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But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Galatians 6:4-5
Codependency Book Cover

"Child," said the Lion, "I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own." C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

One of the most beautiful aspects of the kingdom of God is how the people of God, united in Christ Jesus, display the variety and creativity of God himself. We are hues from alabaster to ebony. Some of us have smooth, poreless skin; others have lines, scars, and folds that testify to all we have survived. Some of us move through the world with the aid of wheelchairs and crutches. We speak different languages, practice a range of cultural customs. Yet, we are one.

On a micro-level, the same is true about friendships. We have different parents, different backgrounds; one grabs for the salty snacks while the other dives for the sweets. But our friendships forge us into a united front; we stick together. Our differences serve to increase our strength, awareness, compassion, and empathy.

But sometimes toxicity creeps in when people are unable to differentiate themselves from their relationships. They hold on in unhealthy ways.

beyond codependency

Codependency occurs when a person believes that her sense of validation and security comes from somebody else. From a clinical viewpoint, it comes from a place of incomplete healing from old, often childhood, wounds. The term “codependency” was coined by Alcoholics Anonymous, after the leadership observed a specific relationship pattern that formed around an addict. Codependent dynamics occur when a person is unable to confront and process the difficult emotions that occur when a loved one is dealing with addiction, mental illness, trauma, or abuse. When we don’t work through pain, hurt, and anger, we stuff it down and end up both repressing our own emotions and disregarding our own needs. As a result, we look towards others to supply personal validation and security.

how does codependency erode friendships?

One of the biggest factors in determining codependency is this: a codependent person struggles to differentiate between the markedly different emotions of love and pity. The person mashes together acts of saviorism with acts of love. The codependent person needs to be needed, and unconsciously exploits unhealthy and imbalanced relationships in order to maintain her sense of usefulness.

In the realm of friendship, codependency idolizes the friendship while disregarding the friend as an individual person. A codependent person views a relationship through “don’t leave me” glasses, all the time. When we see our friends through those glasses, we lose sight of who our friend is: an individual whose story is expertly crafted by Creator God.

a different way

Galatians 6:2 encourages us to bear each other’s burdens, and then immediately in verse 4 directs us to test our own work, so that our reason to boast will be in ourselves and not our neighbor. This passage paints a picture of the essential balance of fellowship and individuality that is apparent all throughout Scripture. As C.S. Lewis describes in The Horse and His Boy, Shasta’s story intersects and is part of Aravis’s, but each story is his and her own. In healthy friendships, it is important to acknowledge that we all have our own individual stories that God is crafting and growing and refining. Breaking away from codependent belief patterns takes courage, humility, and hard work.


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toxic friendship

Daily Question

Some questions to consider in evaluating codependent patterns: Am I trying to use this relationship to heal old wounds? Do I believe that I am incomplete? Am I trying to use this relationship or person to make me feel whole? Is there an aspect of control, whether overt or passive, in how I function in this relationship? Are you in a friendship that has felt constricting? Give it to God in prayer and listen to how he wants you to respond.

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Comments (7)

I used to be in a toxic friendship in college like this. We were so close and it felt awesome…I thought we were like sisters. She was the sister I never had.

However, it wasn’t until years later, after many other friends telling me she was taking me over and possessive over me and after many times of enduring the repeating hurts she put on me that I realized I had to make a decision….either accept this is the way she was or move on. My mom gave me that advice…she said well you know this is her and what she does so figure out if you can put up with that or move on.

I decided to move on once she did one final hurt that dealt with my brother and it was just the last straw.

It was like a break up and still over ten years later, I find myself missing her once in awhile.

We were definitely co dependent. We lived together, took the same classes, played on the same team, and we did everything together. She even came to all my family gatherings. However, she began to get controlling and possessive and wouldn’t like when I did other things with other people. She started saying and doing hurtful things behind my back to get back at me. She became very jealous of me and was never happy for me.

I know I did the right thing because she never listened to my feelings and kept lying to me, however, I do still miss some aspects of our relationship.

I had a very similar experience. I too did what you did, we broke up. Before we broke up I respectfully confronted her about something she had repeatedly said to me that was very painful. It had to do with me being a teen mom. I told her how sensitive it was and that I couldn’t bear it anymore. A couple years later during my very painful divorce she did it again. I was out with her, a new friend and my daughter. She said the very thing I had asked her never to mention again. Only this time publicly and in front of the grown child I had as a teenager. I knew then, I couldn’t trust her. And she was manipulating me. She was very competitive with me and would point out my weaknesses when she saw me struggle. But she was always there too. It was difficult, especially to lose another deep relationship during my painful divorce. But God gave me the strength. I miss her too. I think its normal. And its still ok to be apart or distanced.

I have an old friend, we spent a lot of time together in church activities when we were in high school, and eventually we dated a bit after my divorce. But, his humor is off color, and it embarrasses me. So, I stopped seeing him, and even though we are FB friends, and I really think he is a nice person besides his strange humor, I think of him a lot, and would like to pursue our friendship again. From studying this lesson, I believe I am approaching this relationship from codependency and should just let him tell his silly jokes, after all, what people think of him has nothing to do with me. And, we could both benefit from restoring this relationship to its full potential.

I offer a word of caution to you and to all women, its the old saying that “men and women can’t be friends.” What I mean is that there is a certain line in friendship between men and women that cannot be crossed without delving into “more than friends” very quickly. This is why married men and women must be very cautious of opposite gendered friends, it too easily can become intimate. God designed us to have intimacy with men, not just friendship. If you don’t think you would ever marry this man then don’t spend too much time with him and don’t seek out the friendship.

Question, Is your friend’s humor so off color that it is not edifying to God or the recipient of the joke? You made a statement that "what people think of him has nothing to do with me." Unfortunately peoples tendencies will lump us in with others, as the expression goes "birds of a feather flock together." What others might think of your friend, possibly in the backs of their mind, may think the same about you. For myself, I want my actions to be glorifying to God at all times.

I don’t believe I’ve had friendships that include codependencies, but possibly my relationship with my children. I find I need to ask myself if I am being “controlling” in my children’s lives by trying to lead them or make them the way I want them to be rather than letting them make their mistakes alone. In many ways I feel like this has damaged my relationship with my daughter. I’ve had to spend several years in the word, praying, and reading a book on the prodigal child to give it to God and stop trying to make her life the way I think it should be. The thing I have learned is that God is the only answer to these situations.

I feel like in my past I did use some friendships heal old wounds. I have been in some friendships where I have been used or turned into a doormat for people to walk all over. I am learning to take a stand for myself and to not be used by others. I like to help others but there are times when I need to backoff and stop the helping. I have been praying over this and asking for guidance in these situations.

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