What is happening to our Christian families? Codependency has become a major dysfunction. Families are experiencing a famine in the area of healthy nurturing. Letís begin to break generational cycles of codependency. Why is this necessary? A person who is co-dependent is trapped in a compulsive cycle of control. They are usually over achievers who are virtually motivated by their desire to be loved. They often have been subject to major rejection in their early childhood. In order to feel a sense of security they will over extend themselves in many activities in order to gain the approval of others. It is very difficult for a co-dependent to deal with someone who they can not control. They will often even appear submissive in order to gain control of someone. This behavior is really manipulation in order to dominate. The boundaries of a co-dependent are usually blurred. The hurts of childhood abandonment and rejection fuel their need to control. They have a great need as well to be the center of attention. Unable to let go of the past they really feel empty and unloved. They are high maintenance people. Their constant need of approval is countered by resentment when not satisfied since they suffer from low self-esteem. As I have said before and will say again and again " your true security and significance can only be found in God".
For the co-dependent it is necessary to realize that God is really not a respecter of persons. We are equal yet different as His children. Although scripture tells us "it is not by works that we are saved" a codependent can be manipulated into many activities. This is fueled by their need of approval. This often causes them to develop a surface relationship with God. Their busyness leaves little time to "be still" and find the freedom and rest only God can provide. Contrary to popular belief you are not required by God to participate in most man ordained auxiliaries especially at the expense of neglecting your family. Pastors as well as Christian workers who suffer from co-dependency must be careful not to be pre-occupied at the expense of not having some time for their own families. Your works should display your faith not someone elseís. Creating healthy boundaries are necessary. Spend some time developing your personal intimate relationship with God. Begin to implement His principles in your life. Grace and peace is multiplied when you increase your knowledge of GOD!
Consciously allow what God desires and requires of you to override your need to control and/ or gain the approval of others. Donít be a people pleaser! God is not impressed by manipulation. Always examine your motives in the light of His WORD. Take charge by letting go, which is the opposite of controlling. Remember scripture says it is "the meek that will inherit the earth." Meekness is not weakness it is power under control. Cycles are hard to break but with God even the impossible is possible.
The family system of a co-dependent usually has a powerful effect on their behavior dynamics. Often there is a scapegoat, a martyr and a hero in the co-dependent family. The scapegoat gives everyone something to focus on rather than deal with the real problem. The martyr sacrifices for everyone and feels sorry for themselves. The hero makes the family look good to outsiders. A multigenerational pattern of faulty unhealthy dynamics can appear as normal. Do you notice any generational patterns? Unconsciously the family will fight to keep these dynamics operating. All families have an element of dysfunction. Destructive family dynamics have been in operation since the beginning of time. The story of Joseph tells how his Dad favored him over his brothers. Josephís father gave him a beautiful coat. This caused so much jealously that they designed a plan to destroy Joseph. His brothers called him a dreamer. Little did they know that the Lord had His hand on Joseph. God being in control worked this to good although their plans were evil. In the final analysis Joseph became the chief provider for his family as well as country. Eli was a priest. Although a servant of the Lord he had two sons who were outwardly rebellious. They disrespected not only the offerings but the people of God as well. I wonder how much time Eli spent nurturing his own sons?
Family secrets such as mental illness, incest, abuse and alcohol or drug addictions often go unaddressed in the co-dependent family. Denial becomes a survival dynamic for the family. This fosters an unhealthy physical as well as spiritual environment. Family secrets are often described as though one has a white elephant in the living room. Everyone just walks around it as though it doesnít exist. Or they just avoid it altogether. Thinking it will just go away. It wonít! Christians need to take a stand and move to a higher level of functioning. We must learn to address the sin issues in our families and not continue to make excuses. God has promised to direct our paths when we put our trust in Him. We must learn to responsibly take responsibility.
God in His omniscience is well aware of the shortcomings of all of us. We must look at the unhealthy dynamics in our family of origin and consciously find ways to abandon the generational cycles. Donít continue to sweep things under the rug. Learn to confront issues as they arise. Itís never to late! Start by not supporting or reinforcing any unfavorable behavior. The truth must be faced to break free and enjoy the present.
Sometimes it is necessary to pursue professional assistance to resolve family conflict. A conscientious therapist should be well informed about inappropriate behavior. They objectively are able to recognize that the faulty behavior presented is really a mask for an underlying unmet need. The co-dependent needs to find a positive channel to release inner tensions. A family intervention is useful in most situations. Then proceeding to establishing a way in which their unmet needs can be satisfied is recommended.
In a Therapy environment a healthy atmosphere is crucial. The equal safety of the client and the safety of the therapist should always be a priority. A committed Christian therapist knows the importance of establishing healthy boundaries. A congruent environment implies that the therapist is trustworthy, genuine, integrated, and openly honest. There are many cultural differences that can inhibit a fluent understanding of the client. Stereotype thinking must be abandoned. Each client must be viewed as an individual. Labeling often changes peoples perceptions of others. There is a substantial diversity among any given group of people.
Christian therapy although not new is often unwelcomed from anyone other than the pastor in some instances. Many pastors who may be well-versed in scripture may not be equipped in some areas of counseling. Many on the other hand or overwhelmed by their ministerial duties. There are some pastors who should not counsel. The sincere efforts of a Christian therapist although well meaning may be often misconstrued as out of line and unwelcomed.
The use of small cell groups can often be quite therapeutic and beneficial for the co-dependent as well as for managing other interpersonal problems. A conscientious facilitator will maintain order and model control. Confidentiality and free expression should be encouraged. Conflict arises when individuals become resistant to someoneís insight or opinions that have been communicated. Uncontrolled anger is not welcomed in a cell group. Establish boundaries. Keep the group spiritually based. Making use of regular Bible study and prayer are key elements for success.
Emerging from codependency is painful. The compulsion to rescue dependent people is really a form of bondage.God never intended for any of us to be slaves to sin. Self-control is a fruit of His Spirit. His resources are unlimited. The co-dependent person first must acknowledge their compulsion to control. They must work towards redirecting their inclination towards other control to self-control. To seek healthy ways to have their unmet needs fulfilled. To process dispelling dysfunctional cycles this is a must. Donít allow pride to hinder your progress. It is an obstacle to your well-being. God also hates pride it is an abomination to Him. Confess any known sin and press forward. It takes courage and a lot of hard work. It is in our weakness that we can become strong through Godís awesome power. God has left the Comforter which is His Holy Spirit to lead teach and direct you. Never forget God loves you! Take control by taking control of yourself. The truth really will set you free!
DeBorrah K. Ogans is a licensed Pastoral Counselor and ordained minister. She is certified through the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling in Creation Therapy and holds a Masterís Degree in Biblical Clinical Counseling. She is the author of a pre-marital guide ďHow Do I Love Thee: Things You Need To Know Before You Say I DoĒ, and just released her second book "Holy Matrimony: Now That You're Married".