"For each one should carry his own load."1
Caretaking, when it is a symptom of codependency, is being so concerned about taking care of others that we neglect to take responsible care of ourselves. It's also feeling responsible for somebody else's happiness and for their negative feelings as well.
It is good to be kind to others, but when we do things for them that they should, could and need to be doing for themselves, we are not being helpful or loving. We are encouraging overdependence.
The bottom line is motive. The codependent caretaker may look like he is doing something for someone else but he's really doing it for himself—to be liked, to have others think he is wonderful, to feel needed and wanted, or trying to earn love. But love cannot be earned. It's a gift. If it has to be earned, it's conditional and isn't love—it's need.
One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to take responsible care of ourselves and be responsible for our own happiness. And one of the kindest things we can do for others is to allow them to do the same. This is a part of what I believe Paul meant when he said, "Every man shall bear his own burden or carry his own load."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to help another where he or she can't help him/herself, but help me not to take over another's responsibilities when he/she needs to be taking care of him/herself. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Galatians 6:5 (NIV).