"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.
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.