A Problem of Definition



          One reason codependency is not understood is because it is so complex a human social behavior.  People complain that codependency is a terminology that has come to be understood as an excuse for any self-defeating activity in life that results in victimization.  There are varied ways of understanding and defining the behavior.  Here are some common descriptions:


 1)  Drs. Hemfelt, Minirth and Meir in their book, "Love Is A Choice" define Codependent behaviors with Ten Traits:

          1.  The codependent is driven by one or more compulsions.

            2.  The Codependent is bound and often tormented by the way things were in the dysfunctional family of origin.

            3.  The Codependent's self esteem (and frequently, maturity) is low.

            4.  A Codependent is certain his/her happiness is hinged on others.

            5.  Conversely, a codependent feels inordinately responsible for others,

            6. The Codependent's relationship with a spouse or "SignificantOther Person" is marred by a damaging, unstable lack of f                            balance between dependence and independence.

            7.  The Codependent is a master of denial and repression.

            8.  The Codependent worries about things he/she can't change and may well try to change them.

            9.  A Codependent's life is punctuated by extremes.

            10. A Codependent is constantly looking for something that is lacking in life.


2) STEPS TO RECOVERY (A Twelve Step Ministry) says,

          "Codependency is most easily  understood  as  an  unhealthy

            preoccupation or obsession with a person, a  substance,  or  an

activity.   The person may be our spouse, one or  both  parents,  etc.

We  honestly  think  we  cannot live without this other person.  The

substance may be alcohol, a drug, food, cigarettes, or caffeine; any

substance we have no control over.  The activity can be work,

hobbies, sex, gambling, religion, etc.  We use these objects of

            our addiction to medicate the pain of our needs not being met in



3)  JOHNSON INSTITUTE of Minneapolis says,

          "Codependency is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors

learned by family members to survive in a  family  experiencing 

great  emotional  pain and stress . . . Behaviors . . . passed  on  from

generation  to generation whether alcoholism is present or not."


4)  MELODY BEATTY, author of "Codependent No More" says:    

                "A Codependent is a person who has let someone else's behavior

affect him/her, and is obsessed with controlling the other person's




          "Codependency is those self-defeating, learned behaviors or character defects that result in diminished capacity to initiate, or

participate in, loving relationships."


6)  Dr. Margaret J. Rinck in her book, "Can a Christian Love too Much" defines it this way:

          "There are FOUR main points:

            a. Codependency is a learned pattern of attitudes, feelings and behaviors,

            b. Codependency makes every area of life painful,

            c. Codependency causes people to seriously neglect their own health and well-being.

            d. Codependency causes the person to lose his sense of identity."


7)  Drs. Cloud and Townsend see it Biblically this way inn their book, "Boundaries:"

          "Codependents are boundary less people who attempt to interrupt

God's Law of Sowing and Reaping, by rescuing people from the

natural consequences of their actions.  This rescuing and the later

necessary confronting brings insult and  pain to the Codependent."


8)  FRIEL AND FRIEL put it this way:

                "Codependency is a dysfunctional pattern of living which emerges

from our family of origin as well as our culture, producing arrested

identity development, and resulting in an over-reaction to things

OUTSIDE of us and an  under-reaction to things INSIDE of us.  Left

untreated, it can deteriorate into an addiction."


9)  PHIL ROLAND, Pastoral Counselor defines it:

          "Codependency is the loss of self.  It is the complete abandonment of

identity that results from role playing, strong approval needs and

self-rejection.  This self-abandonment/self-rejection is not to be

confused with voluntary Christian self sacrifice.  Offering up oneself

as a spiritual sacrifice assumes YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, AND

WHAT YOU  ARE  SACRIFICING.   The  Codependent   has never

worked through  self-discovery  and  individuation  (becoming  one's

            own person).  She/he through codependent behaviors loses

or ignores self in repeated attempts to rescue others from their self-

generated problems."






Courtesy of Sheepfold Ministries, Sharon, PA

Pastor Phil Roland



The Ten Traits of a CoDependent


1. The codependent is driven by one or more compulsions.

2. The codependent is bound and often tormented by the way things were in the dysfunctional family of origin.

3. The codependent's self-esteem (and, frequently, maturity) is very low.

4. A codependent is certain his or her happiness hinges on others.

5. Conversely, a codependent feels inordinately responsible for others.

6. The codependent's relationship with a spouse or Significant Other Person (SOP) is marred by a damaging, unstable lack of balance between dependence and independence.

