Don’t Know What to Do.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question: I need help as to what to do with my marriage. We have been married 25 years and, in that time, I have dealt with my husband being an alcoholic with two DUI’S and then his arrest for prescription fraud.

He stopped drinking, but then put pills in its place. He takes hydrocodone and soma for back problems, but he doesn’t just take the 2 per day as prescribed. He takes a lot more. When he ran out, he started buying more from other people and now also buys Xanax. He tells me that he doesn’t buy anything from other people, but I know he is lying. He writes a check for gas everyday which I know he uses to get cash back to do who knows what with.

Because of all this mess, we filed bankruptcy but still can’t get ahead. We are 3 months behind on house payments and just about 2 months behind on regular utility bills. I’ve dealt with all this for a long time. I have told him what I don’t like about it, but he says that all I do is get on him about everything. I know I do, but after so long of just holding things inside, I let it out on him.

I know I shouldn’t constantly tell him what he is doing wrong, but he has put us in a financial mess, and now I’m not sure what to do about staying married. Please help! I’m lost as to what to do and how to handle things.

I love my husband and want my marriage to work, but he is making it very difficult for me to love as I once did. I have a lot of bitterness, anger and even hatred in my heart for all that has happened. I’m constantly repenting for my feelings and don’t want to feel that way. He says he will take pills for his pain till the day he dies, and that I need to just deal with it. And, after about 13 years of not drinking, he has started to drink again. It’s only a couple a day, but an alcoholic shouldn’t go back to drinking should they? I also recently found a joint in his truck. I flushed it, and he got furious at me. He said it helped relieve his pain and said no one understands the amount of pain he is in. I just don’t know what to do anymore. He keeps spending money like crazy and doesn’t leave enough for me to pay bills.

He spends more money than we have in our checkbook, so then we have to catch up and pay NSF fees. I don’t want to lose my marriage or house, etc., but I have also been doing a lot of praying and soul searching as to whether I want to live the rest of my life like this. Thank you so much for your time and any help you can give me.

Answer: One of the most important things you must do if you want help is first distinguish the difference between your husband’s problem and your problem.

Your husband is an addict and is self-medicating to deal with his pain. That’s his problem, and he’s chosen to go outside the boundaries of his doctor or a pain management specialist to cope with this pain problem. You may have some influence in how he deals with his problem, but whether or not he changes or gets the help he needs will be up to him. You cannot fix or solve his problem as much as you want to or as much as you love him.

However your problem is that you don’t like living this way. You don’t like the financial havoc and chronic deceitfulness you live with every day. You don’t like the anger he displays when you try to express your concerns. You struggle with bitterness, hatred and resentment because of all this chaos. That is your problem.

When you can clarify the difference between his problem (which you apparently have zero influence over right now) and your problem, then you can work on your problem.

First, what do you need to do to get more financial stability? For example, do you work? Do you need to put your paycheck into a separate bank account that he does not have access to? Does he work? If not, where is he getting his access to money to buy drugs and write checks every day? If you are enabling that, you can choose to stop doing that by separating your money and not giving him access to it.

Will that make him angry? Yes, but it will help with your financial problems. However that doesn’t solve the marital problems. His sole focus is on himself right now which is true of anyone who is an addict. He’s not thinking of anything other than getting his drugs. Whether or not he’s in as much pain as he claims, we don’t know. Certainly pain is difficult to live with, and you can have compassion for his struggle with pain. But instead of trying to solve his problems in a healthy way, he is resorting to his own ways.

To let go of resentment and anger involves having compassion for a person who is so lost and desperate that he (or she) would do things that have such detrimental consequences, just to get a high–or get rid of pain–whether it is physical and/or emotional pain. However, being compassionate does not mean you have to cooperate or enable his dysfunction to continue to impact your life in detrimental ways. If you can cut off the funding for his drug use, perhaps that will motivate him to seek appropriate help for his pain as well as his addiction.

