Category Archives: Friendship

Understanding and Developing Christian Influence

personal responsibility

What is Christian Influence?

Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6; 27:17; 2 Corinthians 12:19-13:6; Galatians 6: 1-10; Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 3:9-10; James 5:16

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

What is  Christian Influence?

It is a check and balance system to protect us from harm from ourselves and others. We do this by being open to what we are thinking and doing so we can receive encouragement and reproof, when needed. Christian Influence is accounting for what we are up to. It is the realization that we are liable, personally responsible, and answerable for our actions in life to God (Matt. 12:36; Rom. 2:16; 14:2; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10), as well as to key Christians in our life (John 13:34 Gal. 6:1-2; Philip. 2:4; Heb. 10:23-24; James 5:16). Thus, we need to hold to our beliefs and keep in line with what we believe so it does not distract us from God’s path for us or discourage others from their path.

Influence allows us to be personally answerable to one another, focusing on key relationships such as with our spouse, close friends, colleagues, coworkers, a boss, small group members, and pastor. It is sharing, in confidence, our heartfelt Christian sojourn in an atmosphere of trust. Then, we can give an answer for what we do and understand where we need help in areas where we are weak and struggling, where and how we are growing, what we are learning, and to be encouraged. These precepts help us to stay on track, and get prayer, care, and support when we fail. We can also model guideposts for one another in order to keep going.

Influence enables us to share our lives with one another. This helps us to get to know ourselves and others in a deeper manner. Even though most of our relationships in life tend to be casual and superficial, we need deep connections; that is what God has made us for (Eccl. 4:10-12; Rom. 12:5; 14: 13-23; Eph. 5:21; Col. 3:9-10; 1 Peter 3:15). In this, we can have a place to open up, share, and be challenged beyond sports, weather, fashion, or makeup. The goal is our spiritual formation which is Christian maturity, growth, and character derived from God working in us and our working out our faith with one another.

Some Christians have seen in Christian influence groups as a place to vent all of their frustrations in life. Yes, we need a place to vent, but if all we do is vent, we accomplish nothing. Real growth cannot take place, as the venting will be all consuming and will leave no time for instruction or feedback. The group will merely become a place to gossip. Having Spiritual Influence is also not a secular group to find our inner child, inner warrior, or warrior princess. Influence is not about just complaining about how life has dumped on us or a place to put others down; rather, it is a “compact” (a deeper agreement beyond a contract) and system on how to become more Christ-like (Psalm 133:1). A good Influence group will have questions, Bible study, prayer, listening, and support at its core.

Influence is not about confrontation. We may, at times, need to be confronted and to confront another, but Influence is more about challenging one another to grow in Christ, so there is no need to rebuke people. Influence helps instill the warning precepts that God has given us, but it also has the necessary support, counsel, encouragement, and affirmation we all need. Influence enables us to be …in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Rom. 12:5). This enables our connectedness to lay aside the island mentality. We do not stand independent of one another. Because such interdependency exists within the Body of Christ, we are responsible to one another to do our part and to help others do theirs.

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don’t need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don’t need you!" . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it

(1 Cor. 12:20-21, 26).

Why Do We Need

Personal Responsibility?

We are responsible to God and to one another (2 Chron. 19:6-7; Ezek. 34:2-4; Matt. 12:36-37; 2 Pet. 2:10-11). We are all fallen creatures; as Christians, we are still fallen, but are saved by His grace. We are declared clean before God by our Lord’s work; however, we are still full of sin. We all have items and thoughts in our lives that diminish our relationship with God and our effectiveness with others. There is still a process on which to embark to become cleaner (which I believe we never totally become); this is called sanctification. As Christians, we are in the process and practice of our faith, growth, learning, and maturity all the days of our lives. At the same time, we are still sinners and susceptible to temptation, spiritual warfare, and our misplaced desires. We have blind spots and need input from others to find them. If you really want to grow in faith and be effective in ministry, you must be held personally responsible; otherwise, you will fall, backslide, or be ineffective because of imbued pride. Sin will get you; maybe not today, but tomorrow is still coming. Influence is essential for every Christian to help reach his or her full potential; it is a mandate to those in leadership and ministry!

Having other people around whom you can trust and get to know more deeply will enable you to know yourself—your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities—more deeply. You will be able to see in the mirror to your inner being and desires and see if they line up to what God has for you. You will become more aware of issues, relationships, and life as life’s purpose and God’s call are unfolded before you. Because you see life and God’s Word more deeply, your behaviors and response to others will also change for the better (Eccl. 4:8-12; Rom. 15:7; Eph. 4:9-13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 10:24; James 5:16).

The pages of the Bible are filled with stories of people leaning on others for growth, personal influence, personal responsibility, and spiritual development. Deep connections from influence help great leaders overcome their struggles and see what they cannot see on their own. Most prominently in the Old Testament are Moses and Aaron (Exodus), and David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 18-20). In the New Testament are Paul and Barnabas, and then Paul with Titus, Silas, and Timothy (

Acts 11-14; 2 Cor. 2:12). And, of course, our Lord Jesus, while He walked this earth, had His twelve with an extra connection to the inner three, Peter, James, and John.