7. The codependent is a master of denial and repression.

8. The codependent worries about things he or she can't change and may well try to change them.

9. A codependent's life is punctuated by extremes.

10. A codependent is constantly looking for the something that is missing or lacking in life.


“Love is a Choice,” Hemfield, Minirth and Meier, 1989

Courtesy of Sheepfold Ministries, Sharon, PA




                                                          There was a man who had given much thought to what he wanted from life.  He had experienced many moods and trials.  He had experimented with different ways of living, and he had had his share of both success and failure.  At last, he began to see clearly where he wanted to go.

          Diligently, he searched for the right opportunity.  Sometimes he came close, only to be pushed away.  Often he applied all his strength and imagination, only to find the path hopelessly blocked.  And then at last it came.  But the opportunity would not wait.  It would be made available for only a short time.  If it were seen that he was not committed, the opportunity would not come again.

          Eager to arrive, he started on his journey.  With each step, he wanted to move faster; with each thought about his goal, his heart beat quicker; with each vision of what lay ahead, he found renewed vigor.  Strength that had left him since his early youth returned, and desires, all kinds of desires, reawakened from their long-dormant positions.

          Hurrying along, he came upon a bridge that crossed through the middle of a town.  It has been built high above a river in order to protect it from the floods of spring.

          He started across.  Then he noticed someone coming from the opposite direction.  As they moved closer, it seemed as though the other were coming to greet him.  He could see clearly, however, that he did not know this other, who was dressed similarly except for something tied around his waist.     

          When they were within hailing distance, he could see that what the other had about his waist was a rope.  It was wrapped around him many times and probably, if extended, would reach a length of 30 feet.

          The other began to uncurl the rope, and, just as they were coming close, the stranger said, "Pardon me, would you be so kind as to hold the end a moment?"

          Surprised by this politely phrased but curious request, he agreed without a single thought, reached out, and took it.

          "Thank you," said the other, who then added, "two hands now, and remember, hold tight."  Whereupon, the other jumped off the bridge.

          Quickly, the free-falling body hurled the distance of the rope's length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull.  Instinctively, he held tight and was almost dragged over the side.  He managed to brace himself against the edge, however, and after having caught his breath, looked down at the other dangling, close to oblivion.

          "What are you trying to do?" he yelled.

          "Just hold tight," said the other.

          "This is ridiculous," the man thought and began trying to haul the other in.  He could not get the leverage, however.  It was as though the weight of the other person and the length of the rope had been carefully calculated in advance so that together they created a counterweight just beyond his strength to bring the other back to safety.

          "Why did you do this?" the man called out.

          "Remember," said the other, "if you let go, I will be lost."

          "But I cannot pull you up," the man replied.

          "I am your responsibility," said the other.

          "Well, I did not ask for it," the man said.

          "If you let go, I am lost," repeated the other.

          He began to look around for help.  But there was no one.  How long would he have to wait?  Why did this happen to befall him now, just as he was on the verge of true success?  He examined the side, searching for a place to tie the rope.  Some protrusion, perhaps, or maybe a hole in the boards.  But the railing was unusually uniform in shape; there were no spaces between the boards.  There was no way to get rid of this newfound burden, even temporarily.

          "What do you want? He asked the other hanging below.

          "Just your help," the other answered.

          "How can I help?  I cannot pull you in, and there is no place to tie the rope so that I can go and find someone to help me help you."

          "I know that.  Just hang on; that will be enough.  Tie the rope around your waist; it will be easier."

          Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.

          "Why did you do this? He asked again.  "Don't you see what you have done?  What possible purpose could you have in mind?"

          "Just remember," said the other, "my life is in your hands."

          What should he do?  "If I let go, all my life I will know that I let this other die.  If I stay, I risk losing my momentum toward my own long-sought-after salvation.  Either way this will haunt me forever."  With ironic humor he thought to die himself, instantly, to jump off the bridge while still holding on.  "That would teach this fool."  But he wanted to live and to live fully.  "What choice I have to make; how shall I ever decide?"

          As time went by, still no one came.  The critical moment of decision was drawing near.  To show his commitment to his own goals, he would have to continue on his journey now.  It was already almost too late to arrive in time.  But what a terrible choice to have to make.