To get healthy, you will need to create some distance from him financially, emotionally as well as perhaps physically, so that the consequences of his foolishness don’t keep landing at your feet. He’s had two DUI’s and an arrest for prescription fraud. Now he’s buying drugs on the street. How does he drive with two DUI’S? Does he have a valid driver’s license or is he just driving without one? Why does he have access to a vehicle when he is taking drugs and now drinking alcohol much of the time? Who is paying for the upkeep of the car insurance, gasoline, repairs, etc.? Are you? If so, you must stop. If you can’t stop, you need to get help for yourself to be strong enough to set and keep good boundaries. Otherwise you are enabling him to continue to do what he does.

I’m asking you tough questions not to make you feel bad, but for you to recognize that you do not have to continue being a victim and enabler of your spouse’s foolishness. In the Bible, we learn about Abigail who was married to a surly and foolish man. When he made a bad decision, she overruled it and did the right thing (1 Samuel 25). I understand that for many women it’s hard to stand strong, create boundaries and still stay compassionate. If you’re having trouble doing that, get some help for yourself. Go to Celebrate Recovery, attend Al-Anon meetings or seek a counselor to give you the support you need.

Only Jesus Can Change A Heart — I Can’t

SOURCE:  Living Free

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

If your child … or someone else you care about … is struggling with a life-controlling problem, the goal should be to place that person in God’s hands and allow Him to work with your loved one on His time frame. As much as we might want to, we cannot manipulate or demand that a person change—only Jesus can change a heart.

As helpers, we can do these three things to help struggling people:

  • Direct them to focus on Jesus.
  • Model honesty for them.
  • Hold them responsible for their own choices.

[The above] scripture makes it clear that we can plant seed … we can water the seed … but only God can give the increase. It is good to know that although we can create an environment for change by doing those things God has called us to do, it is ultimately He who makes the change in our loved one’s life.

Father, my loved one is struggling with a life-controlling problem. Teach me how to create an environment for change … and help me trust you for your will in my loved one’s life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from . . .

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Is Your Spouse’s Depression Hurting You?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

What to do when his depression is hurting you

Question:  My husband and I have been married for 27 years. I have been reading your books and articles and they have been a blessing to me. Without going into great detail, my husband suffers from major depression.

 He controls the finances, disregards my feelings and desires, lies constantly and can be emotionally and verbally abusive. There is–or was–a kind and honorable man in there, but I don’t see him much anymore, and living with the ” other guy” is wearing me down to nothing.

  After facing financial ruin 5 years ago and managing to get out of debt by the grace of God and start over, he went behind my back to fund his “projects” and we are right back where we started. I have been an enabler who vacillates between keeping the peace and occasionally breaking down and yelling/ crying, but I am trying to change.

 I just need to know…can I hold a depressed person accountable for these actions? His view of reality is skewed and I’ve tried so hard to be kind and supportive but I am so drained. I am afraid if he is forced to confront his behaviors he will be suicidal, but the stress of living this way is too much.

 Also, how do I set boundaries on the spending? We have agreed on budgets, etc., but he ignores them. He promised me he would not put us in debt again, but he broke that promise in a big way, some of it behind my back, some of it while I begged him not to. What can I do to protect me and my son? He is not speaking to me today because I confronted him about some lies I just discovered regarding finances. I am scared of what he will do if I try to take this away from him, and don’t know that I can anyway.

Answer:  You are struggling with several issues at once so I think it might be helpful to separate them a bit for greater clarity. The first is your husband’s depression. How long has he been depressed and is he getting any treatment for it? Does he have a doctor or counselor that he’s working with? If not why not? Depression is a treatable problem. Does he have any family history of bi-polar depression? His spending issues may indicate some mania. If so, be sure to mention this to his treatment provider.

Male depression typically manifests differently than female depression. A depressed woman tends to internalize her pain and blames herself. A depressed male usually externalizes his pain and blames others and circumstances. His externalized pain results in lashing out toward loved ones, sometimes leading to abusive incidents (either verbal and/or physical).

