An Assessment of the Article “Why the Religion of Self-Care is Really Sanctified Selfishness” – Christian Author is Indirectly Promoting Codependency, Which is Harmful
A link to this article, from a site and Twitter account called “Truth Over Tribe,” came through my Twitter feed today.
I don’t think I am following these guys; this was a suggestion by Twitter that appeared in my timeline. The “Truth Over Tribe” site says on their site that they are “too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.”
Okay… I’m somewhat in the same place. I’m a conservative who occasionally disagrees with other conservatives, but I sure don’t agree with many positions of progressives.
After having skimmed over some articles on this site – the site owner and author seems to be a Patrick Miller – he seems to lean left of center.
I can tell he’s left of center from some of the commentary and language he’s used – for one, in the article below, he puts his Intersectional Feminism (a left wing concept) on full display by talking about how “self care” was really started by black people, white women love it, and these days, only white woman can (financially) afford it. (Though I didn’t quote those portions of his article below, but they are over on his site.)
At any rate, let’s get on to the article on this site that alarmed me, and I will provide a few excerpts, and then I will comment on them to explain why I feel this piece goes horribly wrong:
by Patrick Miller
“To be happy, you need to leave toxic people behind.” The preaching Peloton instructor continued, “I’m talking about people who take more than they give. People who don’t care about your dreams. People whose selfishness impedes your ability to do what you want to do.”
Oh crap. She just described my two-year-old. I guess it’s time to cut him off.
This is the gospel of self-care. The notion that the most important person in my life is me, and anyone who impedes my happiness is an existential threat to my emotional and physical well-being. …
… What’s the Religion of Self Care?
[The author then reproduces a lengthy quote by a Tara Isabella Burton]
…Instead of sin, there is toxicity. Toxic chemicals and people that limit your ability to live your life fully. In the place of Christ’s call to take up your cross and die to yourself, there is a call to lay down your cross and live for yourself.
[Through out the article, the author cites various products that are being sold by self-help gurus or companies, eg., certain types of exercise equipment, nutritional supplements, etc, and he sort of condemns these items in the context of “self care.”
The author also names a few prominent women Christians who he believes are making a profit off marketing self care products, books, etc]
…The question should be whether self-care actually produces the happiness and health it promises. On the one hand, there’s a value to taking care of your body and mental health. God gave you that body and mind, after all (1 Cor. 6:19).
The question is whether these self-care products and gurus actually deliver on their promise to make your body and mind healthier.
…Pressing beyond this, the gospel of self-first is a dangerous Trojan horse. It looks beautiful on the outside—Who wouldn’t like the idea of sanctified selfishness, where self-focus is moral and healthy?—but only leads to unhappiness.
Jesus taught us that the key to happiness is following him, enjoying him, serving him, and walking in his path. He called his followers to pick up a cross, not lay it down (Matthew 16:24-26).
Then he led by example.
The true gospel begins with the self-denial of repentance, followed by the self-renunciation of allegiance to and faithful obedience of King Jesus. As it turns out, this is the path to happiness and joy. There is true joy and happiness in the freedom of self-forgetfulness. The freedom of loving and serving others first…
— end excerpts —
The Advice in the Article Will Only Work on Those Who Are Already Doing It: People Pleasers, Codependents, Empaths & It May Make Them Feel Guilty
The rhetoric the article contains is rhetoric which also frequently appears in mainstream, Christian sermons, books, and magazines, including content that goes back to the 1980s and 1990s. And the rhetoric it espouses can be damaging to some people.
I was exposed to similar material in years past as I was growing up, and the attitudes in the article will really only work on people who are already empathetic, people pleasing, and codependent.
In other words, the ideas in the article will only work on the very people who really do not need to be instructed to be less selfish and more giving, loving, and caring, because they are already too giving, too loving, and too caring.
(Quick note and clarification before I continue: not all empaths are codependents, but most to all codependents are empaths. I will be using all three terms – empath, codependent, and people pleaser – in my post interchangeably.)
People who already are very sensitive, caring, and empathetic can be easily guilt tripped by these sorts of pieces as the one by Miller.
Codependents (as well as people pleasers) can (and do) often guilt trip themselves, too. They always feel as though they are not doing enough for other people, even though the truth is, they are already doing too much.
Codependents are very good at anticipating and filling the needs of others, yet they deny or minimize their own needs.
… Many codependents had their material needs met and assume that’s all they require. But humans have many needs. Recognizing a need that was shamed or never filled is like asking a blind person to describe color.
