Back on my “Lady Codependency, A Good Samaritan?” post, Beyond Blue readers had quite the discussion on what, exactly, codependency means.
Reader Yames wrote this:
Codependency has virutally nothing to do with God or “blessings”. It has everything to do with letting yourself get involved with a person or in a situation that is, ultimately not good for you, but not feeling able to extricate yourself from the person/situation without feeling guilt, remorse or worse, feeling like you can’t live the life you deserve to live wihtout giving in to other’s demands/wishes/requests. This isn’t a story about being charitable, per se – it’s about being charitable when you don’t really feel you want to be and the guilt that comes about as a result if you don’t give in. It’s a terrible and frustrating position to be in. I’m not saying “don’t be charitable, don’t be giving of yourself”. I AM saying that you can establish boundaries for yourself, that you can say “NO” without guilt and that by doing so your life can be enriched, instead of overwhelmed by the feeling of “I’m not a good person because I didn’t abide by so-and-so’s wishes” or “I didn’t do enough”, etc. I know this is grossly oversimplified – but for most of the folks who posted – you’re missing the entire point!
Reader Patricia added this to the conversation:
Oh my God – it is not about being homeless! It is about feeling guilty or unworthy of what you have, could be money, looks, love, possesions…and giving in to what others ask of you because you tell yourself you sympathize with their plight and in fact you are the one with the problems! They make choices, one of which is to use you – and you comfort yourself by saying you are the better person. Then you ask yourself why people take advantage of you, convince yourself you are going to be stronger – you find yourself in a position in which you display strength – and then you fell guilty. You are locked in a cycle of tearing yourself down when other people aren’t actively doing it – and it is Hell.
And, finally, an anonymous reader described codepedency this way:
I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings here, but the article is about codependency. This is a type of personality disorder that has to do with the lack of healthy boundaries and a feeling of being responsible to everyone. It stems from a fear of being disliked or not being a good person and the biggest symptom is giving too much. This is unhealthy to both the giver and the receiver, for many reasons. The giver is often spread too thinly and is giving away out of guilt or the need to please and is in reality taking away from the people in his or her own life in order to do so. The receiver is hurt because he is getting from others instead of learning to take care of himself. If you have ever read anything about alcoholic families, one is the addict and the other the enabler or the co-dependent. It is the same situation. The co-dependent is partially responsible for keeping the alcoholic in the same self- destructive pattern. They do it to be accepted. It is not at all healthy. Several of the comments I read are clear indications that the point of this article was missed and that some of the readers think we have to give to everyone in order to be like Christ.
It is our adult responsibility to help others, but we need to be realistic enough to know when our help will go to good use, or when it will just serve to keep a drug addict or alcoholic or just a thief in the same pattern…by manipulating people into feeling pity or guilt in order to take enough money for another hit or another bottle of rot gut wine, or just to be taking for the fun of taking. If you feel that you might be risking the approval of God by not giving, then follow your conscience, but I feel that God wants me to use the brain he gave me to take care of myself while also being charitable in a wise manner.