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Eric's Sunday Sermon; Of Co-dependency and Empathy
It is more fun to be together
Is it so bad?
Oh my, having my happiness depend upon the happiness of another. Sorry to tell you but mine often is just that way. Taken to extremes this is a very negative thing. Taken in small measure this is the juice of life. How can I love my brother and not care how he feels? Is not the bringing of joy to another one of the most joyous things that we can do? So of course bringing sadness to another is one of the saddest things we can do. Do not try to say that your heart is not broken when a young child’s heart is broken.
But alas we cannot control the hearts and minds of our neighbor or sister. So if their heart is hardened or in distress are we to be hardened or in distress? It is a wonderful balancing act that is an integral part of living this life. I love the phrase; “you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them”. Usually meant somewhat sarcastically it is more of a mantra for someone who suffers extreme empathy. I had a yogi tell me once about getting in deeper touch with your feelings; “The good news is that you feel more, the bad news is that you feel more”. So let us take a look at having our feelings deeply affected by the feelings of another.
Oh let us get me out of the way for starters. My dependency is more than what is healthy. In my mind I often focus on the reaction of others to actions I take. I just can’t get out of my head “will she like it?”. If I allow it, I focus more on that than on the task at hand and it takes me out of the moment and living in a fortune teller future. I project into future if it will be pleasing to another rather than doing it well for the sake of doing it well. But as you can see I recognize it and can stop the monkey mind from going so far that the anticipation is more important that the actual. I suppose it would be nice if my mind just went to the healthy thoughts rather than having to work at it, but it is what it is so I deal with it. Perhaps having something to do with being the youngest in a large family – people pleasing is engrained.
So let us look at this with an eye toward being healthy.
Please let it grow!
Sometimes staying out of the way brings the greatest smiles.
What would it be like to be dependent on nothing?
Hey now I just got to tell you that nothing makes me happier than being in a place with my friends and family all around all happy. Shoot I, in a previous age, would do anything, lie, steal cheat borrow and beg to make that happen or to prevent otherwise. Call it a compulsion I had. Now I look more at me. In fact if I set my mind straight I can be that happy even though everyone else is not. Oh sure do what is reasonable to accommodate. Make plans to assuage stress and angst. Pay attention to other’s feelings and act in advance accordingly. But it just is no longer my job to assure that everyone else is happy. Most of that is on them and not on me. Oh sure I am accountable and a bit responsible but I ain’t God. Being the director of how people’s life’s pan out is way above my pay grade. And I learned a bit ago that most people that mean a lot to me, are really happy if I am happy. Perhaps that is the best gift I can give.
We looked at me, now let us look at you. Is your happiness dependent on other people’s happiness? You are probably normal and you say “not wholly dependent though it does effect me”. Please take a moment and celebrate that fact. There is an organic part of us that wants other’s to be happy. And we feel happier when they are. Hooray for our design. Compassion and sympathy are not just taught they are a part of a healthy good human being. They exist in all of us in that universal attribute called love. Do not let anything I suggest diminish your savoring of that connection to others. Try as hard as we can we cannot detract from the fact that we are all connected and that is a very good thing. Hang on to it but manage it appropriately. The first thing you need to do is to get rid of the guilt. If your house is in order and you have caused no harm to another, then let go of the notion that you feel bad because you did not insure someone else’s happiness.
There is a concept that flows through aggressive competitive sports. No pain no gain. It kind of is true if you are looking at working out in your youth. You basically have to push it hard in order to build muscle and muscle memory. You cannot increase your limits without pushing them. You cannot be comfortable in the box and expect to break out of it. As we age, it is the exercise itself that is beneficial. Pain is more of a warning sign that should be heeded. But in the spiritual and emotional we often see the mantra is accurate. I do not adjust my emotional state until I suffer pain in that realm and need to move forward. My growth is often necessitated by a swift emotional kick in the ass. My spiritual growth is quite often the result of a painful void. My reliance on the emotional well being of another for my happiness is going to cause pain at some point for I will fail. When we grow tired of the pain we will grow and become less reliant on that which we truly cannot control. A positive road forward is essential to our wellbeing.
I admit it. I am somewhat dependent on my two girl's happiness.
Call me sentimental - I just love old friends
Maybe I can just do good without expectations of return.
Here is something very fun. I can talk biblically without quoting the Bible. For sure. Really. I am no prophet. I just have spent so much time in study and reverence and preaching that I kind of can go into the zone. Let me do it quickly without pause: “You have a piece of God within you”. You will not find that as such in the Bible. But you will find this in Luke 17:21 – The Kingdom of Heaven is within you. If you are my typical reader you will be asking “what the heck does this have to do with co-dependency?” And the answer is very cool. I am healthily dependent on God. Hey look here if your dependency on another gets you, forces you to do good stuff, right on and more power to you. My dependence on my family’s approval of me keeps me acting right. Thank you family. My dependence on my God’s approval of me helps me keep from sinning. Shoot and shucks my need for your approval of my sermons keeps me doing my very best. Embrace it, caring what others feel can be really good for you.
Do you ever have those days when no matter what someone does you are grumpy? OK maybe no whole days but moments when you are up in your head and another’s kindness just does not register. Hey don’t feel bad that is normal. But turn it around. Sometimes no matter what you do the other is up in their own space and are unchanged by your good deeds. Get over it and drop it. Be happy for doing good for goodness sake.