What I'm Reading Today: Revelation 1-3:22
The codependence I have lived with over the years gets expressed in a variety of ways. Codependence can sometimes be expressed for me as an inability to say "No" to others' requests. The consequence of this manifestation is that it causes me to take on way too many commitments. Codependence can also express itself in my life by making me appear wishy washy to others. In my effort to please everyone, it can seem impossible to take a stand – since any stand will risk offending someone.
Each of these manifestations of codependence is certainly challenging, but neither is the most challenging expression of codependence for me. The most challenging expression for me is my inability to hold others responsible for their own decisions.
You see in my efforts to be liked by others, my very first tendency is always to blame myself for something that has gone wrong. If I give someone directions to a place and they get lost, I tend to automatically blame myself for giving bad directions. I never think, "Maybe the individual didn't listen closely to the directions as I passed them along." If a church event doesn't meet expectations, I tend to conclude, "Maybe I should have worked harder to get the word out." I rarely think, "Maybe the individual didn't know about the event because they didn't read the bulletin, look at the website, read the newsletter, or listen to the verbal announcement in church."
In my process of recovery, I have begun to work on re-wiring my thinking. I'm trying to get over my tendency to think everything is my fault and begin to hold individuals responsible for their role in things as well. This is difficult work for me to do!
So what gets me motivated to do the work?
Two realizations. First, I realized that - statistically speaking - it is impossible for everything in the world to be my fault. That helped. Second, I realized that if I truly love others as much as I say I do, then I need to do the loving thing and hold them responsible for their actions (or – in some cases – inactions). It does individuals and organizations no good in terms of their growth if I'm always there relieving them of their responsibility in things. In fact, it does the opposite: it stunts them in their development.
As I read today's opening chapters from Revelations, I was reminded of this point right away. That's not easy for me to admit, because Revelation isn't my favorite book in the Bible. The triumphalist images used throughout – and the foreboding sense of "you've been bad so now you're going to get it" – don't speak to the God of love and compassion that I know. Nevertheless, I vowed to myself that I would hang in there and read Revelation.
Toward the end of the passage, I stumbled upon wonderful words that put the book (and my recovery work around holding others accountable) into perspective. "The people I love," John begins, "I call to account – prod and correct and guide so that they'll live at the best." Those words are a wonderful way of putting the goal of Revelation into perspective. The goal isn't to portray a God of fear or retribution; the goal is to get our attention and prod us so that we can live our best lives. That goal I can feel good about.
So how do you do with this notion of accountability? Are you okay with the notion that others (including the God of our thinking) should relieve individuals from their sense of responsibility; or do you prefer that individuals accept responsibility for themselves?
Til next time …