There are many facets to Christian codependency. One of them is that there are some people who refuse to help themselves. Martyrs suffer because they get a payoff: They feed an image that says, "I don't deserve anything better, so I'll continue to endure this." Along with the martyr stroking his or her self-esteem for being so willing to suffer, comes the abrogation of responsibility, which says, "I don't have any choice." Other people aren't willing to make an effort to help themselves out of laziness and irresponsibility. So how do you help those who won't help themselves?

People that don't want to change will sometimes project their helplessness onto you by making you helpless to help them. Even though they manipulate you into helping them, no matter what you do, it will fail, because they want to remain helpless and don't want to change. Others will want you to do for them what they aren't willing to do for themselves but expect you to do for them. Jesus recognized people could be like this when he asked the lame man who lay by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:1-6). You can easily feel like a failure when dealing with people like this, and they may even accuse you of failing them. At the same time, if you refuse to take care of them, they will take it as a rejection and try to make you feel guilty about saying no.

Our giving is healthy when we give because we want to not because we feel compelled to give out of guilt and misplaced responsibility, are afraid to say no, or we want the person to do a certain thing in response (2 Corinthians 9:7). Healthy giving allows you to detach yourself from the person's response. It is your choice to help; it is the other person's choice to use that help how they want. When you find yourself wanting to help people who won't help themselves, change your response to their helplessness. Decide what you are willing to do and not do in the future. When you do it, do it because you want to and can let go of your expectations about the person's response; conversely, if you don't want to do it, then don't.

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Karla Downing is an author, speaker, licensed marriage and family therapist, and Bible study teacher. Karla's passion is to help people find freedom in Christ in the midst of their difficult relationships and circumstances through Biblical truths and practical tools.