One of my friends has been sick for a long time. We’ve been ‘poorly buddies’, picking one another up and encouraging each other when we have nasty days. She’s really been struggling and we’ve been praying for ages for a breakthrough. It seems that those prayers have been answered in a miraculous way. She’s started getting much, much better and her life has been transformed.
Yet here’s the thing. Mentally, I am thrilled for her. But on a visceral, gut level, I’m struggling to cope. I’m jealous and I’m sad that she doesn’t need me in the same way. I’m frightened of the changes this makes to our friendship. Instead of celebrating with her, too often I’m mourning for myself.
I really don’t like the person this has exposed. She’s mean and selfish and squashy and insecure. She’s got a theology of suffering that works in theory, but leaks in practice. Her ‘altruism’ is about herself as well as others. She doesn’t like God acting for others, without parcelling out identical blessings for her. And having ‘triumphed’ over the idols of work and achievement (mainly because they’ve been taken away!), she’s been covertly building an identity that relies on being needed.
This is the thing about sin. Just when you think you’ve got it licked, the Spirit peels off another layer and you realise – oops, I’m still a mess.
So what’s going on? I guess you could label it as ‘co-dependency’. That’s where I show ‘excessive love’ – or suffer from ‘caring for others too much’. I have no doubt that it’s a genuine pathology. But I wonder if my co-dependency is really just neediness wearing gift-wrap.
To qualify as co-dependent, you need to exhibit certain traits:
denial (difficulty identifying/expressing how you feel, especially negative emotions; labelling others with your own negative feelings; thinking you’re very unselfish)
compliance (compromising your values for others, oversensitivity, over-reliance on others to tell you who you are, accepting sex when you want love)
control (believing most people can’t look after themselves; offering advice without being asked; pretending to agree with others to get your own way).
This is interesting. But in my case, it’s maybe just lip-sticking a sinful nature. And perhaps there are elements that apply to us all.
Having sin exposed is painful – but it’s a good thing. The question is, what do I do with it? Do I try to deal with it myself: by excusing it, denying it or making myself a scapegoat? If so, God – and others – have no part in this process. And the opportunity for me to grow in faith and holiness is lost. But if I take it to the Lord, admit my weakness and ask Him to change me… maybe then, I start showing a love that’s more about Him and less about me.