Although depression does rob an individual of his or her ability to think clearly, it does not rob them of all sense of reality or truth, nor does being depressed give him an excuse to sin or act in ways that injure those he says he loves, whether financially, relationally, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes it’s our compassion, sometimes it’s our fears, but It sounds like you’ve been giving your husband a get out jail free card when he sins against you or your family because you’re trying to be sensitive to his depression. The problem I see is that it’s not helping. Shielding your husband from the reality and consequences of his behavior is not helping him get better. It’s not helping him stop his abusive/deceitful behaviors, and it’s taking you to the edge of your own cliff where you are feeling like you can’t take much more. Therefore, let me suggest a different approach and it starts with asking God for wisdom because it’s scary to set boundaries and implement consequences when you’re not sure of what will happen next.

First, I want you to accept the very painful reality that the only person you can take full responsibility for is you (unless you have an infant in the home). Therefore, you need to get your own help to handle yourself in this situation. You acknowledged you are an enabler. Until you address why you keep enabling behavior that becomes destructive to you, to him and to your future, you will probably keep repeating it or will be too afraid to change it.

One thing you mentioned is your fear of him committing suicide. Yet you also indicated in your question that you just recently confronted his lying about finances and he didn’t threaten suicide, he just stopped speaking to you. Suicide is a real possibility with someone who is not only depressed, but has lost hope. But threatening suicide can also be used to manipulate others into doing what they want.

I hear you loud and clear that you are nearly at the end of your rope. Living with a depressed person definitely takes its toll on the rest of the family. That’s why it’s so crucial that you get your own support and help right now, not only to stop enabling his behaviors, but to stay healthy and strong yourself.

I’m going to give you a few things to think about – hopefully you will have the courage and strength to implement them. They will be crucial to your long term sanity as well as safety.

Tell someone what’s going on. Secrets are lethal and you need some support. You can share what’s happening without throwing your husband under the bus. Be wise who you share this with, but you need someone who can pray for you and perhaps be an advocate with you in talking with your husband. That might be another family member such as an adult child or one of his siblings, a good friend, or your pastor.

You must also start to exercise some stewardship over your life. You do not have power over your husband’s life although you do have considerable influence. Therefore, I want you to tell your husband that his depression is now affecting you and your marriage. You can say it lovingly like, “I need for you to get help now. You may be able to live with your depression but I can’t. You’re not behaving like the man you once were.”

You said in your question that somewhere inside of him there is a kind and honorable man but his negative emotions rule him and cloud his thinking and judgment. That can happen to all of us and sometimes it’s helpful when we have a grace-filled truth teller come along side of us to remind us who we are. Read the story in the Bible where Abigail had a heart-to-heart conversation with David after her husband refused to feed David and his men. David was humiliated and outraged. He vowed to kill every male in Nabal’s household. Boldly yet humbly, Abigail went to meet David with supplies of food. In their conversation, she reminded him who he was (the Lord’s anointed and the future king of Israel). This helped him to press pause on his destructive emotions of rage long enough to rethink his decision to kill all of Nabal’s men. (Read 1 Samuel 25: 29-35) for the story.)

In a similar way, I’d like you to try to have that kind of conversation with your husband. Humbly remind him who he is (a child of God, an honorable man, whatever good characteristics you know of him) and encourage him not to allow his depressed feelings to rule his heart or his decisions. Ask him to be willing to receive help to manage these depressed emotions so that he can be the person God wants him to be.

He may have all kinds of objections to getting outside help. Here is where you must stay strong and firm. His depression is not only causing him distress, it’s causing you distress. He is making poor decisions and these decisions affect you and your child. Affirm that you love him and want to see him get well and your marriage to thrive. If he agrees to see a doctor, or if he has one already, insist on going with him and report to the doctor the changes in him that you observe. For example, he doesn’t’ sleep well, he’s spending recklessly, he’s angry all the time, he is impulsive, etc. If he goes alone, he may minimize his symptoms or not recognize some of the things he does that are upsetting to you.

