Ever read a book that changed your life? Lately I’ve been reading quite a few of those. Perhaps it’s my season for change, or perhaps I’m just finally open and ready. Whatever the reason, it has been a wonderful journey getting to know me – at least most of the time.
Codependent No More introduced me to an aspect of myself that needed some immediate tending. The tagline of the book kind of says it all, “How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.” My coach recommended it to me after listening to me describe (ad nausea I’m sure) the amount of energy I expended trying to manage the reactions of others to bad news. I was literally losing myself in trying to help others.
At first I thought this book didn’t apply to my life. Most of us think of codependency only in terms of those who love and support people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. While it does include that, the definition is much broader and includes anyone who has let another person’s behavior control them and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
I know some of you are about to tune out because you can’t imagine that this applies to you. But let me just pause here and make an announcement – people who struggle with codependency are good people. Often highly compassionate and gifted with a servant’s heart, you sometimes find them fighting against social injustice and standing up for the underdog. We (meaning myself included) have accomplished extraordinary things. We have also spent way too much time rescuing (and then subsequently resenting) other people. Take a look at the list below and see if any of this sound familiar:
- Think and feel responsible for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions and choices. (They can’t handle the truth.)
- Feel anxiety, pity and guilt when others have a problem. You feel compelled – almost forced – to help the other person solve their problem. (Even if it is a 6AM call from your boss for the third time that week.)
- Find yourself saying “yes” when you want to say “no”. (Because then you would be mean.)
- Overcommit yourself. (No one else can do it like me!)
The list goes on and on, but you get the point. Listen, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t care, but the constant rescuing of other people is just not healthy for you or them. When you rescue, you have decided that you can manage their life better than they can, and so you think for both you and them. They then defer that thinking (and subsequent action) to you – which you both later resent. It’s a vicious cycle that many of us have been in since we were kids. “Oh, I’ll do it” became our favorite phrase before we were out of grade school. Just hell bent on pleasing other people!
As we got older, we made friends with someone who constantly needed something and we of course went without because that’s what good friends do. We then married someone who we knew was struggling with a few things, but we were convinced we could “fix” them up. So now we are working hard to meet their needs and manage their life because the fixing we thought we’d be doing has put us in a fix! And of course, we can’t leave because they need us. I mean, they would fall apart if they didn’t have us, right? (Hmm, it’s amazing how these same people manage to run their lives just fine when you stop trying to control them and work on caring for yourself.)
And let’s not forget our babies. Our precious, precious baby – who is 30 years old, still living at home, not in school (or is still in school working on their third degree to do who knows what and when), and no plan for the future. Meanwhile, you are silently resenting it because they come in at 2:00am waking you up when you have to get up and go to work the next morning.
Ugh! See what I mean? We’re inherently good people who mean well. We have just lost sight of our true purpose and ourselves. God gave us one life – our own! While He wholly expects us to love others, He did not call on us to do His job and change, rescue or remake other people.
I know some of y’all are mad with me now. I’ve talked about your baby who is still living at home. It’s okay. If you want your baby to live with you for the rest of your life, then God bless the both of you. This is a safe place where we can lovingly disagree. But for the rest of you, who want to join me on this journey of letting grown folks be grown and loving on me while I also love them, check out the book.
My favorite quote from the book is “the surest way to make ourselves crazy is to get involved in other people’s business, and the quickest way to become sane and happy is to tend to our own affairs.” Amen!
Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Peace and blessings!