…If key needs were shamed or ignored in your childhood, you grow up doing the same to yourself and shut down feelings associated with those needs. Why feel a need if you don’t expect it to be filled? It’s less painful to deny it entirely.
This is why many codependents learn to be self-sufficient and, in particular, to deny emotional needs. (page 79)
(Source: Book: Codependency for Dummies, author: Darlene Lancer, MFT)
It wouldn’t occur to most codependents to take a break and relax and get their own needs met.
If they are encouraged by a friend or family member to take a break and just take a nap or watch a favorite movie, they may hesitate, because they would think, “wouldn’t that be selfish of me?”
Secular culture, some parents, and Churches guilt trip and condition girls and women to think it’s a female duty in life to ignore one’s own needs, to be “good” at relationships, to be nurturing, and, among other things, to be responsible for rescuing, saving, and caring for others.
Some care-taking can be fine, depending on the particular circumstances, motives of the care giver, and the duration.
However, if the care taking is compulsive, done out of guilt, obligation, is excessive, is an on-going pattern, if all to most of one’s entire identity and self esteem is built on meeting other people’s needs, it’s veering into Codependency – which is horrible, bad, and can be harmful to a person’s mental and physical health – it is not something to be applauded or encouraged.
On the flip side of, the reverse of, the Codependents, Empaths, and People Pleasers:
There are people out there who do lack empathy and are terribly self-absorbed, such as narcissists, people on the narcissism spectrum, and psychopaths and sociopaths, and just garden variety entitled people who will not be moved by such essays as this one by Miller.
Those are the people who need messages like this one by Miller, but it won’t get through to them, though. They don’t care.
Some, like sociopaths, lack the capacity to care, because they are biologically incapable of having or experiencing empathy.
People with deeply entitled mentalities or personality disorders don’t care to change or to meet other people’s needs, and they never will.
It’s rather perverse for anyone to suggest that self care -we’re talking regular, healthy, normal self care- is a form of selfishness, especially considering that a codependent may come across this article.
The last person who needs to be guilt tripped or shamed into “doing more” for others or for Jesus is a codependent, especially one who has not yet figured out that he or she is codependent and doesn’t have to live life that way.
Some codependents may be among the readers of that page by Miller, and hearing or reading yet again that self care is selfishness will only re-enforce, rather than liberate them from, the prison and hell of codependency.
I spent around 35 or so years being very codependent myself.
Female Codependents get the message constantly from their family of origin, society, and/or faith communities that a woman getting her own needs met is selfish.
We ladies don’t need yet more online articles or other content shaming us or trying to convince us that normal self care is selfish and to be avoided, since we are hit over the head repeatedly with this message all the time from various sources since we are girls.
And these are false messages!
It is NOT selfish to get one own’s needs met. Self care is not “sanctified selfishness.”
There are times in the Bible where it is stated that (paraphrasing), ‘Jesus left the crowds to go off alone and pray.’ There are times Jesus experienced hunger, drowsiness, and it’s recorded he asked for food, water, or took naps!
Would Miller suggest that Jesus was practicing “sanctified selfishness” for taking breaks to care for his physical and mental needs?
Jesus is to be the role model for Christians – so – if you’re a Christian, look to Jesus: if you are hungry, eat; if you are tired, go pray or take a nap!
Realize you do not have to help every person who comes to you asking for help, your time, money, or a favor! It’s okay to say “no.” It is not un-biblical or selfish to tell people “no.”
Codependents usually give a knee-jerk “yes” response to any and all favors people ask of them, for one reason, they don’t want to appear selfish, and they are afraid anyone they tell “no” to may become angry with them, which terrifies them.
This tendency leaves codependents wide open to being abused, manipulated, and exploited by the truly selfish of the world, as well as psychologically troubled and damaged people.
Some Origins of Codependency
There are different ways a person can become codependent, but in my case, it was a mixture of the following:
- receiving societal gender stereotyped messages from the time I was a girl (stereotypes that associate “femininity” with codependent beliefs and actions),
- to the Southern Baptist and evangelical culture I was raised in that encouraged codependency under “gender complementarian” and “traditional gender role” views,
- to my parents, in that, my Dad was consistently invalidating of me (when he was not out and out ignoring me), and my mother, who was extremely Codependent (due to having been raised in an abusive, alcoholic family and raised in a Baptist faith that promoted codependency for women under “traditional gender role” teachings and attitudes).
