A Quiet Epidemic

Today I would like to talk about a problem that could be classified as an epidemic. It has plagued individuals, households, families, churches, and is present in every institution. It is subtle and it is dangerous, and it is likened to a disease. This sickness has disguised itself in virtues such as: love, sacrifice, and generosity. What is this problem? If we knew what it was would we stop it? If we knew the damage it caused hundreds and thousands of humans would we take certain steps to expose it, renounce it, and walk away from it? Well, my friends, this enemy prowling around, lurking quite possibly below the surface of your own consciousness is codependency.

Codependency is so rampant, so pervasive, that it is fair to say that all people everywhere will at some point struggle with this behavior or tendency, and the behavior or tendency is rooted in self. Codependents are sacrificial, they are heroic, and engage in “heroic or good things”. That doesn’t sound that bad, right? After all, are we not supposed to engage in “heroic or good things”? Absolutely! Jesus tells us to do as much (Matthew 5:16). However, if as Jesus says, “your saltiness loses its taste, what good is it?” (Matthew 5:13). Furthermore, if your sacrificial, heroic, and good behavior lacks genuine humility, how then can your reward be great (Matthew 5:2-11)? Maybe it would be helpful to give some examples. A terrorist who blows up a city block is sacrificial. Too extreme? A manipulative mother is sacrificial – she sacrifices so much for her children, and they know it! Most resentful people are sacrificial. Anyone who knows, loves, or has ever been around someone who has at some point been identified or has personally identified as an “addict” – is sacrificial. The sacrificing, loving, heroic, or otherwise good behavior of millions of people was so commonly associated with those who were connected to “addicts” that a phenomenon known as codependents anonymous or Al-Anon was created.

Over the last century we have learned that the behavior of codependency is everywhere. Why is this a big deal? I hope that the previous points demonstrate the seriousness, but if not, here are a few more:

1. Codependents start out desiring the best for their loved ones – it is subversive

2. Codependents believe that they are helping – often codependents end up being just as unhealthy as the “addict” or loved one.

3. Codependents stand on moral high ground – leaves the individual unable or unwilling to see or address their own “sickness”.

4. Codependents thrive on service – service means sacrifice; sacrifice means holiness.

5. Codependents find identity, not from God, but from people, places, and things – this is worth or value.

Jesus tells us that God does not want our sacrifices or services (Matthew 9:13, 12:7; Hosea 6:6). He tells us to go learn what this means “I desire mercy”. Which I would take as a charge. It seems like we would have to then go learn what mercy means. Mercy has looked differently over the course of human existence. It is always in line with God’s will. Again, it seems as though God through His son Jesus has challenged us to learn what mercy means.

Jesus desires that we understand these things because God knows that the human heart has a tendency to be unreliable (Jeremiah 17:9). However, that does not mean that the heart cannot become reliable.

Our hearts can become reliable whenever they are honed, and refined by God. It is then that we can fully understand mercy (1 Corinthians 2; specifically 2:6-16). Otherwise, our souls deteriorate and our relationships are eroded by codependent behaviors. This is not an indictment, but a request. Take some time and examine your own motives. Read some literature and see if this is an issue that rings true in your own life. You can read Co-dependents Anonymous ( or a book By Edward T. Welch – When People are Big and God is Small (

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