A year and a half ago, I wrote a series of posts about friendships that become ingrown and infected with idolatry and codependency. The response was overwhelming, as I guessed it would be. This is a common problem in people of all ages and yet rarely talked about openly.
Personally, I’ve never had the best-friend type of relationship that I described in the series. I kept my foot in several different circles in high school and college, never really having “my people” and yet trying to fit in with everyone. Are you like me? If so, you may have written off this codependency thing, assuming since you don’t have a “best friend” you are immune.
Though I never had an outwardly needy friendship, the weeds of codependency were still popping up in my life, just in a different form. Maybe you can relate.
Several years ago, conflict and hurt invaded my life through a friendship. Not being able to “go our separate ways,” I was forced to learn how to have a friendship I often didn’t want. Philippians 2:3-4 became my mantra as I tried to “sacrificially serve” my way into the acceptance of a friend. Many years of tension landed us in counseling and gave me eyes to see what I could not at first: I was a needy and codependent friend.
I needed her to be ok with me. I needed her approval and her acceptance. I needed her more than I loved her. This is the essence of codependency: driven by our own needs we become unable to truly love other people. My neediness was near impossible to see because it manifested by keeping her at arms-length. I perceived myself not to be needy because I was perfectly content without her in my life.
In writing the Friendship Gone Wrong series, I began to see the same root in my own heart. It was more subtle, but, in essence, the same. I didn’t need people to be okay, that was until they didn’t approve of me. Then I obsessively sought to their acceptance. This root dwells in us all: the tendency to use others not love them, to have our desires for love, acceptance, and approval met in people rather than God.
Do you need the approval of others? Do you go above and beyond to make sure others are okay with you? Here is your invitation to join me in a posture of repentance, a daily choice to turn away from needing and using people and clinging to God for the grace to truly love them.
Loving my friend meant being honest. My honesty was painful to her and temporarily lost me her acceptance. This was a cost I was never willing to bear. I preferred a fake friendship rather than pay the price for something real. But by God’s grace, He enabled a change to take place so that I might truly love her and not use her to love myself.
My sin hurts people. Even my “cleaned up” sins, like avoiding hard conversations to keep the peace. And I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that there is wreckage in the wake of my choices. But God has been faithful to restore new joy and life to a friendship that seemed beyond repair.
We are all needy people. Hungry for approval, for friends, for companionship, for intimacy, for love, for a place to belong. These hungers are meant to lead us to the bread of life and the fountain of living water, not the people around us who are just as empty as we are. May we let our needs be met in God alone so that our friendships can be about getting more of Jesus, not getting more of each other.
He is enough. He is more than enough.