I am not a mental health professional, but I spent over 35 or so years as a pretty severe Codependent, and after doing a lot of research once I got into middle age (which included reading a lot of material on the subject by mental health professionals), I was able to walk away from Codependency.
Codependency Usually Begins in Childhood – When You Are Told Or Get the Message that Your Needs Don’t Matter, and You Exist Only to Meet Other People’s Needs
Here is some of what I learned over the years from reading about Codependency in books and articles, and later, listening to pod casts and You Tube videos by psychiatrists, licensed psychologists, and therapists:
Some therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists who understand what Codependency is (not all of them have a firm grasp on it – many in the mental health profession who specialize in codependency will admit that their colleagues don’t properly understand the topic) may ask their adult patients why they believe it’s not acceptable for them to get their own needs met?
Often, in the case studies I read, the women patients will come in to see the psychologist complaining about being depressed or angry.
Some of the women patients tell their psychologist or therapist that they are angry that their husbands do things like take “me time” to go on jogs every morning before going off to their 9 to 5 office jobs, leaving them (the wife) at home to get the kids ready for school, and so on, and the wives in these case studies were wanting to resume their morning jogs.
In one of these case studies, the therapist asked her patient why she doesn’t go on jogs herself if that is what she wants to do.
The woman replied, “that would be selfish of me!”
The therapist told her, no it would not be selfish of you – you have every right to meet your needs and desires, so from here on out, why not ASK your husband for compromise:
on some mornings, you keep to your normal routine to this point where YOU fix your children breakfast and your husband goes on his run, but on other days, your husband stays at home and watches the kids and cooks them breakfast while YOU go out on a jog?
The therapist said she went on to ask this woman, “Did anyone ever tell you flatly or convey to you in some other way when you were a child that you are selfish if you get your own needs met, or that you don’t have a right to get your needs met?”
The therapist said her patient paused and thought it over for a moment, then her eyes got big and wide and she said,
“Now that you mention it, yes. When I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I used to help my mother with housework.
“I used to fold laundry, put dirty dishes in the sink and so on.
“But on some days, I asked my mother if I may go outside and play dolls or hop scotch with the other 9 year old neighbor girl, and my mother would get angry at me.
“My mother would say things to me on those occasions, like, ‘How can you be so selfish? How can you think of going out and having fun, leaving me to do the house work all alone?”
And that seems to be pretty common – in many of the books and articles I read about family systems, abuse, codependency, boundaries, and so forth, this came up a lot; when a psychologist asked a patient (usually a woman), if she recalls anyone in her childhood coaching her to be self-less constantly, to deny her needs, telling her or suggesting that her wanting to get her own needs met was selfish, these women patients always say, “Yes.”
Yes, their family of origin conveyed to them that it was selfish of them to sometimes want to get their own needs met – this may have been delivered in the sexist gender stereotype belief that girls and women are only supposed to be giving and nurturing towards others.
Some of these women patients may have had a narcissistic parent (a parent on the narcissism spectrum) who wouldn’t give them any attention unless they, the daughter, put her own needs aside to cater to the needs of the parent and never asked the parents to meet their needs.
Secular culture also sends messages to women from the time we are girls that we should always put others’ needs before our own, and we’re told that it’s our responsibility to (Link): perform Emotional Labor in all our relationships, to fix troubled relationships, to cheer up and fix every hurting person we meet.
Christian Culture, Doctrines, and Churches Also Preach the “Gospel of Codependency” to Girls and Women
The church also runs with these messages to women but also slathers it in gender complementarian teachings and faulty Bible interpretations, which makes women feel as if they don’t live up to, and live out, these precepts that God will be angry or disappointed with them (in addition to getting these messages that they are supposedly selfish if they get their own needs met or tell people, “No.”)
This adds a spiritually abusive layer atop the parental and secular societal messages girls and women already receive. Christians are incorrectly teaching girls and women that God designed girls and women to be codependent doormats, and God will be angry or disappointed if girls and women don’t live up to it.
Toxic Adults Who Will Stand As Obstacles To Your Life, Dreams, and Goals Do In Fact Exist
In response to the Peloton instructor who mentions as you go through life that you will meet selfish and toxic people who will hold you back, Miller responded:
Oh crap. She [the Peloton instructor] just described my two-year-old. I guess it’s time to cut him off.
— end quote —
I hope that Miller realizes that yes, there is such a thing as toxic adults.
