How to Confront Others in a Healthy Way
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
Healthy confrontations do not come natural for those of us who have struggled with codependency. You might be wondering, “What is codependency?” Like alcoholism, codependency is something that I am also in recovery for.
Now, you might be thinking that you don’t have a codependency issue, and that could be correct. I’m not here to head-shrink you. However, through my testimony, you might be able to look within my codependency recovery as a way to help you with relationship issues in your own life. As a former codependent I have to constantly be aware of the actions and attitudes of others, as well as myself, that can land me right back to where I was, miserable.
Codependency is a handful of things, it wasn’t even a term until the 1980’s, but now it’s widely used. If I had to describe codependency in a statement, it would be: “I can’t be okay unless you are okay.”
If I had to describe codependency in a sentence or two, it would be: allowing unacceptable behavior and treatment from others in order to keep them in your life; being addicted to a toxic relationship and you don’t know how to fix it or leave it.
And honestly, I hate that term toxic relationship; it annoys me, to tell you the truth. It’s a cop out, most of the time, for a selfish person to not look within themselves to heal a relationship–on an even level–with the other person. It’s having a mindset of, “I never do anything wrong, and you never do anything right. You make me this way.” The term toxic relationship gets thrown around quite a bit, but this will be the only time you’ll see me use it, which is in this paragraph. Codependent people are addicted to the nastiness of a toxic relationship. That toxicity is their drug. The high they get which comes from trying to change or fix another person is what they live for each day. We are usually self-made martyrs who are afraid to be alone, and we will go to any lengths to prevent that from happening.
With my maternal abandonment issues from when I was a child, as well as being ripped away from my close friends all the time because I was in the foster system, I became addicted to bad relationships as an adult. I was the best people-pleaser I knew. I’d be sure you liked me whether you decided to or not! Because of this incorrect mindset, I began to allow lots of unacceptable things to happen in my life that I shouldn’t have. Religion only made it worse, as codependency is rampant in our churches.
“Submit to your leaders!” I’d hear, as those leaders took advantage of men, women, and children.
“Forgive or you won’t be forgiven!” Another often-used, taken-out-of-context verse, as Jesus was teaching the legalists they can’t forgive their way to heaven. Yet, the modern-day Pharisees preach this fallacy with no regard to what it will do to the abused person who can’t break free.
“Cover it up with the blood! No matter what they do to you!” A preacher will yell at a battered wife, or the husband who has been cheated on countless times.
Garbage, all garbage. It’s no wonder there’s so much abuse happening in the religious world. Many churches breed codependent, frustrated sheep. They have no clue about the true heart of God. I’ll move on from that subject.
Anyway, not just in church, but in all of my relationships, I had no backbone. What I should have been doing all along is standing up to the mistreatment of others how God wanted me to. But I hadn’t allowed Him to renew my mind in this area…yet. Soon enough, He’d teach me how to stand up for myself how I was designed to in my spirit. As a result, I stopped trying to please people who were impossible to please. What a relief!
I kept asking God to teach me how to have healthy relationships and He has done just that! First, I had to diagnose what the issue was. My issue was that I struggled with codependent people-pleasing, period. Therefore, I had an inability to establish boundaries in my life. Boundaries are very important because they are clear markers of where you end and where you begin. Boundaries create a middle road, not a wall, but a road, in a relationship. You are on one side, they are on the other, and you both share this road evenly down the middle. Boundaries are like gates, they let people in, keep people out, as well as allow you to open up and get rid of some of your own junk.
When a codependent enabler learns about boundaries, they can crawl out of their dark pit of despair. Jesus was not an enabler. He didn’t go around helping those who didn’t want help. And a lot of the time, He had something for a person to do, who wanted His help–uncomfortable things. If you think about it, even as Christians, in order for us to first become a Christian, God required us to believe Jesus has forgiven us. Belief in Christ is a boundary our Creator has set up with humanity. Boundaries are a good thing, for both sides.
Boundaries teach you how to say, “No,” and mean it. Boundaries teach you how to feel the pain of the worst possible situation–no longer having that relationship–and still being okay. Boundaries teach you how to look people in the eye, let them know how you feel, and then enforce the changes you would like to happen without having a come-apart. Boundaries create consequences for those who refuse to honor them. Boundaries teach you how to show true love and respect, not just to the other person, but to yourself. Boundaries help you say:
“Not this time. I’m busy.”
“No, that’s not good for me.”
“I told you that if you did that again, this would happen. So these consequences are a result of your choices, not mine.”
“I love you, but I will no longer accept this as normal.”
