A recent conversation with a friend got me thinking A LOT about codependent relationships. And not just any kind of codependent relationships, I'm talking about the ones in between people and religion.
I've seen these kinds of relationships within my own family, and within certain work environments I have experienced as well. A codependent relationship usually involves two people, the abuser and the enabler. I found this list of questions, to which a positive answer may be a sign of codependency, and I was surprised at just how many could be answered "yes" with the LDS church (and dogmatic religion in general) in mind.
Do you feel responsible for other people--their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being and destiny? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes... and Yes.
Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or by trying to take care of their feelings? Yes
Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to others? I would say yes.
Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you? This one I would have to say probably not...
Do you feel empty, bored and worthless if you don't have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with? "These are the latter days. Satan has never had more power over the hearts of men. We must do everything we can to fight the powers of Satan, with the movies we choose, the company we keep, and ... oh... be sure to come to the church Christmas party on Saturday!"
Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying about other people and their problems? Does three hours on Sunday and asking members for two daily personal prayers count?
Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love? Yes. You have to lose yourself in Christ. You have to remove your identity and become of one mind, one heart, and one spirit.
Do you stay in relationships that don't work and tolerate abuse in order to keep people loving you? "We sacrifice for Christ."
So dogmatic religion (i.e. lds church), to me, has all the traits of an abusive codependent. Now all it needs is some enablers. And it has millions of them. An enabler is essentially, for lack of a better word, the victim in these relationships. They are constantly seeking approval, but never being "good enough." No matter how hard they try to please the abuser, no matter what costs or sacrifices they make, they will ALWAYS be flawed.
This reminded me of a very friendly lady in my ward. A couple of months ago, while she was visiting teaching me, she was trying to relate to me and I suppose "find common ground." I was telling her how I thought the temple was creepy and weird. She was silent for a few moments before she said, "we all have our trials and our issues." she then proceeded to tell me how she wasn't "perfect" either. Now this woman is the ideal TBM woman. She follows through with ALL of her callings. She is a homemaker, a mother, and a very faithful woman. So I just had to smile inwardly as she proceeded to berate herself for sometimes falling asleep while reading her daily 30 minutes of scripture. Or for forgetting to pray until after she got out of bed and did some of her morning routine (even though she still remembered to pray before breakfast, I think she was referring to forgetting to pray RIGHT when she woke up).
The sad thing is, as she spoke, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She wasn't saying these things in a superficial or perfunctory way. She really meant them. She really believed that she was not "good enough." She was still inadequate. I could see her intense displeasure with herself as she said these words.
Codependent abusers also make unrealistic demands of the enabler. Demands they will never be able to fulfill so in the end, the enabler will always come up short. Church members are often told "Be ye perfect." And when they mean perfect, they mean 100% perfectly following and doing all that the church dictates and commands you should. But of course, no real person could ever live up to that.
So, with religion, it seems that you will never be good enough in this life. You will always be working to get better. Is it any wonder so many people suffer with self-deprecation? When I was struggling to believe in the church I knew was false, I hated myself for not believing. Because it had been ingrained in me that to not believe was an inherent flaw. I was fighting the "natural man" (and logic, reason, historical facts, etc.). I hated myself for not having the testimony I should have. That was because although I didn't have faith in all the supernatural claims of the church, I still was participating in, and enabling a codependent relationship.