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Codependence & Religion

Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society

In today’s show we discuss codependence & religion, it’s deep roots in history and how it can leave our children vulnerable.

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Show Transcript

STEVE:  Hi everyone.  Welcome to our Narcissistic-Codependent Society.  I am Steve Cooper, and with me today is Kim Cooper.

Last week, we spoke about how there can be a narcissistic occupational hazard with some religious leaders if they start to feel that their position puts them above the law.    

KIM:  Today’s show, we talk about codependence and religion.  And my, oh my, is this a big one, Steve.    

STEVE:  It’s pretty exciting.  We are going to really dive into it.

KIM:  Mmm…it’s a big show that we’ve got planned today, so hold on tight. 

STEVE:  The most exciting thing about this, Kim, is we are going to really analyze some serious issues that have come up since our last show.

KIM:  Mmm. 

STEVE:  And one of the most serious issues I’d like to talk about straight away is, when I mentioned that there can be a hazard in leaders in religious organizations becoming narcissistic and feeling above the law, that sets up a whole system where our children can become very vulnerable . . .

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  . . . and where it can set off a system of having an endless supply of groveling, needy, devotees. 

KIM:   Mmm.

STEVE:  Which is unhealthy and very narcissistic/codependent. 

KIM:  Yeah.  The narcissistic/codependent sort of system, if you will — whether it’s operational in a religious environment, a family environment, or really any organization— really does leave the most vulnerable members of that organization very vulnerable, as you say, and open to exploitation, which, unfortunately we have seen reports of in religious organizations and institutions, and I think it is important that this is discussed, and that we talk about this out in the open — how it happens, why it happens, what is this pattern of behavior that we can fall into and operate from that makes this so prevalent —too prevalent, and happen too often.  Hopefully by the end of today’s show, you may come to understand how this idea of codependence and religion is just so vast.  It goes right back in history. It’s something that has actually affected our whole society.  It has affected our political systems.  It has affected the way that we operate as a society, and I would say creates most of, if not all of, the social issues and conflict issues that we face. 

Now, I know that is a big claim.  (Smiling.)

STEVE:   (Laughing.)

KIM:  And I know that Steve is going to try and back me up here, because this has been a big show to put together.  And I really want to get started, because I know we really have a lot to get through. 

STEVE:   So, Kim, it’s really important to say from the outset that I don’t think the word narcissistic or codependent ever appears in the Bible. 

KIM:  No.  (Laughing.)

STEVE:  (Laughing.)  So, we know that the words aren’t there, but there are so many examples of it. 

KIM:  Mmm.  That’s right. 

STEVE:  And I just wanted to warn some people too — people who don’t have a biblical or scriptural background, we are going to talk about Scripture today, but please stick with us because, as I just mentioned, the Bible is full of these stories. They are fantastic parables on this topic. 

KIM:  Mmm.   

STEVE:  And we are going to talk about that today.  Please stick with us.  You will find something beneficial out of it, I promise you.

KIM:  Thanks for the disclaimer, because please don’t feel like we are going to suddenly go denominational here, or that we are going to get off science — because really our work is science based.  But today we are going to look at the Book of Job, and a little bit of other stuff from the Bible. 

The reason why is that:

The Book of Job is one of the oldest books in the bible.

I really think that if you look at it — and I hope you agree by the end of the show— that this is what it’s all about.  It’s actually a debate, and they are debating some really important ideas here, and I think Job is actually debating against his three friends and this other guy who comes in at the end, Elihu, who really basically the stand or the argument they are taking is the religious codependent stance. 

STEVE:  Yeah, right.

KIM:  And it’s Job who is arguing against that.  Then by the end the Lord comes in and actually says that Job has won the debate and his friends are actually incorrect in what they have had to say about God.  It’s a really interesting Book, and hopefully we can see this as history as well, because it is so old.  And I think it is a really good example of how you really cannot just pick up the Bible and open it up and say every single thing in here is divinely inspired and is just law. 

Because, as I just mentioned, this is a debate. Job is debating three other people who have an awful lot to say.  (Laughing.)

