The simple answer is no, true Christian generosity has no limits. Giving is good. Sacrificial giving is good. In this we imitate Christ and can give glory to God. But while generosity always involves giving, not all giving is generosity. Let’s take a look at the differences between generosity and codependency.
WHAT IS CODEPENDENCY?
Codependency is when someone needs to be needed by others in order to feel good about themselves. It comes from a focus on getting personal needs met through the appreciation of others. Codependents will often give of themselves without respect to good boundaries and use giving to indenture others into essentially worshiping them. The problem with codependency is that it leaves people feeling worthless and empty when others do not need them.
There is always a cost to a co-dependent’s giving, though it may not come immediately. They may just seem like happy helpers at first: giving rides, money, help with the kids. Then they hit you with the cost of their “generosity.” This cost may be attempting to guilt you into helping them. It could look like getting angry when you ask somebody else to help. They feel betrayed and hurt when you don’t need or depend on them and will blame you for their hurt feelings.
Generosity comes from a place of wisdom. It comes from the belief that, through His grace, God meets all of our needs. Christian generosity recognizes God is the provider of all the gifts we give and is to receive all the glory for our generosity. Unlike codependency, generosity gives with no strings attached. It leads to joy and a greater trust in the Provider.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO CODEPENDENCY?
Have you been thinking about someone in particular while reading this? Is it hitting too close to home with yourself? Ultimately, the remedy for codependency is a dependency on God. The Bible is full of stories and verses that show how valuable we are to our Creator (Examples: Psalm 139:1-18; John 3:16; Matthew 10:29-31). Our worth comes from the fact that what God says about anything is the end all truth. And God says we are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Let us live in the truth of who God says we are and believe it with our whole hearts.
If you are someone in a relationship with a codependent person, then boundaries need to become your new BFF. Your boundaries primarily need to come in the form of being emotionally healthy enough to not take the co-dependent’s emotional attacks. Recognize when they are upset (usually when you set a healthy boundary) and, unless damaging, use that as an opportunity to show grace.
This could look like helping them work through their hurt feelings. It could look like helping them find a healthier channel for their servant’s spirit. Most of all, responding with grace looks like not judging them for being the way that they are. Everyone has a story. We can extend grace and love them where they are, while helping lay the stones to guide them to a better place.
Meet the Author!
Phoebe is a therapist at Connect Counseling at Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption, mom to the very lively Vivi and very chill Charlie, and wife to Jeff. You may spot her out and about at almost any Target in the area with a coconut milk latte in hand. She enjoys nonfiction books, Disney movies, and helping others find peace and healing in the hope of the Gospel.
This blog is meant to further the conversation about mental health and is not intended as medical or professional advice.