You don’t share whether or not you are employed, but at this time I would separate your finances and open a separate checking account with just your name on it exercising good stewardship over your finances. Since he has been irresponsible and deceitful with the finances, the consequences are that you are going to be in charge of family finances until he gets better. That may motivate him to get the help he needs as well as set some limits on his access to family money. Do not sign for loans or credit cards or home equity loans. This is not helpful to him or to you. This is where your enabling may need to be addressed so you don’t fall victim again.

It’s important that you realize that you are not only doing this for your protection, you are doing it for his. When you know someone is not making good decisions, you don’t give them unlimited access to things that could harm them or others. For example, if you had guns in the house you would remove them or make sure they were locked up. If you had a lot of prescription pills in the house, you would lock them up. Taking charge of the finances is not just for your protection, it’s for his. The shame that he feels for lying and failing again to appropriately manage money contributes to his feelings of worthlessness and feeds the cycle of depression and may lead to hopelessness – thinking he’ll never get better.

There is an excellent book I’d recommend you check out of your library called, How You can Survive When They’re Depressed:  Living and Coping with Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield. It will help you be a good steward of your own life as well as wisely set appropriate boundaries with your spouse.

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 2)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

This kind of dependency isn’t I NEED you to LOVE me in order for me to be okay, but  I NEED you to NEED me in order for me to be okay.

The same emphasis is on the word me but with a slightly different bent. This kind of dependent person often functions as a rescuer, hero, fixer, or the more capable one when in reality he or she is also quite needy but unaware of it. He uses people to feel better about himself. He does this by taking care of other’s problems or being over involved in people’s lives all the while staying completely blind to his own problems. He or she is usually attracted to someone who is weak, vulnerable, or one who needs fixing or rescuing.

The destructive thing about a fixer or rescuer is that they don’t really want the other person to get healthy because then he or she wouldn’t need them any longer. We often see this kind of dysfunctional pattern with parents who are unable to let go of their adult children, enabling them to stay weak and dependent on them because of their need to be needed.

Brenda was married to a chiropractor who loved taking care of everyone, including her. He was well loved by his patients because he took the time to listen and was readily available whenever they had a need. For Brenda however, his hovering over her felt demeaning. He called her constantly, checking on her whereabouts, making sure she was safe. He questioned how she did things and whether or not it was the “best” way they could be done. He evaluated her diet and told her where she could make improvements to lose weight. He insisted she put socks on at the airport because he didn’t want her bare feet touching the dirty floor when they went through security.

At first she found his attention flattering, but now she hated it. She wanted to make her own decisions about what she ate or whether or not she wanted to put socks on during their travels without a constant commentary about what she was doing wrong or what she could do better. Brenda often tried asserting herself, but it never ended well. Once she told Ted that she was not going to order something on the menu just because he said it was better for her, and then Ted sulked the rest of the evening, saying she didn’t appreciate how much he loved her.

And, Brenda had to admit, she didn’t. She felt angrier and angrier and hated being treated like a child. Sometimes she found herself acting like a compliant little girl who did whatever her daddy wanted, and then she’d switch into a rebellious teenager who talked back and wasn’t going to listen at all. She loathed what was happening to herself and her marriage, but didn’t know how to change the unhealthy dance they both were dancing. In a mature relationship, the goal is for both individuals to fully function as healthy adults. However, in a dependent relationship where one wants to fix and control someone else, attempts for independence are seen as threats to the rescuer’s sense of worth and are usually squashed or undermined creating a destructive pattern to the marriage and both individuals in the relationship.

Clinging, smothering, demanding and controlling are the signs of unhealthy dependence in one or both people in the relationship. If you recognize yourself in some of these descriptions, don’t beat yourself. Instead, see it as God opening your eyes to your unhealthy dependency and listen and learn what he calls you to do in order to become emotionally healthy and whole.

