31 Days of Finding Joy: Overdependence

Dear Facebook poster who constantly makes statuses about other people not treating them right:

Whoa, that was a long name. Sorry, couldn’t think of how else to put that. Every day when I sign on Facebook, I see your posts. Your posts about how nobody answers your texts. Your posts about how you always seem to get the short end of the stick. Your posts about how that was the last time that you get into a relationship with a guy or a girl who doesn’t treat you right (Followed shortly by pictures of you with your new ‘boo’). Your posts about how nobody ever treats you right, how you wish you knew what REAL friends are, how all of your besties dumped you, how you got cheated on, and let’s not forget the one with bitter, heartbroken lyrics that obviously describes your life.

First of all, let me preface this by saying that I’m not writing this to tell you that you’re annoying or to condemn you in any way. I’m writing this because I’ve been there. Granted, I didn’t necessarily post on Facebook about it every day, but that’s because I dealt with the pain in other unhealthy ways. I didn’t even realize what was happening until I was on the other side of it.

I know how it feels to be in one-sided relationships. I had several close, “great” friendships that I look back on with the realization that they were extremely unhealthy. I’ve been manipulated, taken advantage of, left out, and emotionally abused by people who were supposed to be my friends. My best friends. I’ve had guys who I cared for play with my heart, use my feelings for them as a weapon against me, and treat me inappropriately under the guise that they “liked me,” and then quickly move on to the next girl when I wouldn’t give them what they wanted. And the worst part: I let it continue to happen. I stayed in those relationships until they crumbled beneath my feet, and then dwelled in the loss of a relationship that wasn’t worth having in the first place.

The most confusing part of all this was that I considered myself to be an avoider of drama. If someone was dramatic or used people, I didn’t want them to be part of my life. I was the equivalent of the girls you see post “I’m only friends with guys because girls are soooo dramatic,” except that I had enough experience to know that guys can be just as bad. So I made it a point in life not to involve myself in anything but true, strong, drama-free friendships. HA!

Now, looking back on my life, I am so glad I don’t have to go back there. I am so glad that I have been set free from the cycles of unhealthy relationships. See, at some point I realized that (go figure) this wasn’t just about a bunch of jerks in my life treating me poorly. This was also about the fact that I was choosing to put myself the relationship in the first place! I had extreme problems with overdependence. I considered myself a great friend and assumed that other people would and should go just as above-and-beyond as I was willing to go. If they weren’t doing that, I would just keep trying harder and harder to get them to like me, because obviously this must be because I was boring, or I was too _____ or not ______ enough. If someone called to make plans with me, I would drop everything and jump at the chance. If someone cancelled plans with me, I would sit around depressed and wonder why I wasn’t exciting enough for them to hang out with me. I must really be the “fun sucker” or the “party pooper” or whatever other prized names that my “friend” was referring to me as. I would sacrifice anything for them! Why were they treating me like dirt? I struggled with feelings of self-doubt for years, feelings that originated in much bigger issues and were drawn out by so-and-so ditching me or that other person telling me how boring I was. I became so dependent on my friendships that they started to define my life. It was incredibly unhealthy. There were two parts to my hurt: their mistreatment of me, and my overdependence on them. Yes, they had taken advantage of my emotions and hadn’t treated me fairly—but why was I letting them have so much influence on me? Why didn’t I let go of the need for their approval and start looking to my Heavenly Father instead?

3 steps to overcoming overdependence:

  1. Realize that it’s okay to hurt. When I was working on overcoming some deep hurts inflicted by someone who had been a close friend to me, I came across this passage in a Bible Study. It felt like it was coming straight out of my heart:

“It was not an enemy insulting me. I could stand that. It was not someone who hated me. I could hide from him. But it is you, a person like me, my companion and good friend. We had a good friendship and walked together to God’s Temple….The one who was my friend attacks his friends and breaks his promises. His words are slippery like butter, but war is in his heart. His words are smoother than oil, but they cut like knives.” –Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21 NCV

When I read this passage, it felt so much like my life that it hurt. This was someone I had trusted, someone I had given part of myself to, and someone who was supposed to care for me. I grieved over our lost friendship and the damage that had been done to my heart.