“Toxic adults” is not a fairy tale concept made up by the Peloton instructor he was quoting.
There are in fact adults who lean towards selfishness, there are adults whose personality styles lean pessimistic and negative, there are adults with on-going clinical depression, and adults with personality disorders that are either totally or mostly impervious to therapy (such as Narcissism, Sociopathy, and Psychopathy).
Some of these personality disordered people will absolutely run you and your dreams into the ground, all the while expecting YOU to meet THEIR needs and assist them in getting their goals and dreams to come to pass.
Narcissists in particular – whether they are on the spectrum or have NPD – are bottomless pits of emotional needs and wants.
Narcissists will crush your dreams and goals – they only care that you help them meet their needs and goals.
You can watch and listen to this 7.45 minute long video on You Tube (The Narcissist and the Ship in the Harbor) by a licensed psychologist for more on that.
Here’s another one:
(Link, You Tube, 13.11 minutes long): How narcissists destroy your dreams and limits your potential
Narcissists will take and take and take and never give back (other than the occasional, token “bread crumb” they toss you to keep you hooked into the relationship), no matter how much love, care, and giving you shower down upon them.
If You Follow Miller’s Advice, You Will End Up Being a Magnet for Selfish or Troubled People, and It Will Leave You Exhausted and Exploited
One thing all those groups I just mentioned (e.g., personality disordered, clinically depressed, pessimists, etc) tend to have in common (not always but often):
They themselves are self-absorbed and/or deal with their anger, disappointment, and sadness in life by turning to the empaths, codependents, and people pleasers in their life as “free therapists” to complain to for hours and hours over months and years.
I’ve been on the receiving end of that behavior, and it is mentally exhausting listening to people complain (or cry and sob) regularly and then empathizing with and consoling them.
For 35 years, I listened to family, co-workers, acquaintances, friends, and neighbors sob, weep, or rant in anger at me in person, text messages, or over the phone every time they were angry or sad about their jobs, spouses, financial issues, health problems, or whatever type of problem they were facing.
It’s Mostly a Woman’s Problem
I don’t think this is a problem most men face, or not very often.
Both men and women tend to “dump” their complaining and personal problems on to whatever women friends or women family they have.
I’m sure some men get hit with this on occasion, but culturally, women are expected to play this function for everybody, of all ages and both sexes. We women are supposed to “be good at it.”
I think culturally, it is assumed women enjoy listening to non-stop crying and complaining, and we enjoy consoling hurting or angry people.
News flash for the unaware: most of us women do NOT enjoy this role!
Even codependent women usually secretly resent providing this function, but when we women are codependent, we’re too shucky darn nice and afraid of confrontation to say so, and we’re afraid of being thought of as “selfish” if we do not go along with it.
I would guess that Miller, the author of the essay, being a man, has no idea how exhausting it is to take endless e-mails, phone calls, or texts from weeping, angry, screaming, dour, disappointed, hurting, or depressed friends or family daily, weekly, or monthly, and be expected to express deep caring and offer continual words of comfort each time.
Women are also expected to step up in the practical care-taking arena, not just the emotional care-taking one:
such as but not limited to:
sending “Get Well Soon” cards via snail mail to sick friends; cooking home made meals and putting them in Tupper ware and then driving the meals over to a recuperating friend, etc.
I’ve been there, and it is mother freaking exhausting doing all that stuff (doing both the emotional and practical help care-giving).
It’s even more exhausting when the people you’re doing this stuff for don’t thank you for it (I was seldom thanked) or seldom care-take for you in return (again, I rarely got my needs met in return).
I left that all behind a couple of years or so ago and don’t miss it one bit.
Most often, these types of people who used me as their “rock to lean on” seldom to never inquired about me, took an interest in my life, asked about my problems, or allowed me to rely on them for emotional support.
And I really could’ve used emotional support at times in my life, like after my mother died, for instance – but I got none. Not even from the truly selfish, ungrateful clowns (including devout Christians) I had consoled for YEARS about their boyfriend or job problems.
Warning: Relationships Are Not Transactional and Love Cannot be Earned
As a codependent, you tend to operate from the assumption that nobody will love you for you, that you have to EARN love and friendship by doing things like bringing people home-made cookies or listening to them complain all the time about their problems and then consoling them when they’re sad – but – trust me, you cannot and will not earn true friends by being a care-giver.
Honest, healthy, lasting, meaningful dating or friendship relationships are not transactional.
