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Compassion Or Co-Dependency?

May 15, 2017 - - 0 Comments

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is hard to define. Love is an individual experience that means something different to everyone that feels it. Love is the reason why people give everything to those around them or nothing at all. When it all boils down to it, the most important love is self love. Sometimes, it’s tough to distinguish when we love too much and when we have to take a step back and understand the difference between compassion and co-dependency. How do we gauge when we love other people more than we love ourselves?

It almost seems righteous to be loving and kind to everyone that we meet but when is it too much? From a therapeutic perspective, when I see a client at any one of our residential facilities, one of the first things I like to make clear is that I am not willing to work harder than any on my clients. To be fair, this is a stance I like to keep in my personal and social life as well. One of the reasons I am able to distinguish the difference between compassion and co-dependency is a product of self awareness and setting healthy boundaries.

The reason I decided to take this stance is because I have had a firsthand experience of being co-dependent after having loved too much. I found myself holding resentment towards people that I love and the people that I work for and with. The guilt that I felt when I thought I was letting some individuals down was overwhelming. This is when I realized that I was a co-dependent.

To combat this occurrence, I found self awareness and effective communication skills as huge allies in facing my co-dependency. I also find myself constantly wondering who benefits from my action. It might seem like it’s a selfish approach but it’s righteous in the sense that it keeps us as the forefront of our focus. We can pride ourselves in being our (insert name here of someone we love)’s keeper but if we don’t take care of ourselves first, then both they and we are left with nothing.

Self love is a necessary form of self care but also self preservation. It’s ok to allow ourselves to love others but the trap of loving too much can be debilitating. When we can’t focus on ourselves and the necessity to put others above us, we lose track of who we really are. We are not defined by the actions we participate in. With self awareness, self love, and self care, we can continue to identify ourselves as individuals who participate in the act of love rather than those confined by it.

John Pascua, ASW

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