STEVE:  (Laughing.) Yeah, it’s quite a long debate. 

KIM:   It’s a very long debate. They have an awful lot to say. And then by the end of the debate it’s said very clearly that they were wrong. So, you could pick it up and you could be reading pages and pages of stuff that then later was then shown to be wrong thinking.  So, you do have to be careful with this stuff.  Umm…but, okay.  Where are we going to start?    

STEVE:  Great, so Kim — but first, I think we should — I think we were planning to talk about how we find it very uncomfortable when people grovel in church…

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  . . . grovel before the Lord.  Should we talk about that?  You tell me.

KIM:  Yeah, we’ll start there, because otherwise the stuff in Job isn’t going to make as much sense, is it.     

STEVE:  Right.  Yeah, absolutely.

KIM:  Yep.  So this is one of my least favorite things about going to church.  I like a lot of things about going to church, and I won’t get into them now.  But, what I really dislike is when somebody gets up and they start praying and they do the whole: I am nothing, I’m just dust at your feet, and I’m just some little worm.  All the glory is yours.

STEVE:  (Laughing.)  Right.

KIM:  This really upsets me . . . it really does.

STEVE:  It’s very codependent.

KIM:  (Laughing.)  It’s very codependent. 

STEVE:  Mmm. 

KIM:  (Laughing.)  And I think it’s kind of amusing that these same people will often be the type of people that even though they are apparently so humble when they are praying, if you try and talk to them later about how maybe there isn’t really a doctrinal basis for that, umm, they know everything.  (Laughing.) 

STEVE:  (Laughing.)   

KIM:  And they’ve got it all covered…. 

STEVE:  Yeah.    

KIM:  . . . and they’re actually not really interested in anyone else’s ideas.

STEVE:   Yeah. 

KIM:   So, maybe that’s a little bit cheeky of me, but . . .

STEVE:  It’s important to be devoted in your faith, but maybe we are just questioning whether you have to take that humility to such profound levels. 

KIM:  Well, actually, I would say that this is exactly what the Book of Job is all about.   

STEVE:   Right.

KIM:  This is really what they are arguing about and Job is taking the side where he is saying that he’s not going to grovel.  He is saying, no, my conscious is clear, and I’m not going to deny my conscience, I am not going to blaspheme against my conscience by pretending that I have sinned, and that I should debase myself in front of God and ask his forgiveness, when I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. You know?  So he is accused of being proud by his friends for doing this, but there is a really different kind of pride going on here. They obviously have different ideas. Really, you can look at the Book of Job, and you can say, okay, what is Job’s argument and what are his three friends and Elihu’s argument?

Job’s argument is that we can’t ascribe our sense of justice to God’s work and to God’s will. That we can’t look at life and say just because somebody is a king and somebody else is a pauper that God has blessed that person and he obviously wants to punish the other person.  He said that is pride,  that is arrogance — for us to think that we know how God works and that we can ascribe our sense of justice to him. 

He feels that he needs to be honest to his own conscience, and that he needs to act on his own conscience, and that he needs to act and live his life in fear of God — like that he needs to do the right thing — but that he is very upset with his friends for judging him.  (Laughing.)

STEVE:  (Laughing.)

KIM:  For them coming in and saying, look at what has happened to you, look at the affliction that has faced you. For those who don’t know the story, Job has lost everything by this stage — well, he hasn’t lost his wife, but he has lost his children, he has lost his wealth, his property has been destroyed . . .

STEVE:  He lost his health.   

KIM:  He has lost his health, he is covered with sores from head to toe. He can’t even rest. He has just become somebody who is mocked and humiliated, and he just has nothing. So his friends all come to visit him, and that’s when this debate occurs. 

They say that they are all in silence for seven days, and then this debate starts occurring.  And in the beginning, the friends are sort of being nice — like sometimes judgmental friends will pretend to be nice in the beginning.  (Laughing). 

STEVE:  Yeah, that’s right.  (Laughing.)