The only people you will attract by ignoring your needs to meet theirs are people who are just exploiting you, such as but not limited to, narcissists.
When you start developing healthy boundaries and stop jumping through hoops and doing favors for your friends and family, they will drift off and leave you, because the only reason some of them were in your life is precisely because you were meeting some need or another of theirs.
They never had any intention of meeting yours in return.
And if all that happened to me (and it did), it will happen to you. That is the lesson there.
I wrote all about this ordeal in other posts on my blog, such as this one:
(Link): Life Lessons After Recovering from Codependency – I Can’t Save You, and I No Longer Want To
And in posts such as these:
(Link): When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship
Will Being Pathologically Giving and Neglecting Self Care Bring You Happiness? (No, It Won’t)
Miller says in his piece that being self-focused or practicing self-care won’t make a person happy.
That may be true for some, but the opposite – what he seems to be preaching – won’t make a person happy, either.
I know, because I lived it out for over three decades, and it didn’t bring me happiness or peace.
Due to societal conditioning and societal gender expectations for women, parenting I received, and teachings from gender complementarian churches I grew up with, I spent 35+ years being pathologically giving, un-selfish, non-confrontational, and I lacked boundaries – and it did not bring me satisfaction, peace, joy, or happiness.
Living that way did leave me mentally and physically exhausted and exploited by many people, however.
I more or less did not get my needs met in return, in spite of all the giving I did, in spite of all the nice gestures and care-taking I did for others.
I am not advising that people go the opposite direction and always look inwards and never, ever think about others or helping others.
If you are focused on self too much too often, you can possibly end up becoming depressed, prolonging or exacerbating depression (I had clinical depression for about 35 years, though my depression was very related to being codependent).
There are times it can be good for one’s mental health, to yes, assist someone else – get out of your own head and stop ruminating on yourself, and stop dwelling upon your problems.
Self Care Is Healthy And Recommended by Therapists Who Specialize in Treating Codependency
In her book Codependency for Dummies, licensed therapist Darlene Lancer prescribes several approaches and practices for healing from Codependency.
One method Lancer prescribes in her book is self care!
Yes, the very concept Miller derides, criticizes, and shames in his essay as being selfish is the very same concept a licensed therapist encourages Codependents healing from Codependency to practice!
And if you don’t like “secular” sources, and don’t trust them on these issues, check out works by Christian psychiatrists such as Dr. Cloud, Dr. Townsend, and the book “No More Christian Nice Girl,” (co-author, Christian Jennifer Degler, Ph.D), who are in agreement with their secular counterparts about Codependency, People Pleasing, Boundaries, and the importance of self-care.
Here is some of what Lancer says in her book on that subject; from Chapter 11, “Finding Pleasure”:
Focusing on your problems can sap your joy and pleasure. Healing entails coming out of denial and feeling your pain, but it also includes developing healthy habits to increase positive feelings and the healing chemicals they release to combat hopelessness, anxiety, and depression.
This chapter focuses on bringing pleasure, enjoyment, and nourishment into your life through physical, sensual, spiritual, creative, and social activities. (page 171)
That chapter in that same book has subheadings such as “Nurture Your Body,” “Move Your Body,” and “Delight Your Senses.”
In that chapter, and in other places in the book, the author advises the reader (who is recovering from codependency) to eat nutritious meals, practice relaxation techniques, get more exercise, and to pick up relaxing hobbies and activities, such as gardening, golfing, and camping.
Once you realize that codependency is harmful, you may be stumped and wonder, well, if I get rid of codependency, how then do I live life? How do I handle relationships now?
Part of getting rid of codependency is learning new rules and ways of living, being, and thinking, and that also includes replacing compulsive, excessive care-taking of others with learning to slow down and engage in activities that bring YOU pleasure or bring you rest and relaxation – and doing so without guilt!
One step of getting over codependency involves realizing that it is NOT selfish to get your own needs met, but here we have Miller in his article trying to convince people to either stay in codependency, or start living that way.
Picking Up Your Cross and Following Christ
If you’re going to stop being codependent, you will have to replace your former codependent habits with new, healthy ones.
Picking up your cross and following Christ does not, nor should Christians advocate that it means, denying self in a codependent fashion, which is what I see frequently in these Christian articles that shame people into ignoring their own needs, as though that is more saintly (it’s not).
It took me into my 40s to start realizing that a large portion of my clinical depression with suicidal ideation was stemming from the codependent behaviors and thought processes my family and Christian community kept wanting me to live by.
