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Boundaries and Codependency, Part II

"Not long after that, the younger [prodigal] son ... set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but ... when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you….”1

For the codependent person to overcome his/her problem the following steps will help:

First, the codependent person needs to see his problem and accept responsibility for his own actions and recovery.

Second, he needs to develop healthy boundaries and learn to say no to those who want him to do things for them that they can and need to do for themselves.

Third, he needs to stop blaming others for his unhappiness or for the difficulties he has. Blaming others is a way to avoid facing his own problem that he is in denial about—and not taking responsibility for his part in the situation he is in. Blaming others and avoiding personal responsibility is at the heart of so much unhappiness.

Fourth, codependents need to stop trying to change others. They have a compulsion to fix everybody except themselves. Trying to change or fix others only leads to frustration and anger for both parties. The only person we can ever fix or change is our self, and as we change, others around us are almost forced to change—not always for the best either, I might add. Over-dependent people don't want us to change because it throws them for a loop.

Fifth, the codependent needs to come to terms with his or her problems. While an over-dependent person is often addicted to some form of compulsive behavior, the codependent is addicted to the addict. In reality, both are over-dependent on each other. Both are being irresponsible.

Because codependents need to feel needed in order to feel loved, they suffer from love deprivation, usually from childhood, and have confused feeling needed for feeling loved. In order to feel needed, some codependents will go to any length to keep a needy person dependent on them. They can be loyal to the point of being destructive both to themselves and others.

On the surface, codependency can appear to be very loving, kind and Christian. However, at its core it is a confusion of responsibility. The codependent is so busy trying to meet the needs of and to fix others, he neglects taking responsibility for meeting his own needs and accepting and resolving his own problems.

In so doing, he short-circuits the natural consequences of somebody else's destructive behavior. For instance, as long as Janet keeps paying Phil's bills for him, and keeps taking him back without serious consequences after his affairs, he will never learn responsibility in financial matters or relationships. Only when Janet stops protecting and "saving" Phil and allows him to face the consequences of his irresponsible business and personal behavior will there be any hope for Phil to recover.

Regarding John, I said to Kym, "It is one thing to accept John. It is another matter to accept his transvestite behavior. As long as you accept his behavior and keep protecting him, he will never get better and, as such, you are a part of his sickness."

Codependents need to allow irresponsible people to face the consequences of their actions, and, if necessary, to let them hit bottom—as did the prodigal son in today's Scripture. Only then did he come to his senses. Codependents also need to accept responsibility for themselves and work on their own growth and recovery. One effective way to do this is to join a twelve-step support or similar group. Here, you can learn to feel loved for who you are, and not for what you do for others.

Most of all, codependents need to trust their life to God—a power greater than their own—and daily ask him to confront them with the reality of their problem, help them to see the root causes of it, and lead them to the help they need and the courage to overcome. God can make a much better job of our life than we can. Why not trust it to him today and every day?

To be continued ... 

Suggested prayer: Dear God, please help me to be available to those who have a genuine need, and learn to say no to those I have been rescuing and taking responsibility for. Help me to see my need and be responsible for my behavior, growth and recovery. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name. Amen."

1. Luke 15:13, 15-18 (NIV).


All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.