KIM:  They pretend like they are kind of being nice to him. But when he won’t relent and he won’t say, well, yeah, I have obviously brought this on myself, they get more and more relentless in their attack on him. And he gets more and more upset about it, because he says, “You should have compassion for me”. Righteousness is about having compassion for the afflicted. Righteousness is about having compassion for people who are facing adversity and hardship. It’s about compassion for the poor. And he goes on to say he’s done all of that — that’s what he has done in his life, and his conscience is clear. 

STEVE:  Mmm. 

KIM:  And that he doesn’t feel like he should be groveling or debasing himself in front of God to try and gain God’s mercy.

STEVE:  Hmm. Would it be useful here, Kim, to add just for those who aren’t familiar with the Book, to say that this is a bit of a game between God and the devil?

KIM:  Yeah. That’s right. 

Before this all started, God actually said to Satan in this conversation, he said, “Look at my servant, Job.”  He is God’s favorite, look at him.  He is this amazing guy, and Satan says, yeah, but he is really only good to you, and he only obeys you and he only loves you because you treat him so well, because you take care of him. 

STEVE:  And he’s a wealthy person, and he’s been blessed with a nice family and the whole thing. 

KIM:  And he’s wealthy and, you know, you give him everything. That’s right. 

So, he says if you take that away from him . . .

STEVE:  He will prob—

KIM:  . . . that’s all going to change.

STEVE:  Yeah, he will probably start cursing you.

KIM:  He will start cursing you, and it will all change. 

STEVE:  Yeah, right.

KIM:  So, God says, okay, so be it.  Have your way with him, but spare him his life.  Don’t kill him.

So in this, Job is correct and his friends are actually wrong. And this is an incredibly important moral story in the fact that it is such a long debate.


KIM:  You know, I think that is really telling, because it is saying yeah, there are a bunch of issues in here we really do need to debate, and we really do need to think about. So that is basically sort of Job’s argument. 

Now, I am just going to read a little bit here to tell you. This is Elihu who comes in at the end and before Elihu comes in, all the rest of them have been basically telling him you should admit you are a sinner.  Obviously, you wouldn’t be going through all of this if you hadn’t done something wrong. Just go and debase yourself and grovel to God, and then everything will be fine.

STEVE:  Right.

KIM:  And they are really upset with him because he keeps saying, no, I’m righteous, and I am going to stand by my integrity. And they say, how can you be righteous if you are born of a woman, and we are all just worms, and there is nobody that is truly righteous, and we are all nothing.  And Job won’t have a bar of this. Then, when Elihu comes in, it says at the beginning, “So the three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.”

So, this is exactly why they are angry at him. They are angry at him because he saw himself as righteous in his own eyes. And Elihu is really angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. And he is also angry with the three friends because they haven’t been able to convince Job that he is wrong. 

And so, I just want to give you a little bit about who this Elihu guy is.  Because, you know, the debate has sort of escalated and it’s sort of right toward the end, there is a bit of theater in this whole thing, you know?

STEVE:  Right.

KIM:  So, Elihu comes in, and his side of the argument is; God repays a man for what he has done. He brings upon him what his conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong; that the Almighty would pervert justice.

All right. So his take on it is that for Job to say that he is innocent is for him to say that God is wrong, that God’s sense of justice is wrong.  But Job, on the other hand, is coming in and is saying look, there really isn’t any justice in the world. You know, look around you.

STEVE:  Right.

KIM:  There are weak people and there are innocent people that are oppressed everywhere. And there are wicked people who are—

STEVE:  Prospering. 

KIM:  Yeah. 

STEVE:  Yeah. And that go peacefully in their sleep. 

KIM:  Yeah.

STEVE:  They have a great life. 

KIM:  Yeah, they still have a great life and go peacefully.  So he is saying so you can’t ascribe our sense of justice onto God. We can’t know that. 

So this is humility to Job. Humility is saying you don’t know the whole story. You can’t pretend to just create the universe in the image of what you think it should be, because that is really basically what these guys are doing. And as it is, Job is right, and Elihu is wrong, because in the background Job is innocent, and there is this whole story going on in the background that they don’t understand. 

