Codependency is the fruitless attempt at meeting an internal need with something external to one’s self.
It may be alcohol, drugs, junk food, or some other substance, but what I have seen more often in my practice, and even in my experience before counseling, is the using of people.
This scourge of the mind is not just afflicting those who are naturally controllers. People of every kind of temperament and upbringing struggle to find solace by exerting their own will over others.
People from all walks and all belief systems can fall into the trap of narcissistic codependency. It is so common and easy to do.
It is true that we all use people in various ways. Human beings were designed to function in a social condition. To varying degrees, we all need some interaction with others for the meeting of our own needs, but this, in itself, does not necessitate codependency.
The act of manipulating human beings just to feel “right” about one’s self is not healthy behavior. It is a sickness. It destroys from within, and it is a common visible manifestation of codependency.
Ultimately, codependency alienates us from the world around us, hampers meaningful connections with loved ones, and it separates us from our own feelings and needs.
If you are looking for a perfect way to damage relationships with the people you care about, while simultaneously living in abject confusion and fear (if you even want to call that “living”), embrace your codependency and remain in that condition forever.
Joe is an HVAC employee making a meager salary at a small company.* At age 67, he could have easily retired and did so comfortably.
He owns three beautiful rental properties, but he continues to struggle financially because he finds an illusion of happiness from interfering and meddling in the lives of others.
This is the mirage he is chasing in the desert he calls life. If only he could get everyone to believe like him, value what he values, think the way he thinks, and submit to his every opinion. Only then would Joe feel satisfied about himself and be at peace, or so he believes.
Joe is self-righteous and proud, but no one could ever tell him that. In those rare instances in which someone confronts Joe, he snaps at them or even cuts off the relationship so he doesn’t have to hear them criticize his personal antics ever again.
Joe could be renting out his homes to good, responsible families who pay their rent on time and respect his property. He could take a security deposit from each of them to ensure his assets are protected. He could have stored up a sizable nest egg by now.
Instead, Joe finds a false joy in renting individual rooms out to deadbeats who rarely pay their rent on time (if they pay at all!). Some have stolen from him or caused damage to his homes.
Joe does not perform background checks or contact employers. The more seedy and desperate his renters, the more easily he can impose himself on their lives unrestrained.
Joe has seen insurance rates rise on all his properties after a fire consumed the porch of one house. The fire started when one of his drunken tenants dropped a lit cigarette butt in a potted plant.
Even after losing thousands of dollars because of damage, theft, and unpaid rent, Joe continues renting out individual rooms to deadbeats. He calls it his “ministry.”
He loves to enter the homes unannounced in order to inspect for cleanliness and tidy housekeeping. It’s his weakly ritual. Then he makes phone calls to his tenants to rant and complain about whatever he finds unacceptable. He also pries into their personal business so he can offer “advice”.
When his tenants push back against his draconian requirements and opinionated rants, he relishes his victimhood. He takes joy in being “oppressed” when they “take advantage of his kindness.”
Joe is fully convinced that he is righteous and morally superior in the face of adversity. However, he doesn’t realize that he stands to gain nothing from this “oppression” because he does not endure it for the Lord, but for himself.
Joe is codependant. He is defeated, but he thinks he walks in victory. Are you like Joe?
Many people say they follow Jesus, and they believe their reward is great in heaven because of it, but Jesus did not sacrifice himself on the cross to feel good about himself.
In fact, he pleaded with the Father to “take this cup” from him before any of the suffering began (Lk. 22:42). He was not looking forward to victimhood. In other words, he was not self-centered, self-righteous, or prideful.
Jesus was all about the meeting of others’ needs, rather than his own (Phil. 2:3 – 8). By shifting our focus away from meeting our own needs, we find peace. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:24).
It is impossible to truly look to the interests of others and be codependent at the same time. Why is this the case? To answer that question, one must understand that faith changes the dynamic.
By trusting in our Heavenly Father to meet our needs, we are no longer preoccupied with elaborate schemes to use others for the filling of our own emptiness.
Though God placed within all of us a certain empty hole that can only be filled by the presence of people in our lives, there is an even bigger hole that can only be filled by trusting in him.
You can’t fill that hole by using any person, just as you can’t fill it with alcohol, drugs, or junk food. Faith is the only way. – Michael A. Hildreth
*(Note: The example of “Joe” is a fictional account and does not represent any specific individual living or deceased.)