Encouraging, Living, Reaching

Do You Have A Savior Complex?

Do You Have A Savior Complex?

I stood in the entryway to my open-concept living space and surveyed the damage. Toys and scraps of paper littered the floor, stickers were stuck to my table and someone had graffitied my front window with a crayon. Never mind my overflowing sink and the unfolded laundry that had yet to be transferred into nearly-empty drawers.

I had said “yes” to watching a friend’s kids for the entire day and any semblance of schedule and list of priorities had flown out of the window. The kids left freshly bathed and in their jammies, and my own kids were long since asleep. It was just me and my to-do list now. Forms to fill out for my son’s school, finishing touches on my paper due tomorrow and then there was the pair of pants I told a friend I would hem for her. I was running on very little sleep as it was, but it couldn’t be helped. People needed me.

Helping the needy

I had lived this way for as long as I could remember – dropping everything to run to the aid of whoever was in deepest distress. They had needs that I could fill, so I did. And the needs of my children, my husband and myself went to the side, and this needy person became my priority.

Society’s view is to not get caught up in the troubles of others – we have to take time for ourselves and our family and keep our priorities straight. But I “knew” not to buy into this selfish mantra and reject the pleas of the needy. After all, I am Christ’s hands and feet. He kept late hours and ran on little sleep too.

A skewed viewpoint

My viewpoint here was valid but skewed. I couldn’t seem to balance my time between those with whom I have a life-long commitment and those who needed me. It is true that Jesus sacrificed Himself for all of us – the desperately needy. And it is also true that we are to be Christ’s hands and feet to a needy world. But why did my life of serving seem so out of balance? After all, I already knew my calling to serve God by being a wife and a mother.

Thankfully, the same God who opens the eyes of the blind revealed to me that my problem didn’t lie in poor time management, jumbled priorities or over-commitment. It was because of a lie I didn’t even know I believed. I thought I could be their savior.

Saving the day

This was what drove me – what attracted me to needy people. There was a huge adrenaline rush in saving the day. There was praise attached. Glory even. I was on the throne in this person’s life. They needed me to save them. And I thrived on it. I was willing to live on next-to-no sleep in order to be able to say “yes” and be a life-saver.


This is called co-dependency. It is an excessive psychological or emotional reliance on another person’s reliance on you. Basically a Savior-complex. And it is so common. Probably because it is rooted in Satan’s initial sin – his desire to “be like the Most High” and in his first lie to mankind – “you will be as gods.”

In each situation, eventually I would become so overwhelmed with this person’s need that I would shut down and cut myself off from their demands, which brought heartache and turmoil. But what I truly needed forgiveness for was that I put myself in the position of being their savior when I should’ve pointed them to The Savior. I offered a clay jar instead of the treasure within.

Listening to God’s voice

I’m still in the process of separating truth from lie in this area. It’s difficult to know when to help and when to wait. Mainly, I am learning to listen for God’s voice when He wants me to step in and to know when my sinful old-man wants a fix. But it is a huge relief to realize that the weight of saving someone isn’t on my shoulders.

The Savior has an entire church and all of the resources imaginable to minister to those in need. Maybe He will use me, but maybe He wants to use someone else and if I stepped in I would rob that person of the privilege of being an ambassador of the Savior.

Finding balance to help when needed

This is not a cop-out – a reason to put my feet up when I should be serving others. There are times when I ought to temporarily put my family and myself aside because God is calling me to help someone in need. And I don’t need to over-analyze whether or not I felt a heavenly nudge to show Christ’s love. I should live Christ’s love always.

But I should never offer myself as a savior. Co-dependency is a trap that is easily rationalized and can have devastating results on anyone in a close radius. God help us all to look to Christ as the only Savior and to point to Him whenever anyone cries out in need.

Moira Cairns

Moira is in fellowship at Portal Village Bible Chapel in Port Colborne, Ontario where she teaches Sunday School. She has the privilege of raising two boys, together with her husband Chris. When she isn’t home with her boys, she facilitates music classes for adults with special needs and teaches vocal lessons. She has a deep love of learning and is excited to see what God will teach her next in the great school of life!

6 Responses to Do You Have A Savior Complex?

  1. Avatar
    Deborah Piggott

    Thank you, Moira, for speaking out so clearly on this trap that a lot of us find ourselves in. I too have found myself not being able to sustain the needy person’s needs, disappointing them and myself and having to closely examine my motivation. I still find it difficult to “know when to help and when to wait.”

  2. Avatar
    Dodi McKenzie

    We are to be “like” Christ, but we have to realize we can’t BE Him. We can only do our limited human best and leave what we don’t have the strength, endurance or time to do to Him. I must admit it does feel good to be thanked/appreciated for going above and beyond, but as you said, there comes a point where some people actually feel they need that praise to feel complete – sometimes burning themselves out and being no good to anyone, even themselves. Our Creator loves us and never meant for us to give til we’re in mental and/or physical pain. He knows our limits, even when we don’t; do what you can, and He’ll take care of the rest – or not, but that’s up to Him. 🙂 <3

  3. Avatar
    Ruth Barnett

    Very good article… balanced and objective on this real issue of not taking the Lord’s place as Saviour but remaining His servant. Thanks for sharing in this way.

  4. Avatar

    Your article reminded me of Philippians 1:9 where Paul prayed for that the Christians’ “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” It’s not just the love we need, but also the knowledge and discernment to know how to best express it so that we maximize God’s glory.

  5. Avatar

    I would have to agree with this in full! I don’t know if you could call it a “Spiritual Gift”, but helps has been one that I’ve noticed, even though I’d been always going out of my way to assist others in any way that I can since I was a child. That being said, after finding out what co-dependency specifically was, I realized that it was something I struggled with. I appreciate how you have brought this to light, but not in a way that makes it seem “shameful”. For some of us, it’s a fact that something in our lives “triggered” this saviour complex, as you have called it. What we have found is just digging in towards the root. Thanks again for sharing and being so bold and honest.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.