Thus, we can surmise that personal responsibility and influence is not for just for those who are weak, needy, or for wimps; it is for the strong who want to be stronger and the unconnected who need to be connected. If you think, as a man, this is still just for the weak, consider that greatness and authenticity cannot come about without humility and connection (James 4:7-12; 1 Pet. 5: 1-11)! “Real men” will be personally responsible to other real men, and real godly women will be connected to other godly women (Prov. 31). There is no way around this vital call! God gives us the call to be deeply connected to one another because we need it. The leaders in the Bible knew this well, Jesus modeled this for us, and the only hindrance is our willingness to comply. Leaders and pastors who are not personally responsible will eventually fall, and, until then, be very ineffective! God has called you to be the iron that sharpens others’ iron, as their iron will sharpen you (Prov. 27:17)!

Influence is nothing new, although it seems it is by the topics of sermons and books or from some popular movements within the last ten years; however, it was practiced by pious Jewish teachers before Christ. Influence was insisted on and practiced by Christ, Himself. Just observe how Jesus led the Disciples and how He modeled to the Disciples. This was picked up by the early church; the Reformers all had men in their lives who held them to account, in whom they trusted, took advice from, bounced ideas off of, and who prayed for them.

Calvin was especially a proponent of Influence and insisted all of His leaders be held in personally responsible, “believers (who) seriously testify, by honoring mutual righteousness among themselves, that they honor God.” It was the system he established that became the model of the “check and balance” system of modern governments, first established in the U.S. in our Constitution. The Methodist movement, founded by John Wesley, was started as an Influence and prayer group. Every effective minister, leader, and growing Christian I have ever met was in some form of an Influence group, including Billy Graham and my mentor, Francis A. Schaeffer. In fact, I have never met an effective Christian, pastor, or leader who was not in an personal Influence group. For every bad and ineffective leader I have ever met, none of them believed in or practiced Influence! This should communicate to us loudly.

Thus, the bottom line of why we need spiritual Influence is, we will be tempted; and, unless we have a system to protect ourselves, we will fall to that temptation (Prov. 6:27; 1 Cor. 6:18, 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:22)! The world is rich in temptations and we cannot fight against them effectively unless we allow the One who overcame the world to infuse us (John 5:4), and not love the world (1 John 2:15). It comes down to having trusting faith in Christ, and allowing His work in others to help keep us connected to Him. His empowerment will be the  synergist when we are connected with others whom we trust and who can warn us of coming dangers in our pursuits and thinking, encourage us when we are down, and who will hold us responsible. The love of God is often best reflected in the love and care of others. Allow that care to shield you from the wrong pursuits in life.

Many Christians think, all I have to do is leave Satan alone and he will leave me alone so I do not need Influence. The response to that is no, he will go after you even more! We will be tempted by Satan and by his Influences that seem enticing but will only hurt us. Satan seeks, not to give us what we want, but to steal from us all that which God has given. Thus, if we submit to God, then the devil flees; if we run to Satan and his ways, God is far off from us. We can try with all of our might and effort to have Influence, but unless others are there for us, and unless we are headed toward God, it just will not work! The only thing that can thwart Satan is God. So, be in Him and not in the world (Eph. 6:10; James 4:7-10; Rev. 12:11).

James is saying to first turn to God and surrender to His ways. If not, the ways of Satan and the world will gladly take up that role. We need others in our lives to point out to us the pitfalls before us, as we may not see them ourselves, blinded by desires and wanderlust. We cannot do this solely by our own efforts and strength; we need others, too. Others will see what we refuse to see, or what is blocked by our desires. It is about the insight of others and the power of the Spirit working in us all. It is not the strength of others; rather it is their eyes, words, and assistance, and our allowing God to be our strength. To remove Satan from our lives, we have to fell him—not just ignore him, but run away from him and to God, and allow others to help us in our scurry.

Objections to Influence and personal responsibility

Influence and personal responsibility may seem to go against our self-sufficient, individualistic mind-sets and fear of conviction. Most cultures and individuals like to be “my own person,” and thus do “my own thing.” Most people do not like being told what to do or how to do it. But, we need godly people in our lives to do just that—with love and care. Thus, we have to learn to overcome our barriers of conviction so we can grow more in Christ and with one another.

Many Christians see Influence as meaningless because conviction is the role of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Acts 1:8; 4:31; 10:45; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 3:16-17; Heb. 13:5-6). Yes, they are correct about the conviction part, and wrong to say that it does not matter. Why? Galatians tells us to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The meaning refers to moral issues and guarding weakness (Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 9:21).Take heed, we are also personally responsible and answerable for our actions in life to God and to other key Christians. Thus, we need to be held to our beliefs and kept in line about what we believe so it does not distract us from God’s path for us or discourage others from their own path.

