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The Codependent Christian


Psychologists define codependency as an inordinate and unhealthy compulsion to rescue and take care of people, and when you allow another person’s problems to control how you think, feel, and act.  This can occur with spouses, family members, and friends.

Enabling goes hand in hand with codependency. Enabling is defined as reacting to a person in such a way as to shield them from natural consequences of their behavior.

Enabling is:

  1. Making excuses for the behavior
  2. Bailing them out of trouble (debt, court fees, DUI’s, providing jobs)
  3. Blaming others for their behaviors, such as parents, or employers.
  4. Protection from natural consequences.
  5. Taking care of the dependent person, as with money, housing, car, etc.

Can a Christian be codependent? Yes, God expects us to practice self-control, not to take on the responsibility of others and try to control them. Codependents always put each other first before they take of themselves. Sounds like “Christian teaching?” As Christians, we are taught to put others ahead of ourselves. But what happens when this becomes out of balance, and we are meeting the demands and expectations of everyone and stepping in to be the “Holy Spirit” in others’ lives? One result, is that God takes second place to people.

Codependents rely on each other for emotional and physical needs rather than taking care of themselves. They also lack faith and trust in God to provide for their needs, and become dependent on others taking care of them. As a result, manipulation occurs to get their needs meet. We can easily fall into the trap of rescuing the “needy,” but we need to take every need and concern to Christ first. What if God is trying to do something in that person’s life that you are trying to rescue, and you get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s work in their life? Not every need that comes our way is ours to tackle.

Some traits that you may be acting in codependent ways:

  1. Fear people more than God; You are a people pleaser.
  2. Do not want to disappoint anyone, and you feel guilty when you do or you are not able to help.
  3. Have trouble making your own choices.
  4. Lack boundaries and have difficulty saying, “No.”
  5. Over responsible for others.
  6. Worry about how others may respond to your feelings and opinions.
  7. Are afraid of being hurt and rejected by others.
  8. Are very sensitive to how others feel, and can even feel the way they do.
  9. Judge everything you say or do as, “not good enough.”
  10. Are extremely loyal, but to a fault; remaining in unhealthy situations too long.
  11. Do not perceive yourself as valuable or worthy.

Solutions to Christian codependency:

  1. Self-worth comes from Jesus Christ, and not the work or service that is performed.
  2. Learn to set healthy boundaries and limits, and not allow others to compromise those boundaries.
  3. Learn balanced living by taking care of yourself, and allowing others to be in charge of their own lives.
  4. Intervene in the lives of others after praying first, and being directed by God, not by others manipulation or by your feelings and emotions.
  5. Let others take responsibility for their own lives. Do not react to others pressure, perceived needs, or out of guilt and fear.

Additional resources on Christian Codependency can be found at: www.christiancodependence.com

About Stephanie Reck

Stephanie has a heart and passion to see broken lives restored and redeemed through Jesus Christ. She writes through her personal experiences and her educational and professional background. She has over 17 years experience in counseling, and has a Master's degree in Social Work, Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and is a Licensed Belief Therapist. Stephanie has been married for 16 years,and has one grown son. Stephanie's desire through her writings is to bring hope and encouragement to the body of Christ, that no matter what you have been though or going through, there is restoration and redemption through Jesus Christ.

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  1. Wonderful article, Stephanie! It is such a fine line between living in a Christian way and placing ourselves in God’s way. I know I struggle with the balance on daily basis. I’m tenderhearted and want to help everyone, and I often forget that sometimes I just need to be still and pray for that person instead. Thank you for this timely reminder!

  2. Thanks for this article that defines this subject so well and breaks it down into bite sized pieces. Excellent, relevant, and very necessary piece of writing. Though I am not an expert in social problems like you, I have learned a lot through personal experience. Been there, done that!

  3. Thank you Dana! Yes, such a fine line between helping and enabling. I have learned these lessons because I wanted to meet the needs of everyone; like you I’m very tender-hearted. Sometimes, we just have to be still, pray, and let God be God.
    Many blessings to you!

  4. John,
    Thank you so much. I can tell you that what I write about, I have experienced personally. My “expertise” comes mainly from the “school of the Holy Spirit.” This is a subject that I know many Christians struggle with, but unfortunately keep doing what they are doing because ” we are to bear one another’s burdens.” So many are not taught about taking care of yourself, boundaries, and even when we become enablers. Jesus never pursued the same people with the same problems, over and over again. He said things like, “your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more and if you want to be healed, pick up your own mat.”
    Many blessings to you!

  5. Stephanie, when I saw the friend I helped “go around the barn and back to where she was when I ‘rescued’ her”, I realized then that it seemed pretty evident that I had thwarted God’s plan for her life to either teach her or show her something she needed to learn. Unfortunately, she is on her 3rd time around the barn and just can’t seem to get it. At least this time I know what NOT to do for her.

  6. Stephanie H,
    Amen and amen!!! Some people take several trips around the “mountain” before getting it. BUT we are not responsible for each time they choose to go around the “mountain.”
    Blessings to you.

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