But Elihu is very into this idea that you can determine what God thinks of somebody by looking at their state.

STEVE:  Hmm.

KIM:  That if they are in jail, if they are in chains that they deserve to be there.

STEVE:  Right.

KIM:  If they are a king and they are on the thrown, well, God obviously put them there.  And he even takes this right through to the weather.  He says that God brings clouds to punish men, or he brings water to the earth to show his love.  So if a cyclone hits your city or a hurricane hits your city, it is obviously because everybody in that city was sinners, and they had it coming to them. 

STEVE:  Right.

KIM:  You know, where Job has the opposite point of view.

Please play the Youtube movie or Soundcloud File above to hear the full show.


For fifteen years, the Coopers have offered themselves as humble guides and mentors, helping families avoid cynicism and chaos. Leading the way as peer support specialists whose own family has traversed love's dangerous terrain.
Taking you to that place inside yourself that you can't go by yourself. Helping you get back in touch with the power of love within you to restore the sanity in your marriage whether you stay or leave.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I think religion and narcissism is a very important topic to touch upon. Thank you! Spirituality is another word that could be used instead of religion.

    From my experience in a narcissistic relationship, I think I was originally manipulated in the relationship through my husbands spiritual beliefs. I was having a hard time in my life when I met my husband and I thought maybe his ways may be worth a try. So I clung to a new way of thinking and being even though his ideas didn’t seem right to me. He actually changed his beliefs several times initially, the beliefs were always Bible based but I trusted his views because I was trying to escape my experiences and thought maybe my views were skewed due to my messed up experiences.

    Now I know his beliefs were a way of manipulating me. Whether that was his conscious intention or not, I cannot say. The biggest thing I got out of this experience that I am still trying to sort out is that someone else cannot tell you what is right or wrong at a spiritual level.

    From what I have learned from reading the Bible is that God speaks to all of us. The law (what is right and wrong) is written in everyone’s heart- it is up to us if we want to listen or rebel. For example, we do not need someone to tell us that it is wrong to kill someone. We know this without anyone explaining it. Another good example is lying. I am sure anyone who tells a lie- even a little white lie- has a little debate in their mind as to if they did the right thing or not.

    My point in this comment is to share what I have learned through my experiences about religion in an emotionally abusive relationship. It is important to follow your heart and let God speak to you and not let another person tell you what is right or wrong because they may not be telling the truth- whether it is intentional on their part or not. It can set you back deeply in your life if you follow someone who has a damaged and traumatized sense of what is right and wrong. And if you are damaged or traumatized, you may be likely to listen and follow someone who is as well.

  2. Well said, Kim and Steve! Your interpretation of the book of Job makes absolute sense, and you’ve given me a few ‘aha!’ moments tonight. I’ve started going over it again, in a new light, because altho I’ve been familiar with this book for many years, I’ve often felt confused over parts of it. Your interpretation reflects the heart of who and how God IS, and also how He is wanting us to operate, i.e. to quietly stand our ground when our conscience is clear; to not be intimidated or influenced by those who are making assumptions/judgments against us (or God!); to operate with compassion and honour to ALL; and to step up with integrity and empowerment to intervene when need be.

    I think we do have to be careful re judging our own conscience, to make sure we are being absolutely HONEST with ourselves… it’s easy to convince ourselves of our own innocence if we really want to, and come to actually BELIEVE it, even if it’s not the truth. I think we all know people like that, *she says wryly*.

  3. Religion can be used to manipulate a trusting person. I know, I was and have been labeled by she that I was not a good Christian. I was exploited and abused by my partner who used scripture constantly in her communication to me. Abusive with a tone of reiligious indignation and concluded that nearly everyone was a phoney except she because she read the bible daily. She was better than they who she stated “they are going to church to look good”, thus a conclusion, they are phonies.

    The new Christian movement of “overcomers”. God will provied for me, my life is destined and taken care of by God. But she never gave, shared, she just took.

    Lets not forget Jimmy Swagger, Jim & Tammy Baker, Jim Jones, and others who have abused people, exploited them under the tone, smoke screen of religion.

