A number of years ago I spent copious amounts of time and energy trying to control the actions of those around me. They seemed to care little about their bad choices. The question I asked myself was, “Why did I care so much?”
The answer I came up with was the idea of false responsibility. I felt responsible for their wrong actions as if I would be blamed, punished and even judged for their behavior when I reached the judgment seat of Christ.
Where did such thinking come from? The Lord brought me back to my childhood. I was the oldest girl in our family of four boys and four girls. As the oldest girl, I often babysat for and/or was put in charge of my siblings.
When one of my younger brothers but especially sisters did something wrong, I was blamed and handed the responsiblity. “You’re the oldest,” “You were in charge,” and “You should have made sure they didn’t do wrong,” were messages I picked up from childhood and carried into adulthood.
Those misbehaving around me in my family and church family as an adult became like my childhood siblings. I felt responsible when they did wrong. It seemed it was my job to correct them and make them do the right thing. These efforts wore me out and caused havoc in relationships.
Over time God convinced me I was not responsible for other Christians’ bad behavior–even my childrens’ or husband’s. He confirmed it wasn’t my job to change or make them do right. Yes, I could discipline my children, but when they reached adulthood, it was time to let go, which I’ve had great difficulty doing.
As I said last week, the verses in the Bible that seem to address codependency are in Galatians 6.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load” Galatians 6:2-5 NIV.
The first phrase of this section of Scripture seems to contradict the last phrase. In the King James Version I read:
“Bear ye one another’s burdens…For every man shall bear his own burden.” (verses 2 & 5)
In looking up “burdens” and “burden,” I discovered they have different meanings in the Greek. “Burdens” from Galatians 6:2 in Strong’s concordance means figuratively a “burden (some) weight.”
The word “burden” in Galatians 6:5 comes from a word that means figuratively “something carried, ie the cargo of a ship.”
As I look at these two kinds of burdens I see the first is a burden we help each other carry such as when we reach out to someone going through a difficult time and then when our hard time comes, that person reaches back. The other–someone’s cargo–is for him to carry. How right would it be if I cruised up to a ship and suddenly started taking off the cargo and putting it in my ship to carry?
God has been faithful to show me the difference between these two burdens in the circumstances of my life. Many times when I start to slip back into false responsibility I hear God whisper, “That’s not your responsibility.” The more I heed those little whispers, the freer I’m becoming. And I’m learning that when I try to carry other people’s loads–the cargo God gave them to carry– they become weaker.
How about you? Is there someone in your life that you tend to feel an unhealthy responsibility for? Have you prayed about the root of the problem?Have you asked God how to be set free?