I was taught by family and church that other people’s feelings and needs matter, but mine do not, or, the other version of this I was taught is that other people’s needs and feelings matter way, WAY more than mine do.
(And such teachings were tied in to “gender complementarian” beliefs, where Christians misinterpret the Bible to present the idea that a woman’s existence is only meant to serve others and never, ever herself.)
I was taught by family, church, and secular culture that I exist only to help and rescue others; that’s what women do, that’s what we’re supposedly so much better at than men.
I was discouraged from looking inwards and asking, “Who am I? What do I want?”
I was, rather, directed to help other people achieve their dreams and goals.
One result of all that bogus teaching and stereotypes is that MY dreams and goals were never fulfilled.
Once I began looking into these topics more, and I realized that no, me getting my own needs met was not a form of selfishness nor was it “sanctified selfishness,” that my needs and feelings are just as important as anyone else’s, the majority of my clinical depression lifted – maybe all of it.
Jesus does mention in the Gospels that there will be pain and problems in life, but he also said this:
… Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29, 30)
That doesn’t sound like a guy who is pushing Christians to never take some rest, have some fun, and only care for others constantly.
What Miller is promoting in his essay sounds more like what Jesus is talking about (and warning against) here:
They [religious leaders] tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)
And it also sounds a little like this:
Where Miller says that Jesus led by example (incorrectly implying Jesus practiced self denial all the time), he leaves out the part of Scripture where Jesus got his own needs met, or Jesus encouraged a person to take a break from work to get her own needs met.
An example or two:
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)
“The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” – Mark 6:30-31
Jesus was inside the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. The followers went and woke him. They said, “Teacher, don’t you care about us? We are going to drown!” (Mark 4:38)
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke chapter 10)
From the Old Testament:
“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work.” – Exodus 20:9-10a
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” – Psalm 127:2
“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” – Psalm 23:2
Can there be a danger or unhappiness in being so wrapped up in yourself, your own head, and your own problems, and never in thinking about or helping others you stay miserable or become miserable? Yes. But there is also a danger in the opposite: codependency.
Never thinking of yourself and your needs, always giving to others and always being outward-focused. That can lead to depression as well, and feelings of resentment, as well as physical health problems if you never take a break, never get proper rest.
I’m sure the guy who wrote the essay means well, and a lot of it sounds spiritually pretty and even true at first glance, but I was someone who lived it out for over 35 years, and being so giving all the time and hardly ever getting my needs met left me wide open to being abused and used by other people, falling into unhealthy, one-sided relationships quite a bit.
I think the key – just common sense and even biblically speaking – is to strike a balance. I got the impression from Miller’s essay that he was veering way too far into, “Hey, Codependency sounds biblical!” side of things.
Repent of Codependency
Sometimes King Jesus asks you to repent of your Codependency – which can involve things such as, but not limited to,
- repenting of allowing your Fear of Man, fear of confrontation, and fear of rejection or abandonment, to dictate what you do or don’t do in life, or if you will confront people who need to be confronted or held accountable for their sin;
- taking a day of rest (stop meeting other people’s needs, and get your own met, Leviticus 23:3 )
- codependency will have you violating Matthew 5:37, so you’ll need to repent of that.
Perhaps the biggest of them all: repent of trying to be another person’s Savior.
Codependents are too giving, too caring, and always making other people’s problems their problems to fix.
Codependents are always trying to rescue, fix, or save other people.
There’s only so much you can do to help someone else; outside of limited situations such as pulling an unconscious person from a burning car or performing the heimlich maneuver on a person choking to death on a peanut, you cannot save other people, only God can.
Your nephew the drug addict, your boss with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or your friend with clinical depression – you can’t save these people, and no matter how much care you throw their way, it won’t permanently fix or heal them – that is up for them to do.
Edit. I would guess the guy who tweeted this is referring to the recent shooting of 19 people in a grade school in Texas, but it’s still applicable to the point I made here:
(Link, You Tube, 13.11 minutes long): How narcissists destroy your dreams and limits your potential
(Link): The Selfish, Lazy Husband Who Kept Blowing Off His Stressed Wife to Go on World War 2 Reenactments – Male Entitlement in Relationships: Why Women Divorce Men – and Churches and Culture Support This Male Entitlement
If you go with Miller’s advice on a steady basis, you will end up attracting Energy Vampires, complainers, and people with Victimhood Syndrome, Covert and Overt Narcissists to you quite a bit, which is not a good thing: