What is Co-dependency?
Codependency is complicated. Co-dependency is confusing. Codependence is…wait, what is codependency, exactly?
Let’s be honest, it is hard to even agree on how to spell it: co-dependency, codependency, codependence (all of these terms are used interchangeably, although codependence is probably the most grammatically correct). There are many definitions for codependence, which naturally leads to many more questions about the issue.
Is it a disease?
Some people think so; others do not. It is something that causes “dis-ease.”
Isn’t “co-dependent” just another term for “co-addict”?
It is true that the term co-addict is a qualifier for a person who is in an intimate relationship with an addict, but the truth is most addicts are co-dependent too. Huh!
Is it a mental disorder that can be diagnosed?
Not according to the American Psychiatric Association, although Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) seems very similar.
Isn’t this just something women struggle with this?
Uh, no! (Sorry fellas).
Isn’t codependency just “care-taking” gone too far?
In some ways, yes, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
As you can see, this is not an easy nut to crack.
Here is a very basic definition: Someone who is codependent constantly focuses on other people’s needs instead of their own, whether they realize it or not (HINT: most don’t know they are doing it—and even if they do realize it, they can’t stop). In fact, they try to control others, even though it may not look or feel like control. Many connect this type of behavior to abuse or neglect during early childhood, leading ultimately to a lack of authentic “self” or to a low self-esteem. The truth is that codependence can materialize in very different ways depending on a person’s life and environment.
So, what will these Sixty-Minute Seminars be focused on?
While we hope to cover all the facets of this issue, the crux of the seminar will focus on us—the Body. While these seminars are certainly open to everyone in the community, it comes as no great surprise that when a seminar is held at a church, the majority of folks walking though the doors will be Christians. The sad reality is that many of us struggling with codependency within the Church can easily hide behind false or distorted versions of both charity and servanthood.
Life for the Christian is a three-part journey that goes from self-centered, to God-centered, to others-centered. Most codependents skip the first two and head straight for the third part. In fact, it can be easy to get stuck there, since being “others-centered” is the essence of discipleship. In John 15:13, we see this kind of sacrificial love modeled in its perfection though our Savior, and we are all striving to become more like Christ: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Here is the good news for all of us, especially the codependent—we have a Savior! Here is the even better news—we are not Him!
These Sixty-Minute Seminars are meant to inform, inspire, and direct us by offering helpful next steps. While this hour may not answer all the questions surrounding codependency, the hope is that we would be able to better understand this mysterious topic as well as the people who struggle with it. Perhaps we might even come to learn that the people we first need to help with this issue is ourselves.
Chris Burns served as the reGROUP Worship and Training Coordinator at Summit from 2011-2015 where he taught recovery curriculum, trained leaders to facilitate recovery groups, and lead the congregation in worship. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Central Florida and will graduate in August. Oh, and he's codependent.