The other typical objection believers give is that we are not under any kind of law, and now we have liberty and Grace, so it does not matter. A prominent Christian leader a few years back asked me, after I had done a workshop on Influence, Why is this important? Can’t I just live my Christian life as I please? After all, I have liberty in Christ! I answered him to the best of my ability, but he just would not get it; shortly thereafter, he fell and fell hard. It turned out he did not like spiritual Influence and personal responsibility because he has been having a long-term affair. He did not want to be convicted! Our liberation is not to protect us from conviction; it is to enjoy our Lord so we can pursue His precepts as we realize our indebtedness to Him.

Liberation simply means Christ has set us free (John 8:32-36; Rom. 6:3-23; Gal. 5:1). Paul was overcome by his liberation in and by Christ (Mark 7:18-19). He stressed that we must behave and be personally responsible in the correct manner. We many enjoy our freedom, but freedom does n

ot entitle one to do anything one wants, just as living in a “free” county like the U.S. does not, as we cannot steal or murder or not pay taxes. What about free will? Yes, we have “free will;” Calvin spent most of his writings discussing this fact. He taught that we have personal responsibility, and duty to faith and prayer, three areas that require free will. We are still to allow His work to continue in us; the Holy Spirit will lift our sin and our will out of the way. If you truly give up your will to God, will you be liberated or would you be obligated as a servant/slave with no real life as you would see it? The fact is that you are free in Christ! The question is how will you live your life of freedom?

The liberty of the Christian life is by surrender. It gives us:

1.      Freedom from law. (Rom. 3:19; 6:14; -15; Gal. 2:20-21; 3:23-25)

2.      Forgiveness, acceptance, and access to His presence. (Rom. 5:1-2)

3.      Freedom from having to base our acceptance on our performance. (Rom. 7: 7-11; 10:3)

4.      Freedom from sin, and declared cleaned! (John 8:34-36; Rom 3:19; 6: 3-23; 1 Cor.15: 16; Gal. 3:10-20; 4:21-31)

5.      Freedom from our own faulty thinking and superstitions. (1 Cor. 6:12-13; 8:7-13; 1 Tim. 4:1-5)

Because of these five reasons, we respond with obedience—not out of obligation (as a slave does), but out of gratitude and love. This new obedience is because of a changed heart and will. We are enabled to respond and continue in our new life by the Holy Spirit. Influence helps us in our freedom in Christ, because we give up on our self will and focus on His. Like driving a car in a strange unfamiliar area and making Christ a passenger, we, as human beings, spend most of the time arguing, complaining, and debating the destination. Yet, we do not have a clue to where we are going. If we would allow Christ to get into the driver’s seat, He would be able to take us where we could never have gone before. In addition, if we sign over the “pink slip” to our Lord Jesus Christ, then He will take us to places that, even in our wildest imaginations, we could never fathom. Then, perhaps the love we are to receive and exhibit will flow ever so much more freely! The bottom line is: Influence is letting Christ drive! Influence becomes the map to keep us moving on His road to His destination; if we throw away the map, then we go in the wrong direction; we will never get to the destination, and perhaps, even crash. It begins when we stop to ask for directions, His Directions!

We are not to allow our liberation and freedom in Grace to cause people to stumble by our actions or inactions. Our faith and actions are monitored closely by God as well as by other people, and we must realize that our actions are more influential than our words. We will either lift people up or bring them down! Hypocrisy is perhaps the most deadly threat to new or weak Christians who fall victim to it, and is a heinous sin against Christ and His children by those who cause it! We, as a body of Christ, must seek to show right actions to one another, to be cautious, and to act with charity, humility, and self-denial within our Christian liberty. We are still called to be responsible in the correct manner. We may enjoy our freedom, but freedom does not entitle us to do anything we want.  A true Christian will never destroy another person’s faith so he can have his own way! Our freedom must not bring dishonor, division, or disrepute to the church.

The first two objections are from theological standpoints, but what most of us struggle with is emotional—our fears and cultural hesitations. Connecting with others and exposing our feelings may be much easier for most women; but, for men, this is sometimes a seemingly impenetrable barrier. It can be a scary business to share your feelings and be open and transparent, as people may betray us, belittle us, or ignore or step on our heart. And to tell you the truth, yes, that can happen. It has happed to me several times, as close Influence partners have betrayed confidences and spread rumors. However, the benefits have far outweighed the few times I have been wronged.

Women tend to be better at opening up than men, especially generations born before 1965. We were brought up to think that a man is to show no emotion or share feelings—the John Wayne type. This makes a good movie character but is not good biblical character. So, we become fearful of sharing our lives with our spouse, coworkers, or even a trusted friend. These fears debilitate relational connections and the support we need in life and in ministry as well as hamper trust (Rom. 8:15). Another factor that ties in with this is shame. We feel embarrassed or that we are the only one going though this. We may feel they will reject me when they get to know me. Or, we feel no one will understand or they will think less of me. The fact is, as growing Christians in Christ, when we get to know one another, we get to know ourselves as well; love supercedes judgment and care overpowers fear. This leads to forgiveness and openness. If we let our shame and fear rule our emotions and ability to be held responsible, we will not be able to share or receive godly instruction. Thus, sin will rain upon us. When we start to realize that the love and care we send and receive is far better than the isolation we build, it will allow us to grow more in maturity and faith because we will be open and honest. As a result, all of our relationships and our ministry will vastly improve.