  1. Give your heart to Jesus. The very next verse in that passage from Psalm is as follows: “Give your worries to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will never let good people down.” (Psalm 55:22 NCV) Now, the first step I had down. I knew how to hurt. I understood grief. This second part, however… I had done this, right?! I had prayed the prayer, I had given my life over. And yet there were some parts of my heart that I was holding onto, afraid to experience healing. See, if I gave my heart over to Jesus, fully trusting Him to heal me… that meant letting Him heal me. And even though theoretically that’s what I longed for, it was scary in application. When I was going through this, an inspired thought popped into my head, and it’s stuck with me ever since: “I know that You can heal me, but I’m afraid to feel complete. So I’ll go running anywhere but You.” Are you really willing to let God hold your heart? Because if not, the new relationship, new job, new town, new friends, are all only a temporary fix. Like putting a band aid on a bullet wound: it may temporarily stop the bleeding, but until the wound is properly cared for, the pain won’t go away.
  2. Transition to interdependence. Stepping away from overdependence doesn’t mean living life on an island. God himself said that, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18 NCV) We are meant to live in a community, and we are meant to have sacrificial love for those around us. Jesus was a prime example of this in His daily life with the disciples, and specifically demonstrated it in passages like during The Last Supper, when He washed His disciples’ feet. So how do you love someone sacrificially without being overdependent on them? The trick is where you get your worth. If your hope and identity are found in Christ, you’re in a position where you truly can love sacrificially. It’s hard to love with your whole heart when you’re expecting something in return. In Christ, when you’re fully healed and finding your identity in His love, you have the capability to love genuinely, with your whole heart. The great thing about this? It often brings blessings. I remember the first time I realized that I was surrounded by real, 2-sided friendships, that were deep and genuine. I wasn’t overdependent on them, and they weren’t consistently dragging me through the dirt. Yes, people still make mistakes, but they were healthy relationships. I like to define interdependency as the state in which each person is fine alone, but better together. Your identity is in Christ, but you thrive because you’re in community.

This was a very long post, and it may seem to be a little off-topic from this series. But the truth is, once you’ve been set free in Christ from overdependence, it’s painful to watch someone else go through it. Once you know about the joy you can find in Christ, it’s hard to watch other people drown in the pain of waiting for others’ approval. When it comes down to it, this really is all about joy.

If you’ve been trapped in the cycles of overdependence, my challenge to you is to give it over to Christ. Let it go and find freedom and joy and unconditional love. Or, maybe you’re like me and have already been freed from this cycle. If that’s the case, who do you know who’s still trapped? Here’s a hint: they’re probably difficult to love. They’re probably going to seem clingy or seem to expect too much. Or, they may go the other direction and build up their walls to block you out. It probably won’t be easy to be friends with them. But the beauty of finding your worth in Christ is that He redeems your pain and turns it into something beautiful, a way that you can bless those around you. He will give you the strength to bless those around you, even when it’s hard. Show that person what true friendship is, what love feels like when it’s free of condition.

So to the Facebook poster who constantly makes statuses about other people not treating them right, or to the person like me who’s hiding in your bedroom, wondering why you are unlovable: you are loved. You are wanted. You have a Heavenly Father who desires to show you what true, sacrificial love looks like. You don’t need to be overdependent on the people around you to give you a sense of self-worth. You can find strength, joy, and love in Someone who loves you unconditionally.

Find joy today in the One who gave everything for you.

* * *

This post is part of a series. Interested? Click here.

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4 thoughts on “31 Days of Finding Joy: Overdependence

  1. Pingback: 31 Days of Finding Joy | Waiting For Home

  2. Pingback: 31 Days of Finding Joy:…In a Negative Atmosphere | Waiting For Home

  3. Pingback: 31 Days of Finding Joy: Clean Hearts | Waiting For Home

  4. Pingback: 31 Days of Finding Joy: All Good Things…. | Waiting For Home

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