Codependency -vs- Submission

There is a very fine line between codependency and submission. One may think they're being submissive when in fact they are codependent. You have to know what each mean in order to clearly make out that very fine line between the two. Let's talk about codependency first.

Background on Codependency

"The concept of codependence was first developed in relation to alcohol and other substance abuse addictions. The alcoholic or drug abuser was the dependent, and the person involved with the dependent person in any intimate way (spouse, lover, child, sibling, etc.) was the codependent." However, this concept has broadened. "Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including in families, at work, in friendships, and also in romantic, peer or community relationships."

What Does Codependency Mean?

1. "A psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition [like an addiction or other kinds of negative behaviors]".

2. "Dependence on the needs of [another] or [the] control by another".

3. "A tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting ones needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others."

4. "Anyone showing an extreme degree of certain personality traits: denial, silent or even cheerful tolerance of unreasonable behavior from others [excessive compliance], a need to control others, finding identity through relationships with others, a lack of personal boundaries, and low self-esteem [insecure]."

If we sum up these definitions we see that "codependency describes behavior, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or care taking." Codependency is "a progressive disease, one which gets worse without treatment until the codependent becomes unable to function successfully in the world." Therefore, as codependency progresses it "can lead to depression, isolation, self-destructive behavior or even suicide."

Biblical Stories of Codependency

  • Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 16:1-6): Abraham displays codependent behavior in giving in to the need of Sarah rather than trusting and resting in God's promise. He was overly passive (didn't speak up) when Sarah blamed him for listening to her. And he gave in (excessive compliance) when Sarah wanted to falsely punish Hagar.

  • Jacob, Leah, and Rachel (Gen. 29:16-30:24): Jacob loved Rachel from the beginning, but not Leah. He loved Rachel so much he served double the amount (14yrs) just for her hand in marriage; which is the start of his codependent behavior. God, in turn, opened Leah's womb because Jacob loved Rachel and not her, and she gave birth to Jacob's first handful of children. This leads Rachel, who was barren, to give her maid-servant to Jacob to have her (Rachel's) kids, all out of jealously of Leah. Jacob does speak against it, but then he gives in to her. Leah, then jealous of Rachel, goes and does the same thing with her maid-servant. Jacob again gives in. Jacob, amidst his two jealous wives, displays he's codependent.

  • David and Bathsheba (2Sam. ch.11, 12:24): David wrongly sleeps with a married women (Bathsheba). He then goes on to attempt to cover up his sin. Eventually he gets Bathsheba's husband killed to cover it up. Immediately after her time of mourning—which in those days was anywhere from 7days to 30days—for her dead husband, David marries her and sleeps with her again. She gets pregnant. But God, who is displeased with David's sin, doesn't allow them to have the child. Bathsheba has a miscarriage. Immediately after her time of mourning—7 to 30days—(and time of cleansing, which is 7days) for her dead child, David sleeps with her to "comfort her". From all of this we see David displaying his lust problem and Bathsheba displaying her codependency.

Points to Ponder

  • Point 1: The "object" of the codependency uses manipulation and control to keep the codependent person codependent (the revolving door cycle—the codependent person allows the "object" to come and go and do as they please without effective consequences).

  • Point 2: Codependency enables the problem and/or condones the sin of the "object" the person is codependent upon.

  • Point 3: "Codependency does not refer to all caring behavior or feelings, but only those that are excessive to an unhealthy degree." Read David and Abigail (1Sam. 25:14-42) for a non-codependent example of this point.

So, after all of the discussion on codependency, the question that looms How do we break codependency? The answer: By becoming "submissive" unto Jesus first and foremost for as long as we live—all day, everyday.

What is Submission?

Merriam-Webster defines submission as: "a willing act of [yielding or making oneself subject] to the authority or control of another". The Bible's prescriptive definition of submission is: (Gr. hupotasso) "to place or rank under; to subject; put in subjection".

Points to Ponder

  • Point 1: Submission is identical to a bondservant (Rom. 1:1, Tit. 1:1, Jam. 1:1, 2Pet. 1:1)—someone who willingly puts oneself in servanthood to another.

  • Point 2: We must first be submissive unto Jesus (be a bondservant of Christ) before we can properly and healthily be submissive (bondservant-like) to anyone else (Eph. 5:21-22, Col. 3:18, 1Pet. 3:1-2; 5:5—wives submissive to (willingly under the covering of) their husbands and we all are to be submissive (in servanthood) one to another).

  • Point 3: Submission finds its source of contentment in the one it's submitted to (i.e. Jesus, not our spouse or others).


Biblical submission is not duped, easily mislead, willfully blind to the reality of the sin and problems in the relationship, or lacking in administering effective consequences like someone who is codependent. Biblical submission is grounded; it draws a definitive line in the sand. And why is biblical submission grounded? Because biblical submission finds its source of contentment in the One the submission is primarily unto...Jesus Christ. Hence, if the consequences of the sin and problem(s) severs relationships, one's contentment is still intact because it was submitted to Christ and not the relationship.

A believer in Christ must submit to Christ as their first (or primary) spouse/relationship, and their earthly spouse/relationships secondarily. Thus, as long as our submission is unto Christ and not primarily unto another, regardless to the relationships coming and going and starting and ending it will not treat us like a puppet (being pulled to and fro) because we're submissive unto Jesus first. Our faithfulness and love unto our spouses/relationships are a by-product of our individual submission and surrendering unto Jesus (example, Abigail).

You cannot be biblically submissive unto Jesus and still codependent upon another person. It's either you are codependent or you are submissive.

What I've shared, I'm sharing from experience and education. I was codependent. I followed my idol (my wife) right into sin. After my fall and all throughout my restoration I've become (and daily work on staying) submissive unto Jesus first and foremost. This I share to help liberate someone else that may be codependent, ignorant about codependency, ignorant about submission, or just needs to hear the truth about this struggle so to not fall into it. I hope this helped. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask. There is more to this topic, but this should be enough for this type of venue.