We need to realize we are already accepted by Christ. He no longer condemns us, as, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus… nothing can separate me from the love of God (Rom. 8). Thus, to be in a Christian Influence group, you are in a group with sinners who all have been wounded, all who fear, all who are saved by grace, and who all are together exercising the faith. We are all in the same boat here. We learn of one another’s battles which helps us with ours, and ours helps with theirs. Insights are gained and shared, and the transformation from fear to maturity commences. Together, we are not to be ashamed of who we are in Christ, living out our faith with passion and conviction. The real shame is a Christian who does not seek help from God and others. Being Personally responsible will promote healing and growth in all aspects of your life!

Remember, people will hurt you, because people who hurt are usually hurting themselves and they do not know how to relate (which an Influence group can help with). What can we do to overcome this obstacle? Be vulnerable, yet discerning. Only allow people whom you already know and trust to be a part of your support group, and advance slowly. Start off with a few of the simple questions and prayer; as you get to know one another, you will build the trust. (I did not do this with the people who betrayed me!) When we feel safe, we are more apt to share; this goes for both men and women. When we feel safe, we better receive essential positive feedback, listen to constructive criticism, and have a longer and deeper prayer time.

The key to effective spiritu

al Influence is to allow our pride to yield to the necessity of being personally responsible to one another. Our justification in Christ is no escape from bad things happening, because the world is still full of sin. It is a starting point to build and develop character, patience, and dependence on God’s grace, as Abraham did by faith; we are responsible for our choices. God approves when we are walking in Him! God does not approve when we are walking by ourselves, comfortable in our own petty presumptions, and ignoring His love and truth!

 

In His Grace Forever,

Pastor Teddy Awad, CMHP

Young Adult Crisis Hotline and

Biblical Counseling Center

Call Toll Free: 1-877-702-2GOD

                                                     (2463)

theodoreawadjr@comcast.net

http://yacrisishotline.tripod.com/

http://youngadultcrisishotline.blogspot.com/

youngadultcrisishotline@comcast.net

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C0-Dependency or Inter-Dependency?

emotionaldep

Emotional Co-Dependency

A Threat to Close Friendships

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." – Proverbs 4:23

Throughout the years, we’ve realized that one of the most intense struggles people encounter is the problem of emotional dependency. Emotional dependency can range from a powerful romantic attachment to another person to a platonic friendship that has become too ingrown and possessive.

What Is Emotional Dependency?

Emotional dependency, as we’ve defined it, is:

The condition resulting when the on-going presence and/or nurturing of another is believed necessary for personal security.

This nurturing comes in many different forms of input from one person’s life into another:

Attention, listening, admiration, counsel, affirmation and time spent together.

Emotionally dependent relationships may appear harmless or even healthy at first, but they can lead to destruction and bondage greater than most people can imagine. Whether or not physical involvement exists, sin enters the picture when a friendship becomes a dependent relationship. To differentiate between the normal interdependency that happens in wholesome relationships and an unhealthy dependency, we’ll look at the factors that make up dependent relationships: how and why they get started and how they are maintained.

Characteristics of a Dependent Relationship:

We all have a deep need, placed in us by God, for intimate friendships. How do we know when we’re meeting this need legitimately? Is there some way to recognize when we’ve crossed the line into dependency?

Here are some signs that an emotional dependency has started, this is when either party in a dependent relationship:

1. Experiences frequent jealously, possessiveness and a desire for exclusivity, viewing other people as a threat to the relationship. Either party prefers to spend time alone with this friend and becomes frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
2. Becomes irrationally angry or depressed when this friend withdraws slightly.
3. Loses interest in friendships other than this one. Sometimes experiences romantic or sexual feelings leading to fantasy about this person.
4. Becomes preoccupied with this person’s appearance, personality, problems and interests.
5. They are  unwilling to make short or long range plans that don’t include the other person,
6. Is unable to see the other’s faults realistically. Thus becomes defensive about the relationship when asked about it. Reflects and displays physical affection beyond that which is appropriate for a friendship.
7. Refers frequently to the other in conversation; feels free to "speak for" the other.
8. Exhibits an intimacy and familiarity with this friend that causes others to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in their presence.

How Does a Dependent Relationship Differ from a Healthy Friendship or interdependency where alliance is built?

A healthy relationship is free and generous. Both friends are eager to include others in their activities. They experience joy when one friend hits it off with another. In a good friendship, we desire to see our friend reach his or her full potential, developing new interests and skills. A dependent relationship is ingrown, creating mutual stagnation and limiting personal growth. In normal relationships, we are affected by things our friends say and do, but our reactions are balanced. When we’re emotionally dependent, a casual remark from our friend can send us into the heights of ecstasy or the pits of grief. If a close friend moves away, it is normal for us to feel sorrow and a sense of loss. If one of the partners in a dependent relationship moves, the other is gripped with anguish, panic and desperation. A healthy friendship is joyful, healing, and up building; an emotional dependency produces bondage.

