Recently, a lady named Tracy approached me and said, “Thank you for your help.” I said, “You’re welcome; what did I do?” She said, “I attended one of your workshops a few years ago. You all empowered me to help my brother by no longer helping him.” I was a little confused at first until she shared her story.
Seven years ago, Tracy was enabling her brother. He was going through a tough time in life, making very poor choices in relationships and using substances to cope. Every time he would ask for his sister to rescue him, she would because that is what she thought love was.
After attending the Living Free Awareness Workshop, the lady learned that she did not cause her brother’s issue, she could not control her brother, and she could not cure her brother. She was dealing with codependency. According to the Living Free Training Coordinator’s Guide, “Codependency is a popular word used to describe a person’s behavior when they are addicted to another person. Co-dependents take ownership of another person’s problems, get their sense of well-being from managing the behavior of the dependent person, and end up being controlled by the person they are trying to help.”
According to Melody Beattie, in her book Codependent No More, “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” Tracy had a strong belief that if she could control her brother, he would start making good decisions. In fact, what she learned was that she was keeping her brother from feeling the pain of his choices.
After participating in the Living Free workshop, Tracy began to apply the principles of helping her brother by telling him that she would no longer be helping him unless he wanted to be clean from substances and start making better choices. Tracy’s brother disappeared for a few months and ended up living in a homeless shelter. He finally called his sister and asked for help to get clean. Tracy helped her brother enroll in a program, and he has now been clean for five years.
The principles we call “the three c’s” helped Tracy find hope in her codependent relationship with her brother. Often, the codependent person gets trapped in guilt. “If I only had”, or “It’s my fault this person is having trouble.” Often, freedom for those struggling in life begins with the choice of those around them. It becomes a catalyst for the person struggling to wake up and take ownership of their choices.
The first “C” principle is “We did not cause our loved one’s problems.” Many circumstances in life contribute to an initial poor choice. Still, people struggling must take responsibility for their continued poor behavior and find healing from what has happened in their life. Because of sin and evil in the world caused by Satan, we all face challenges and we all have to choose how to cope with them. God provides healthy, godly coping skills in his Word, through His Spirit, and with His people. Unfortunately, we tend to find temporary and often damaging solutions to the struggles of life. When we realize that our loved one’s choices were not caused by us but by the evil in this world, guilt diminishes, and responsibility can then be handed to the person making the poor choices.
The second “C” principle is “We cannot control our loved one’s behavior.” Have you ever thought, “If I could only give them ten more dollars,” or “I would rather them stay with me so I can help them?” Codependent people often expend a huge amount of energy trying to change their loved ones. The truth of the matter is that the more we try to control and change a person, the more they are able to manipulate us. The person struggling with life begins to realize they can get what they want by just making the other person feel guilty. Once we understand that God is the only one who can change our loved ones, we begin to give that person over to God. Once we give our loved ones to God, we give the responsibility over to the Holy Spirit to bring change.
The third “C” principle is “We cannot cure our loved ones.” Only God can provide the healing needed for a person. We must rely on the Holy Spirit and pray, “God do whatever it takes to change my loved one, but spare their life.” This is a difficult prayer, but the God of the universe can do more than we can to change a person’s life. The challenge is to give our loved ones to God and take our hands off. The goal is to reach acceptance of our loved one’s choices and allow God to work on His time frame. What we can do is continually encourage our loved ones to focus on Jesus, model honesty for them, and hold them responsible for their own choices.
Write notes, send texts, and make phone calls to give your loved one encouragement with words of life from the Bible and pray with them. Explain to them your observations without judgment, by honestly telling them the pain their behavior is causing and allow them to feel the discomfort of their choices by not rescuing them from negative consequences. Offer them the only help that will provide healing. Offer them Jesus.
Tracy offered her brother help only when he was willing to get the help he needed, but she offered him Jesus, first. This world would say that Tracy was harsh, but remember, only God can change someone. We did not cause the problem, we can not change the person, and we can not cure the person. When we let God do His work, lasting change happens in a person’s soul and creates hope and healing for a good godly life. Let’s begin to help by not helping.
Lord, help us help our loved ones by giving them to you. Help us with patience to know your timing is perfect and that you love them more than we do. Help us to realize that we didn’t cause our loved one’s problem, we can not control our loved one, and we can not cure them. Holy Spirit, do your work on our loved one’s life and bring them hope and healing. In Jesus name, Amen.
Beattie, Melody, Codependent No More, Hazelden Foundation, 1992.
Lee, Jimmy, and Dan Strickland, Living Free Training Coordinator’s Guide. 2008.