Thank you very much for your emails and discussions you’ve shared with me regarding “serving others” over the past couple of weeks. I have a question that often comes up with this topic. I get it a lot when I am teaching clients about codependency. I teach them how important it is to not overextend yourself too much for the wrong reasons. For example: never saying no because you don’t want others to be mad at your or think bad of you. Or doing doing doing for others without ever taking time for yourself and taking care of your own health, both physically and mentally.
So the question I get when I start talking about serving others and Codependency is, “Where do you draw the line between serving others, as Christ called us to, and being Codependent?” Now before you tune me out because you may not want to read about Christ, this can go for all areas of spirituality. Most every kind of “religion” calls us to be kind and love others. This can speak to you as well.
I will attempt to answer the question:
When you serve in a Codependent way, your motives are different and you feel different about it. Your motive is usually to please others, get their approval, have them like you, to avoid conflict etc. You often feel you can not do enough or be enough, so you keep doing and doing. Usually your feelings end up in frustration. You feel unappreciated and that no one ever returns your “favors” and does anything for YOU. You often feel resentful and have a hidden anger that pops its ugly head when you have these feelings.
When you serve from a servants heart, and how Christ calls us to serve (to be like Him), you serve because you WANT to! You think of something to do for someone and you can hardly wait to do it. Sometimes you don’t even care if they know you did it because it’s about them, not you! You don’t have to pull up enough energy to do it, you are energized by doing it. You can truly feel love in your heart for that person and you want to express it.
See the difference? One is from the heart, the other is to fill the heart to avoid a void. The really neat thing about serving is it actually does fill your heart- with joy, peace, and more love. That’s so much better than anger, resentment, and frustration.
So when you are wanting to serve and you are on that line- not sure whether you are being Codependent or Christ-like, ask yourself:
Am I doing this because I want to or feel I have to?
Am I angry/resentful about doing it?
Am I expecting something in return?
Is this about me or them?
I think you get the picture.
Let me know if you have any other questions about this. Thanks again for reading and have a GREAT day!
Natalie K Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, and Noblesville.