Set-ups for Emotional Dependency.

Emotional dependency comes as a surprise to most people. Like However, dependencies don’t happen in a vacuum. Definite elements in our personalities and situations can set us up for binding relationships. Sins and hurts from the past leave us vulnerable, too. Having an awareness of these set-ups helps us to know when we need to exercise special caution in our relationships.

Personality Set-ups: Who Is Susceptible?

Anyone can fall into a dependent relationship given the right pressures and circumstances. However, there are a few common personality patterns that consistently gravitate towards each other to form dependencies. The basic combination seems to be the individual who appears to "have it all together" teamed up with one who needs the attention, protection or strength the other offers. Variations on this theme include:

1. Counselor / person with problems
2. "In control" people / one who needs direction parent / child
3. Teacher / student.

Although these pairs appear to include one strong person and one needy person, they actually consist of two needy people. The "strong" one usually has a deep need to be needed. As often as not, the one who appears weaker actually controls the relationship. We’ve talked with people who have been "weak" in one relationship and "strong" in another, and sometimes these elements aren’t apparent at all. A balanced friendship can turn into a dependent relationship if other set-ups are present.

Situational Set-ups: When Are We Most Vulnerable?

Certain times in our lives find us feeling insecure, ready to grasp hold of whatever security is available to us. Some of these times include:

1 Life crises – relationship break-up, death of someone close, loss of job.

2 Transition periods – adjusting to new job, moving to new home, getting engaged or being newly married, starting university, becoming a Christian.

3 Peak pressure periods – final examinations week, deadlines at work, personal or family illness, holidays such as Christmas.

4 When we’re away from the familiar and secure – vacation, camp, conferences, prison, military service.

We’re also vulnerable during times of boredom or depression. The best way to avoid trouble is to recognize our need for special support during these times and plan ahead for these needs to be met in healthy ways. These might include sharing our burdens with a small prayer group, scheduling a series of appointments with a counselor or pastor, increasing our contact with family members and most important, cultivating our relationship with Jesus through special quiet times. Also, there’s nothing wrong with letting our friends know we need their support! Problems only develop when we lean too much on one particular friend to meet all our needs.

Roots: Why Are We Prone to Dependency?

In a dependent relationship, one or both people are looking to a person to meet their basic needs for love and security, rather than to Jesus. Unless underlying spiritual and emotional problems are resolved, this pattern will continue unbroken.

Typical root problems that promote dependency include:

1. covetousness, which is desiring to possess something (or someone) God has not given us

2. idolatry, which results when a person or thing is at the center of our lives rather than Christ

3. rebellion, which is refusing to surrender areas of our lives to God, and

4. Mistrust, failing to believe God will meet our needs if we do things His way.

Sometimes hurts from our past leave us with low self-esteem, feelings of rejection and a deep unmet need for love. Bitterness or resentment toward those who have hurt us also opens us up for wrong relationships. These sins and hurts need to be confessed and healed before real freedom can be experienced. This can happen through confession and prayer, both in our personal times with the Lord and with other members of the body of Christ.

Emotional dependency is a painful thing to discuss. Most of us have experienced this problem. None of us are exempt from the temptation to draw our life and security from another person, especially when that person is handy and cooperative. Dependent relationships can form in opposite and same sex friendships. They can happen between married couples and between parents and children. But in the heart of the Gospel, there’s a message of truth that can free us from self-seeking relationships. For a lot of us, that really is good news!

"All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weights the heart"

  • – Proverbs 21:2

Next, we explore the role manipulation plays in these relationships, plus a look at some reasons why emotional dependencies are hard to break.

Maintenance through Manipulation.

Manipulation is an ugly word. None of us likes to believe we could ever be guilty of this activity. Yet when emotionally dependent relationships form, manipulation often becomes the glue that holds them together.

To explain what we mean by manipulation, we came up with a working definition:

"Attempting to control people or circumstances through deceptive or indirect means".

Webster’s Dictionary describes manipulation as being insidious, which means:

1. Treacherous – awaiting a chance to entrap.

2. Seductive – harmful but enticing.

3. Subtle – developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent, having a gradual but cumulative effect.

Some typical forms of manipulation used to begin and maintain dependencies:

1 Finances – combining finances and personal possessions, moving in together.

2 Gifts – giving gifts and cards regularly for no special occasion, such as flowers, jewelry, baked goods, and gifts symbolic of the relationship.

3 Clothes – wearing each others’ clothing, copying each others’ styles.

4 Romanticism’s – using poetry, music, or other romanticism’s to provoke an emotional response.

5 Physical affection – body language, frequent hugging, touching, roughhousing, back and neck rubs, tickling, and wrestling.