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 1)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  

I am a “co-dependent”.

I just realized this about a year ago and with God’s love and help, I am learning to think about myself and others differently, in the context of God’s love and my purpose in Him. I have read material from various sources, some with very helpful information, and I keep reading about people meeting my needs. This is the mindset I grew up with, but it left me empty for years. When I read the Bible and listen to the Spirit, the message I hear is that God will meet my needs. He works through people to meet my physical needs, but if I continue to look to people to meet my emotional or spiritual needs, I will be on a life-long search with no satisfaction. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Answer:

Let me lay the foundation.

God created human beings to live in dependence to him (not people).

When the Lord instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, he wanted them to completely rely on him for all things good. Sadly, they chose to go outside the boundaries God established. They rejected the God ordained limits of their humanness and believed the lie that they could be as god (Genesis 3:5). As a consequence of their disobedience, we all have the same bent. We strive to be god instead of worshipping and depending on the one true God. We deny our position as dependent creatures and we also put our dependence on people or things instead of wholly on God.

It’s true. God intended us to have relationship with people, and all healthy relationships have some degree of interdependence. However, the only person who should be totally dependent on someone else to meet all of his or her needs is an infant. Once an individual starts to mature, he or she becomes less and less dependent on one person (mom or dad) for her entire well-being and learns to assume some responsibility for herself. She also grows to trust that God uses variety of people to meet some of her needs, including a spouse, but accepts that a husband or one person will never meet all of her needs or wants.

That said, there are two types of unhealthy dependence that will cause a marriage (or any other adult relationship) to become destructive.

The first kind of dependency is where I NEED you to love me in order for me to be okay.  This person puts another individual in God’s place as his or her foundational source for love and acceptance. They seek a love object to fill them up, to complete them, to rescue them or make them happy. They feel empty inside with no strong core of who they are. Therefore, they come to a relationship starving; looking for someone to nourish them like a baby seeks a mother or a tic seeks a dog.

Elise came to counseling feeling suicidal after a breakup initiated by her boyfriend. She sobbed, “What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t he love me?” No amount of rational talk about personality differences, him not being the right one, or God’s will could soothe Elise’s broken heart. His rejection of her defined her. She said, “What’s wrong with me? I feel so unworthy, I want to die.”

This kind of thinking is dangerous and destructive. Even if Elise found a man to love her, what mere mortal could fully fill her empty love tank? And when he fails (as he will), what happens to her or to him?

In the movie “Jerry McGuire,” women in the audience collectively swooned when Tom Cruise told Rene Zellweger, “I love you. You complete me.” It’s a nice line for a Hollywood movie, but don’t fall for it. The truth is, if we need someone to complete us, we won’t make a good marriage partner or a good friend. No other human being can complete us if we are not whole ourselves. Only God completes us.

It is quite seductive when a man whispers in our ear, “I love how you love me.” Or, “I need you to complete me.” But stop for a minute and listen to the words. The emphasis is on the word me. It’s a selfish love because it’s self-focused and toxic to the person who is being loved. It’s not I love you, but rather I love you loving me.

Ava was married to a man whose love started to suffocate her. She said, “I can’t breathe. My husband sticks to me like a barnacle. I’m exhausted trying to meet his constant demands for reassurance, attention, and sex. There is no room in this relationship for me to be me or for him to love me. I exist to take care of him.”

Oswald Chambers writes,

“If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it, we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because he knows that every human relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.”

That’s why I’m very wary about relationship books where the main emphasis is how to meet one another’s needs. It sets up unrealistic expectations that a human being can or should fulfill another’s needs. If they don’t, or can’t, the person is left empty. God may indeed use a spouse or parent or friend to meet some of our needs, but there is no human being that will ever be able to meet all of our needs or wants.

When we put another person in God’s place, it is idolatry and it will always leave us feeling empty.