Codependency and boundaries go hand in hand. Codependency is the worst relationship diagnosis, and boundaries is the best cure. So if your addiction is another person, I highly recommend that you educate yourself on both. God did not create you to be addicted to anything or anyone. He created you to enjoy your life as a heaven-ready saint while still here on planet earth. God has boundaries for us, so we should have boundaries for people. To do so, we must get used to confronting others.
Those who struggle with codependency issues hate confrontations, and they hate them for a couple reasons:
- We struggle to find that fine-line of not overreacting, and not under-reacting. So instead of confronting, we hide what is bothering us, and then blow up when it has become too much for us to bear. Rather than confront, we usually turn those issues inward, therefore incorrectly relieving our stress with an addiction or sinful choices.
- Because confronting those who use us rarely results in a favorable manner, we just keep quiet. Our needs are hardly ever looked upon with love and compassion from our user, so we begin to think that our needs are not important–which is a lie from hell.
WE MUST CONFRONT! Confrontations are necessary to enter into recovery from codependency! Confrontations create boundaries!
When we first begin to confront, it usually comes across as anger…this will pass. You have legitimate reasons to be angry, but you don’t want to stay in a state of anger. You want to move past that into controlling yourself while you confront.
Typically, the user in a codependent relationship will turn confrontations back around on the codependent person by using guilt, belittlement, the silent treatment, and rage. Who is the user? The user is the person opposite of the codependent. However, the codependent can also have user qualities. Users will rarely take the codependent person’s requests seriously or permanently. Instead, they want to shut the codependent person up so they can go back to doing what they were doing.
But still, this should not stop the codependent from confronting them. Even if you are stammering, stuttering, shaking, or sweating–CONFRONT! That stuff will go away, you’ll see. Confrontations are normal and healthy in all good relationships. They don’t have to be the end of the world, they can even be…peaceful. This will take time, but first, you have to begin confronting regularly. Don’t shy away, don’t clam up, push through your feelings and confront consistently.
Before you confront, pray. Ask God to help you say the right things and to give you wisdom–He will. Next, never plan your confrontation with the hope of changing the user’s mindset or unacceptable choices. Instead, plan to say what you have to say while not worrying about the end results. You’ve got no control over that, right? And we don’t worry about things we can’t control, right? Right. Simply let them know how they are affecting your life negatively, don’t ramble, and don’t get mad. Here’s the order:
- Confront them respectfully at a decent time, not while you, or they, are emotional or tired. You can do this face to face, by phone call, email, text, whatever, but confront.
- Don’t worry about their attacks, don’t reply to their attacks, simply confront! They will want to shift this back on you, but stay focused and confront! I’m not saying be aggressive and disrespectful, I’m saying express yourself rather than defend yourself.
- Tell them what choices of theirs are impacting your life negatively, tell them why those choices are impacting your life negatively, and then let them know what the consequences will be if they choose to continue with those choices.
- Don’t be afraid, just finish, then drop it. You love them but a change has to happen. Be clear about that.
- You’re done. Move on and keep your peace. This is one confrontation of many which will move you forward into recovery. Be proud of yourself for confronting them calmly and expressing your feelings. If you got mad, so what. Don’t let them use that against you. Forgive yourself, and next time don’t get mad. Rinse. Repeat.
My friend, your goal is not to change the other person, and it’s not to alter their opinion of your feelings. Your goal is to simply continue to confront them in a healthy manner, and then let God work it out. Don’t worry about getting an immediate change, they are used to how your relationship currently is. Over time, as they see that you are serious, they will get serious too. Seriously gone, or seriously in-tune with your boundaries. A change will happen–in you! If they change, great! That’s just a bonus! But the goal here is to be sure that you are okay, even if they are not okay with you. You love them, you respect them, but you also love and respect yourself! You are worth this change! Begin to confront others today in a healthy way. God is with you!
A prayer for you: Father, thank you for teaching me how valuable I am to you. The enemy and religious people wanted me to believe that I’m not valuable, and that I should put up with crap from others just because I’m a Christian. You’ve taught me that’s wrong! Sure, you want me to love others and help people, but you don’t want me to be taken advantage of, used, or treated like a dog. My life is so important that you gave your Son for me. Thank you for teaching me this truth! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of these dear readers are struggling with unhealthy relationships, and so many are addicted to people. God, today I’m asking that you break them free from this strangling mindset. Begin to reveal to them just how important they are to you! Teach them how to establish healthy boundaries, and how to feel the pain that comes from doing so. It’s that pain they are afraid of, but you’ve taught me that it’s better to feel the pain of being lonely or rejected than it is to continue being treated poorly. Give them wisdom God, for all of their relationships. Show them how to confront people properly, and guide them in love as they do so. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
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