6 Eye contact – staring, giving meaningful or seductive looks; refusing to make eye contact as a means of punishment.

7 Flattery and praise – "You’re the only one who understands me."

"I don’t know what I’d do without you." Proverbs 29:5 says "Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet."

8 Conversational triggers – flirting, teasing, using special nicknames, referring to things that have special meaning to both of you.

9 Failing to be honest – repressing negative feelings or differing opinions.

10 Needing "help" – creating or exaggerating problems to gain attention and sympathy.

11 Guilt – making the other feel guilty over unmet expectations: "If you love me, then … "
"I was going to call you last night, but I know you’re probably too busy to bother with me."

12 Threats – threats
of suicide and backsliding can be manipulative.

13 Pouting, brooding, cold silences – when asked, "What’s wrong", replying by sighing or saying, "Nothing".

14 Undermining partner’s other relationships – convincing him others do not care about him, making friends with partner’s other friends in order to control the situation.

15 Provoking insecurity – withholding approval, picking on partner’s weak points, threatening to end the relationship.

16 Time – keeping the other’s time occupied so as not to allow for separate activities.

These are common ways manipulation is used to hold dependent relationships together. Some of these things are not sinful in and of themselves. Honest praise and encouragement, giving of gifts, hugging and touching are important aspects of godly friendship. Only when these things are used for selfish ends — to bind or control another, to arouse responses leading to sin — do they become manipulative.

Why Are Dependencies Hard To Break?

Even when both parties realize a relationship is unhealthy, they may experience great difficulty in breaking the dependency. Often those involved will begin to separate, only to run back to each other. Even after dependencies are broken, the effects may linger on for some time. Let’s look at some reasons why these attachments are so persistent.

There are benefits.

We usually don’t involve ourselves in any kind of behavior if we don’t believe it benefits us in some way. As painful as dependency is, it does give us some gratification. The fear of losing this gratification makes dependent relationships hard to give up. Some of the perceived benefits of an emotional dependency include:

1 Emotional security
a dependent relationship gives us the sense that we have at least one relationship we can count on. This gives us a feeling of belonging to someone.

2 Intimacy
Our need for intimacy, warmth, and affection might be filled through this relationship.

3 Self worth
Our ego is boosted when someone admires us or is attracted to us. We also appreciate feeling needed.

4 Relief from boredom
A relationship like this might add excitement and romance when life seems dull otherwise. In fact, the stressful ups and downs of the relationship can become addictive.

5 Escape from responsibility
The focus on maintaining the relationship can provide an escape from confronting personal problems and responsibilities.

6 Familiarity
Many people don’t know any other way of relating. They are afraid to give up the "known" for the "unknown".

We can’t see it as sin.

The culture we live in has taken the truth that "God is love" and turned it around to mean, "Love is god". In modern history, romantic or emotional love is viewed as a law unto itself: when you "love" someone (meaning: when you have intense romantic feelings for someone), anything you do with that person is "OK". Viewed in this light, dependent relationships seem beautiful and noble. Especially if there is no sexual involvement, dependent attachments are easy to rationalize. Genuine feelings of love and friendship might be used to excuse the intense jealously and possessiveness present in the dependency.

Also, we may not be able to see how a dependent relationship separates us from God. "I pray more than ever", one woman told us. What she didn’t mention was that she never prayed about anything but her dependent relationship. Sometimes people say, "This friend draws me even closer to God." What usually has happened is that the emotional dependency has given them a euphoric feeling that masquerades as "closeness to God". When the friend withdraws even slightly, God suddenly seems far away!

Root problems are not dealt with.

We might end a dependent relationship by breaking it off or moving away. However, if we still have unhealed hurts, unfilled needs, or an unrepentant heart, we’ll fall right into another dependent relationship or return to the one we left. Dealing with the surface symptom rather than the real problem leaves the door open to future stumbling.

Spiritual influences are overlooked.

When we ignore the Holy Spirit’s correction, we make ourselves vulnerable to satanic oppression. Those who willingly enter dependent relationships become candidates for spiritual deception. Wrong begins to seem right to them and truth begins to sound like a lie. When breaking free from dependent relationships, we sometimes overlook the importance of spiritual warfare: prayer, fasting and deliverance. If emotional ties have gone deep into a person’s life, especially if sexual sin has been involved, there’s the need to break the bonds that have formed between the two people. When dependency has been a lifelong pattern, ties need to be broken with all past partners as well, If the spiritual aspects are not dealt with thoroughly, this sin pattern will continue.

We don’t want to give up our sin.

Counselors know the frustration of going through all imaginable steps of counseling, support, and spiritual warfare on behalf of a counselee only to realize this individual has no interest in changing. People in dependent relationships sometimes say they want out, but they really want to be relieved from the responsibility of doing anything about the problem. They hope talking to a counselor will free them from the pressures of their conscience. Meanwhile, their desire and intent is to continue having the dependent relationship. Sometimes the bottom line is this: an emotional dependency is hard to break because the individuals involved don’t want it to be broken.

