Overcoming Codependency | Focus on the Family Australia
Overcoming Codependency
By Dr. Russ Rainey
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In codependency, others become our foreground, God becomes the background, and self is lost altogether. That’s not God’s design, though.

Series
1. Codependency: What is it?
2. The Dance That Takes Two: How Codependency Develops
3. The Personal Costs of Codependency
4. Codependency: The Importance of Personal Boundaries
5. Overcoming Codependency
6. Codependency in a Dysfunctional Marriage: Healing and Hope

Jonathan and Emily’s Bible study discussion was on loving our spouse as Christ loves the Church. The whole time Emily was thinking about how Jonathan loved his work more than her — and she was plotting a way to get the group to call out his problem. But another member’s comment brought sudden conviction. “I was obsessed about Rick’s distraction with his laptop and mobile phone,” Joni said. “I’ve realised, though, that my focus needs to be on Christ first. If there’s some way I can help Rick, great. But only God can motivate a person to change, and I’m certainly not God!”

The Focus of Attention

We can learn a lot about ourselves by noticing where we focus our attention. What we routinely focus on becomes foreground (the centre of our attention) and everything else becomes fuzzy background. In codependency, others become our foreground, God becomes the background, and self is lost altogether. That’s not God’s design, though.

The Lord teaches us two overarching commandments in Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV):

  1. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
  2. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

People struggling with codependency typically love others much more than they love themselves. But if we make others (or even ourselves) the centre of our attention instead of Christ, the whole picture is out of focus. Nothing in life works well if Christ is the background.

However, when Christ is the centre of our attention, letting God be God is much easier. We don’t have to compulsively fix, rescue, or control others. God is the source and ruler of all things, and we can trust Him to work powerfully in the lives of those we care about.

At the same time, it’s also true that God allows us to help accomplish His purposes in other peoples’ lives. So how do we partner with Him but avoid playing the role of saviour — of codependent? It starts by understanding our identity in Christ.

Next Steps

Overcoming codependency doesn’t happen overnight. But it can happen. Be honest with yourself, trust God’s design for healthy relationships, invite wise and caring people to walk alongside you, and take it one step at a time.

  • Realise that codependency isn’t a life sentence. It’s an adaptive coping mechanism— and you can learn a better way to relate!

  • Admit that your motivation for helping got mixed up early in life. But remember: It wasn’t your fault. You can choose to follow a new Christ-centred understanding of appropriate concern and help.

  • Understand that your attraction to needy people is often an unhealthy need to be needed. But you don’t have to follow those feelings like the proverbial moth to a flame.

  • Stop the vicious cycle in your relationships. Don’t keep doing what you’ve always done. Commit to no longer enabling others and losing your identity trying to fix them.

  • Give yourself room to grieve. Don’t ignore the losses you’ve experienced in codependent relationships.

  • Model future choices after Jesus: He cared for others but made personal boundaries clear.

  • Provide logical consequences for those who don’t respect your boundaries.

Ask for Help

Change is never easy — and we couldn’t possibly cover every scenario and specific need in this space. That’s why we encourage you to reach out for ongoing support and accountability from solid sources:

  • Christ: Be intentional about personal spiritual growth. Find a church home if you don't already have one.

  • Support Groups: Become part of a recovery ministry like Celebrate Recovery.

  • Professional Help: Find licensed Christian counsellors or professional Christian life coaches who specialise in codependency and recovery.

Remember: one step at a time. Hold on to hope, lean on God’s strength, rest in His unfailing love, and trust Him to connect you with safe people. You can overcome codependency.

Next in series: 6. Codependency in a Dysfunctional Marriage: Healing and Hope

© 2019 Russ Rainey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.

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