Boundaries and Codependency, Part III
"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load."1
A Daily Encounter reader whom I shall call Mary, grew up in a very dysfunctional home where there was alcoholism and severe abuse. And now, as an adult, like thousands of others, she is unable to say no to her children and to all who come to her for help. Consequently, she struggles with false guilt, feels hurt and angry because of people who use her, and, among other troubling issues, is deeply in debt.
When our lives are in chaos, it's normal to feel depressed and troubled. As one counselor said, "When we have unresolved problems, God is merciful—he gives us symptoms. The purpose of miserable symptoms is to motivate us to seek help.
So Mary's first step for healing and recovery was her admitting, "I have a problem. I need help."
Many of us have a hard time saying no because we want everyone to like (love) us and that is an unrealistic goal.
The truth is when we don't have healthy boundaries (the ability to say no), people use us because they know we are a pushover and, as such, they don't respect us, let alone love or like us. Wanting everyone to like/love us comes from our own love-deprivation hunger (mostly from our family background) and our subsequent insecurity. Consequently, we need to work not only on building healthy boundaries but also on our self-concept. In fact, it is nigh on impossible to maintain healthy boundaries unless we also work on rebuilding a healthy self-concept and good old-fashioned self-respect.
Realize too, that when we do too much for others or do anything for anybody that they can and should be doing for themselves, we are not being loving, but codependent, and are keeping these people over-dependent on us. Furthermore, we are doing it unconsciously to meet our own need (for love)—not the other person's.
As I said to Mary, to rebuild your self-concept is the challenge and we don't do that by reading books. We do it in relationship with other people. We get damaged in damaging relationships and get healed in healing relationships. With the intensity of your codependency, I would urge you to start taking care of yourself (this is probably the most loving thing you could do for your kids), and get into counseling with a good Christian counselor. Also, get into a 12-step CODA (Codependent Anonymous) group.
Also, ask God to give you a soul-sister or soul-brother whom you can trust implicitly with your feelings and failures, someone who won't give you advice, tell you what you should or shouldn't do, but listen to and accept you as you are. It's only as we are fully known by a safe, accepting, non-judgmental, and loving person, and they love and accept us with all our faults, little by little we learn, though them, to love and accept ourselves. Remember, though, you took X number of years to become who you are so you don't change all of that overnight. To grow and become whole takes a lot of commitment, determination, and hard work as well as God's help.
Most importantly, be sure to commit and trust your life and way to God every day for the rest of your life. Ask him to give you the courage to face the truth about yourself that you need to see and resolve, and to lead you to the help you need to overcome.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you love and accept me as I am. Please help me to find a few people with whom I feel safe to let them know me as you know me. And through their loving acceptance of me, help me learn to love and accept myself so I will love others from a pure heart without strings attached. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Galatians 6:4-5 (NIV).
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