"For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and find out what pleases the Lord." Ephesians 5:8-10

Healing for this sin that so deeply affects our ability to relate to others is found through right relationship with Christ and the members of His body. In exploring "The Path Out of Dependency", we look at sugg

estions coming directly from Christians who’ve battled this sin, yet now are learning to enjoy relationships that reflect God’s design and intent.

The Path Out of Dependency.

The tendency to draw our life and security from another human being is a problem nearly everyone faces. However, it’s only after we encounter repeated frustration and sorrow in emotionally dependent relationships that we hunger for something more satisfying. We long to find contentment and rest in our relationships with others, but how do we break the old patterns?

Before we start exploring the different elements in overcoming dependency, we need to grasp an important truth: there is NO FORMULA that leads us to a transformed life. Lifelong tendencies towards dependent relationships can’t be changed by following "ten easy steps". Jesus Christ desires to do an intimate and unique work within each of us by the power of His Holy Spirit. Change will come as we submit to Him and cooperate with that work. The guide-lines we’re considering here illustrate ways God has worked in various people’s lives to bring them out of emotional dependency. Some of the suggestions apply to gaining freedom from a specific relationship; others pertain to breaking lifelong patterns. All represent different aspects of a whole picture: turning away from forms of relationship rooted in our sin nature and learning new ways of relating based on our new natures in Christ.

Elements In Overcoming Emotional Dependency

Making a commitment to Honesty.

In the second part of this series, we covered some reasons why dependencies are hard to break. One reason was that as a result of the deception that sets in, we can’t see dependency as sin. This deception is broken when we are honest with ourselves, admitting we’re involved in a dependent relationship and acknowledging our dependency as sin. Then we’re ready for honesty with God, confessing our sin to Him. We don’t have to hide our confusion, our anger, or any of our feelings; we just need to pour out our hearts to Him, asking Him to give us the willingness to obey His will in this matter. The next challenge is being honest with another person. We can seek out a mature brother or sister in Christ and confess to them, "Look I’m really struggling with my feelings towards my partner on the evangelism team. I’m getting way too attached to her. Could you pray with me about this?" As we "walk in the light" in this way, we can be cleansed and forgiven. If we’re aware of specific ways we’ve manipulated circumstances to promote the dependent relationship, we can ask forgiveness for these actions, too. The deeper the honesty, the deeper the cleansing we’ll receive. In choosing someone to share with, the best choice is a stable, trustworthy Christian who is not emotionally involved in the situation. This person can then intercede for us in prayer and hold us accountable, especially if we give them freedom to periodically ask us "how things are going". Extreme caution needs to be used in sharing our feelings with the one we’re dependent on. It’s better to seek the counsel and prayer of a spiritual elder before even considering this step, and even then, we need to ask the Lord to shine His light on our motives.

Introducing Changes in Activities: Gradual Separation.

Whether the dependency has been mutual or one-sided, we usually begin to plan our lives around the other person’s activities. In dealing with dependent relationships in Love in Action, San Rafael, we don’t advocate the idea of totally avoiding another member of the body of Christ. However, we do recognize that a "parting of the ways" is necessary in breaking dependency. For example, we don’t recommend that a person stop attending church just because the other person will be there. But we do know that placing ourselves unnecessarily in the presence of the person we’re dependent on will only prolong the pain and delay God’s work in our lives.

Allow God To Work.

This sounds so obvious, but it’s not as easy as it seems! After we confess to God that we’re hopelessly attached to this individual and are powerless to do anything about it, we invite Him to come in and "change the situation". The Lord never ignores a prayer like this. Some people begin to confront us about this relationship, but we assure them we have it all under control. Our friend decides to start going to a different Bible study, and soon we find a good reason to switch to the same one. We ask God to work in our lives, but then we do everything in our power to make sure He doesn’t! I’ve learned from my own experience that thwarting God’s attempts to take someone out of my life only produces prolonged unrest and agony. Cooperation with the Holy Spirit brings the quickest possible healing from broken relationships.

Preparing for Grief and Depression.

Letting go of a dependent relationship can be a painful as going through a divorce. If we acquaint ourselves with the grief process and allow ourselves to hurt for a season, our healing will come faster. If we repress our pain and deny ourselves the time we need to recover, we’ll carry around unnecessary guilt and bitterness. Some people have said that they found the Psalms to be especially comforting during this time of "letting go".

Cultivate Other Friendships.

Even if it’s difficult, scary, and our hearts are not in it … we need to do it. Our feelings will catch up later, and we’ll be glad we’ve made the investment in the lives of our new friends. The Lord will choose relationships for us if we’ll let Him. Willingness to accept the friends He gives us will deepen our relationship with Him as well. He knows just the relationships we need to draw out our special qualities and chip off our rough edges.

Discover God’s Vision for Relationships.