          A new thought occurred to him.  While he could not pull this other up solely by his own efforts, if the other would shorten the rope from his end by curling it around his waist again and again, together they could do it.  Actually, the other could do it by himself, so long as he, standing on the bridge, kept it still and steady.

          "Now listen," he shouted down.  "I think I know how to save you."  And he explained his plan.

          But the other wasn't interested.

          "You mean you won't help?  But I told you I cannot pull you up myself, and I don't think I can hang on much longer either."

          "You must try," the other shouted back in tears.  "If you fail, I die."


          The point of decision arrived.  What should he do?  "My life or this other's?" And then a new idea.  A revelation.  So new, in fact, it seemed heretical, so alien was it to his traditional way of thinking.

          "I want you to listen carefully," he said, "because I mean what I am about to say.  I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own;  the position of choice for your own life I hereby give back to you."

          "What do you mean?" the other asked, afraid.

          "I mean, simply, it's up to you.  You decide which way this ends.  I will become the counterweight.  You do the pulling and bring yourself up.  I will even tug a little from here."  He began unwinding the rope from around his waist and braced himself anew against the side.

          "You cannot mean what you say," the other shrieked.  "You would not be so selfish.  I am your responsibility.  What could be so important that you would let someone die?  Do not do this to me."

          He waited a moment.  There was no change in the tension of the rope.

          "I accept your choice," he said at last, and freed his hands.

Author Unknown

Courtesy of Sheepfold Ministries, Sharon, PA

Pastor Phil Roland



Melody Beattie's Model For Codependency


          Codependency is any act in which you consciously or unconsciously contribute to compulsive behavior in another person.  The codependent is a person who needs to be needed.  That need "hooks" them particularly into the alcohol abuse dysfunctional family system.  Ask yourself how you respond to the following checklist:

          1.  Do you need to be needed?

          2.  Do   you   feel  responsible  for  other  people's  feelings, thoughts, actions or needs?

          3.  Do  you  feel  anxiety,  pity  or  guilt  when  other people have a problem?

          4.  Do you feel angry when your help isn't effective?

          5.  Do you find yourself saying, 'yes," when you mean "no", doing things others are capable of doing for themselves?

          6.  Do you feel safest when giving?

          7.  Do you feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to you?

          8.  Do you find needy people attracted to you?

          9.  Do  you  feel  bored,  empty  and  worthless  if you don't have a problem to solve or someone to help?

        10.  Do  you  feel  sad  because  you  spend  your  whole life giving to other people and nobody gives to you?

          Melody Beattie, author of the book, "Codependent No More," defines codependency as what happens when you let another person's behavior affect you, and you are obsessed with controlling that person's behavior.  Melody Beattie also defines the behavior in question as a husband's alcoholism, a teenager's drug abuse, a spouse's anger, a person's eating disorder, a small child's temper, an unfaithful spouse's sexual misbehavior, a person's gambling addiction, or even religious addictions.

          One thing the codependent is familiar with is pain.  They're very good at hiding their pain and their inner feelings.  They are usually not very  good  communicators,  and  they  have  trouble trusting people. A good treatment plan for treating codependency includes weekly Alanon meetings, regular counseling appointments and an active personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of Sheepfold Ministries, Sharon, PA

Pastor Phil Roland




          Avoid “Buying into someone else’s emotional state.”

          Someone else may be agitated and/or angry.

          This doesn’t mean you have to become like them.


          Tell others around you what you like and/or dislike.

          Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no. . .        

            ”Above all, my brothers, do not swear, not by heaven or by earth or by
            anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be
            condemned.”  James 5:12


          Never do anything for anyone that they are capable of doing for themselves.

          Respect the right of others to determine their own destiny by making their own choices.

          Decide that you do not need another person to become a whole person.  God has made you whole.  God in you is a majority.


          Tell the other person how you feel without intentionally causing them pain.

          Speak the truth in love.  Ephesians 4:15

          Do not attempt difficult confrontations on the telephone.    Jesus taught us to communicate face to face.  Luke 17:3


          Don’t major on the minors.

          Do you have to win every argument?

          Be sure the hobby horse you’re on is the right one.

         Never give your adversary the choice of what to battle over when or where to wage the war.

          The war in your heart must be won first. (2 Cor. 10:4,5)

          Remember, sometimes the one who wins the battle loses the war.

Courtesy of Pastor Phil Roland, Sheepfold Ministries, 724-981-5683