  4. Really enjoyed your talk on codependancy and religion. I think a better term for Job would be “secure in himself” rather the term pride.

  5. Well, I have much to say. I’ll trust you mean it when refer to, “come let us reason together.”

    A little about me. I grew up in a very religious home. My now deceased father was an ordained minister. I have a full, well rounded biblical/religious background. Wouldn’t be afraid to debate the Pope. Lol!

    But seriously, the main part I got out of your conversation is this, people need to be heard. At least initially anyway.

    What you described, is what I encountered in church. Growing up in the church and christian school was find. But when I grew up, and life got complicated, I began to have serious questions.
    But! I was a woman, and I was bringing things to the proverbial table that left me being accused of, “sowing discord among the brethren.”

    That all started back in 1998. I was seeking answers from other Christians/pastors/those who had experienced similar issues at church, on how to deal with my narcissistic husband.

    Little by little, the shunning began. I didn’t give up on my quest to find answers. I simply took the time away from church, to start keeping sabbath as I understood it in the bible.
    That first subject of study on marriage, bled into one doctrine after another. Which initially I started getting upset that I was finding things to be different in a real study, than what I had been taught in church all my life. But when i would bring my “findings” to my dad, or any Christian really, I usually got a pretty emotional response. Rarely a biblical defense.

    The whole situation drove me to do an exhaustive study of marriage/husband/wife entries in the bible. Then one doctrine after another.
    It took over 10 years, but I finally felt I had deprogrammed myself out of a cult.
    I am spiritual. But no longer a Christian. Pretty much despise organized religion. I get the social aspect of what’s good in church. But the rest, is a fail in my view.

    I will say you did a good job of explaining the story in Job. I do not disagree with your interpretation.

    However, I ultimately don’t care about the story, because I believe that book/story was placed in our current bible, during the Council’s of Nicea, in order to manipulate the people to accept the bad that happens in the world, that cannot be explained. That leaves most people disillusioned with the whole omniscient/omnipotent/omnipresent god concept. I came to completely reject the way god is portrayed in church/religion. I believe there’s been/still is? a higher power that has been active in the universe, teaching people…..I’ll stop there not to get too far off the subject

    There is so much there between the lines, it’s not even funny.

    I’ll jump to my point.

    Judging. I am so tired of people saying you can’t judge.

    Judging is CRITICAL!

    So let me get specific.

    What is it?
    The definition of “wise”, which is taught so heavily in the book of Proverbs, means:
    1. having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion. 2. characterized by or showing such power; judicious or prudent: a wise decision.

    We are fools if we don’t learn to judge. I believe you’ll agree.
    I believe the problem is, we use the word judging inappropriately.

    The real argument comes down to, by what standards do we judge?
    This is the whole universal problem.
    We do not share standards, by which to judge our thoughts and behaviors.
    So we are divided, with all the associated woes that go with that problem.

    What we believe, drives everything we do.

    I’m glad to have heard what you both believe in this video. It explains so much of your advice.
    I’ve never been able to fully embrace your advice, but couldn’t put my finger on it.
    Now I get it.

    I do believe there is a place for your message and advice, but only when a person is really at a place in their life where they’re genuinely ready for change. The problem is, there are too many wolves in sheep’s clothing. Too many manipulators.

    That’s why it’s important to judge people.

    I do believe we should give everyone that brief window of chance/opportunity to share who they are, and their story. We can learn something from anyone. But it’s necessary to begin the judging on how much we can or should help them. Because our choices, are driven by what we believe.
    So dig in, and find out what they believe. Show/tell what you believe. I think it’s important to be able to articulate your standards. If you can’t, time to establish them, and allow yourself to be held accountable to them.

    Believe it or not, I choose to glean most of my standards from the “Old” Testament. I am no longer a Christian.
    I do not believe in a heaven or hell. Simply because if there were either to eventually “go to”, Moses would have easily told the people, “if you don’t follow these laws/statutes/ordinances, you’ll go to heaven/you won’t make it to heaven.
    So, since Jesus/God of church is no longer my santa/lawyer, I have to live responsibly

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