If we love another person as God loves him, we’ll desire to see that man (or women) conformed to the image of Christ. The Lord wants to bring forth qualities in us that reflect His character and gifts that enable us to do His work. In a recent issue of the This may sound tough, but our willingness to be disciplined emotionally might just make or break a friendship. When we exchange another’s best interests for our own neediness, we run the risk of losing the friendship." If we desire an exclusive emotional involvement with this friend, then our desires are in conflict with what the Lord wants. We need to ask ourselves, "Am I working with God or Against Him in the person’s life?

Resolve The Deeper Issues.

The compulsion to form dependent relationships is a symptom of deeper spiritual and emotional problems that need to be faced and resolved. Self-analysis is th

e least effective way to uncover these problems. The most effective way is to go directly to Jesus and ask Him to show us what’s wrong. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5) Another effective way is to go to those God has placed in positions of authority over us and submit to their counsel and prayer. For some, a long-term counseling relationship will help us face the sins we need to repent of and the hurts that need healing. The desire to find our identity and security in another human being is a common sin problem with a myriad of possible causes. Confession, repentance, deliverance, counseling, and inner healing are means the Lord will use to bring purity and emotional stability into our lives. The healing and forgiveness we need are ours through Jesus’ atonement. We can receive them by humbling ourselves before Him and before others in His body.

Prepare For The Long Haul.

Sometimes victory escapes us because we prepare for a battle rather than a war. Whether we are trying to gain freedom from a specific attachment or from lifelong patterns of dependency, we need to prepare for long-term warfare. We need to know ourselves: our vulnerabilities, the types of personalities we are likely to "fall for", the times when we need to be especially careful. We need to know our adversary: know the specific lies Satan is likely to tempt us with and be prepared to reject those lies, even when they sound good to us! More than anything, we need to know our Lord. We need to be willing to believe God loves us. Even if we cannot seem to feel His love, we can take a stand by faith that He does love us and begin to thank Him for this fact. As we learn of God’s character through His Word, we can relinquish our images of Him as being cruel, distant, or unloving. A love relationship with Jesus is our best safeguard against emotionally dependent relationships.

Is There Life After Dependency?

Though overcoming dependence may be painful for a season, it is one of the most curable ailments known to man. Often people are so healed that they cannot even conceive of the extent of their former bondage to dependent relationships. The immediate reward in giving up a dependent relationship is peace with God. Even in the midst of pain over the loss of the dependency, we experience peace, relief, and joy as our fellowship with God is restored. "It’s like waking up after a bad dream" one woman told us.

Peace with ourselves is another blessing we receive. It’s much easier to like ourselves when we are not scheming and striving to maintain a relationship we know God does not desire for us. When we have relinquished a dependent attachment, we are no longer tormented with fear of losing the relationship. This, too, brings peace to our hearts.

In the aftermath of dependency, we discover a new freedom to love others. We are members of one another in the body of Christ. When our attentions and affections are wrapped up totally in one individual, other people in our lives are suffering for it. They are not receiving the love from us God intends them to have.

Individuals who have given up dependent relationships say they discover a new caring and compassion for people that’s not based on sexual or emotional attraction. They find they are less critical of people and less defensive. They begin to notice that their lives are founded on the real security found through their relationship with Christ, not the false security of a dependent relationship.

And, finally, overcoming dependency brings us a freedom to minister to others. We can only lead others where we have been willing to go ourselves. When we are no longer rationalizing wrong attachments, we have new liberty in the Spirit to exhort and encourage others! Our discernment becomes clearer, and spiritual truth is easier to understand and accept. We become clean vessels, fit for the Lord’s use.

In our desire to remain free from this problem, we need to remember that hiding from people is not the alternative to dependency. Dependency is a subtle counterfeit to the tremendously rich and fulfilling relationship the Lord intends for us to have through Him. If we are trying to overcome the sin of dependency, let’s remember that Jesus is not harsh with us. He will teach us to love people in a holy way, and He knows that this takes time. There is a battle between the flesh and the spirit in every way of our lives – relationships are no exception. But Jesus is the one who is bringing His body together, and we are learning. "I am confident of this: that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

John 15:15,

"I have called you friends."

Friendships are made, not born

Christ Himself is our model. He reaches out to us and offers us more than just friendship. He offers us eternal life with Him. He is always there for us and forgives us endlessly. He knows us inside and out and loves us anyway.

We are all born into a family, but we grow into friendships. Members of your family may be your best friends. But if they are, I suspect it’s more a matter of spirit than of blood.

Friends are a priceless gift from God. According to the dictionary, a friend is one person linked to another by esteem, respect, or affection.

One of the advantages of having friends with whom we can have deep conversations about things that matter is the opportunity to discuss each other’s beliefs and doubts.

Developing new friends:

1. Show a real interest in the lives of others. This means asking questions and really caring about their lives, not just your own.

2. Go out on a limb. Invite someone you’d like to know to do something with you.

3. Don’t give up too easily. If someone doesn’t immediately jump at the chance to build a friendship, be patient. Some people need a little more time.

4. Talk to God about your desire for friends. Ask Him to help you find good friends.

In His Grace Forever,

Teddy Awad, CMHP

Young Adult Crisis Hotline and

Biblical Counseling Center

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