“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9
An angry Cain asks God this question in response to God’s inquiry about the whereabouts of Cain’s brother Abel, recently murdered by the resentful Cain. It is a powerful question.
There is a difference between interdependence and sick co-dependency. Interdependence is a way to describe healthy balances of dependency and autonomy. Today as I am writing, my daughter and her husband are staying with us while their new home is in the final stages of building. They have three dogs; Pete and I have one. Most days Pete and Nick work from home. They feed, play and generally tend to these four beasts. But today all of us are away from home, and I was the last to leave. I kenneled the dogs, our habit when there is no adult supervision for them, and then INTERDEPENDENTLY followed up with the other three family members about our schedule for the day. I will go home mid-day and walk them – which I love doing. My daughter will make sure she leaves work earlier than usual so that they can be fed and cared for in the evening. I imagine that by the time the guys get home, one of them will probably let them out for their last bathroom break and kennel them for the night. This is interdependence.
Codependence would have meant that I stayed home from work because the guys weren’t there to do their usual routine. Codependence would have been one person picking up the slack for the others without a plan for spreading the responsibilities around.
Codependency is an imbalance of dependency and autonomy.
So in answer to Cain’s question, “Yes, Cain, you are your brother’s keeper. You are responsible for helping create a family where differences can be appreciated and not judged, mistakes can be made and flexibility is a core value. Yes, Cain, you were responsible, but something went wrong. And Abel ended up dead. Your family was splintered. And you found yourself isolated and marginalized. Oh Cain, it didn’t have to end up like this.”
How can you begin to identify ways you need to acknowledge your mistakes, appreciate differences in others, and maybe increase your flexibility?