Why Are You Afraid To Say, “NO!”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Turn the Other Cheek … or NOT?!

In the past, it was difficult for me to say “no.”

Saying “no” to a request rarely makes the asker feel good. More often, that person feels hurt, rejected, or let down. Our natural tendency is  “going with the flow” or “not making waves.” So we become conflict avoiders … some of us a little, but others of us a lot. You see, a prime contributor to our feelings of discomfort as well as some of our baggage is that other people feel bad as a result of our actions or behaviors.

As Christians, this usually gets amplified because we are called to be “peacekeepers” or “peacemakers.” Forgiveness is a fundamental concept and action of our faith.

Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to give our clothes to a thief. Saying “no” seems like a very un-Christian response to someone in need. However, God says “no” many times in the Old Testament. Jesus also said “no” many times as well … to the Pharisees, to Satan, to the demon-possessed man whom he healed, to the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Him but wouldn’t give up his possessions, to the moneychangers in the temple, and to the thief on the cross.

As a psychiatrist and former church elder, I have seen many burnt out Christians, both leaders and church members, who seem to think that more is better … believing it is un-Christian to say “no.” Their efforts become scattered and they always seem to be out of steam. But, like that Energizer bunny, they just keep on doing. Their motivation is not that the Hold Spirit prompts them to say “yes.” It’s that they are too uncomfortable to say “no.” Satan is always trying to trick you into thinking you are selfish, self-centered, or mean if you say “no.” But a loving, caring parent says “no” many times. Just think how many times God answers your prayers with a “no.”

Today, before you jump into or get stuck in the “Christian” trap … by blindly saying “yes” and adding more stress to your plate … spend time with God. Pray that you receive both direction and empowerment consistent with His will. In order to know His will … you gotta spend time in His presence. He has a specific plan and purpose for you. You need to be more purposeful in seeking it with Him and from Him. This is not a job or a task, but rather a beautiful and peaceful privilege.

Also, dig and decipher why you say “yes,” especially when you know you should be saying “no.” Why are you afraid to say “no?” Learning this answer and correcting it will bring an amazing freedom to your interactions with others, God, and life! Saying “Yes” and “No” for the right reasons is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Gracious and Holy God, I know that You designed a path for my life. I pray, Father, that You reveal this pathway to me … and that You give me the strength and courage to follow it. Help me seek Your approval, not the approval of those who make requests of me. Empower me, Father, and let me see that I am powered by You. Let me not focus my efforts on simply doing more, but let me focus on doing what You want and need of me. Help me today, Lord, to do what is within my ability to further Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of the One You sent to forgive, refresh, and empower me, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  Psalm 16:11

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  Mark 6:31

Leaning in the Right Direction

SOURCE:  Living Free

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7 AMP

If you are trying to help a loved one with a life-controlling problem, you must first reach a point of accepting the reality of their situation. Only then will you feel free to turn your loved one over to God. This is a time when you are able to detach yourself from the one you love so much. You will be able to truly lean on and trust in the Lord—and stop depending on yourself to fix your struggling loved one.

The prodigal son’s father was not an enabler. He allowed his son to be responsible for his own actions (read Luke 15:11-32). The rebellious son asked to receive an early inheritance and then squandered it all on wild living. He then had nothing—he was hired to feed pigs and found himself yearning for their food. Even at this point, no one reached out to rescue him from the consequences of his behavior (verse 16). And so … he “came to his senses” (verse 17). He finally was ready to take responsibility for his behavior. He showed humility and took positive action (verses 18-20). He returned home and confessed his sin toward his father and heaven.

This father had faith that his son would return. Although he showed compassion, there is no record of his enabling his son. He allowed the son to be responsible for his own actions. Do you love the struggling person in your life enough to let go … and lean on God?

Father, I have tried leaning on my own understanding. I know now that I must let go of my loved one, allow him to suffer the natural consequences of his behavior, and lean on you. Help me fully trust in your way and your time. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

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