New testament scripture of Judeo-Christianity centers around the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God, whom we are told made the ultimate sacrifice for humanity by giving his life so that all of mankind would have the opportunity to attain eternal life in heaven. By all accounts, man was not warranting of this sacrifice because of their sinful nature. Jesus’ death was part of a divine plan to save humanity from its own self-destructive nature. In my work as a therapist, I frequently encounter people, mostly women, who in a similar manner make habit of these sacrificial gestures, often to their own detriment. These individuals are self-sacrificial, overly tolerant and willing to endure all manner of slights, abuse and neglect. I call these ‘Jesus on the cross’ moments; repeated situations where an individual takes on the burden of the poor behavior of another, mostly a partner, who is undeserving of the grace and understanding bestowed to them. Though benevolent, these behaviors are rooted in early experiences which inform the relational style of these modern-day saviors, who live in a perpetual state of enabling the poor behaviors of undeserving people. This personality type is often comorbid with feelings of low self-worth, self-doubt and fear of abandonment. It is as if the savior figure needs someone to save, and the one being saved finds comfort in having someone to clean up their messes, make excuses for them and come to their rescue when in distress. The thing about these “Jesus on the cross” moments is that they are not as selfless as one would like to think, nor do they benefit the one being saved. This behavior is indicative of a codependent relationship. One in which the savior derives meaning from feeling needed, thereby inhibiting their own process of self-discovery and growth, and the one being saved is prevented from enduring the uncomfortable experiences which will motivate them toward growth. These relationships are often dysfunctional and rife with abusive patterns. They usually deteriorate over time, such that one partner becomes completely dominant and explosive-aggressive whereas the savior becomes passive and perceives themselves as helpless or less-than.
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