The desire to help people, especially those who mean the most to us, comes very natural to many of us. Especially to Parents who want to help their children succeed. Unfortunately, this well-meaning impulse to help solve a person’s problem can backfire. I am learning this as I grow older, not only as a parent, but also living a life of Ministry. Trying to avoid back firing can be tricky and difficult. We try to give, help and serve others like Jesus. But in doing so, nobody said it would be easy. It can tear your heart out and make you question all you’ve ever known. But trust God, His timing and His promises! He is proven His faithfulness to me over and over again. And I too am always learning!
I am seriously good at solving problems. It may even seem weird to some of you, but I actually enjoy problem solving. I love to help people, so I am more than willing to do whatever I can to fix things for them. I will always help people, but I have grown more aware of what it really means to enable someone. There is a fine line (but a big difference) between ”helping” someone and “enabling” them.
Personally, I believe it depends not only on the situation confronted with, but the condition of the person’s heart that you are trying to help. I find myself pondering on a few questions whenever I am making the decision to offer my help to someone… so that I do not enable them. Does the person own up to what they have done? Or only when they will gain something in return? Are they being truthful? Demanding? Or rebellious? Is the person willing to help them self and change their ways? And also, is there a pattern to their behavior that needs to be broken? Would I be helping them to succeed or hurting them in the long run? Is there behavior or problem causing harm to them self or someone else?
I felt compelled to write this to shed some light on enabling through my own parenting experiences that have ended in mishaps and also in many successes. I know my children have to solve problems “big and small” on their own. And….Ugh it’s so hard not to protect them from failures! Can any of you relate to this? I know many of you have walked this hard and unclear road as well.
I (we) have great kids! All five of them are different and have different levels of responsibility and different levels of problem solving skills. They, like anyone else, have to make decisions that are responsible and live by their consequences. Nothing makes a parent more proud of their child than to see them trust God and figure things out with His guidance. BUT…I also like to be involved in the process. LOL I struggle with letting go and letting God do his amazing work. (He works even through their struggle) I have learned that being involved in the problem solving process for most people (esp. teenagers and young adults) doesn’t give them an advantage in the long run. It can even make a problem grow or become a temporary fix. No matter what the “problem” is when they have to solve it themselves, they are most likely to learn from the process of figuring it out and less likely to keep repeating it. When they problem solve on their own, they learn from their choices and they gain the confidence needed for the next thing they will face in life.
I am not talking about offering assistance to someone that has an immediate and or true need. And there will always be times we give and offer help not knowing the full circumstance of the situation. When you give from your heart out of obedience and someone abuses that giving, it is on them, not the person who has given. Alway give…
Enabling means: To give someone the authority or means to do something. I recently read somewhere that the meaning has really become more like – “offering help that makes someone or something, (typically an undesirable situation) continue indefinitely. A friend who makes excuses for his hung-over friend is enabling alcohol abuse. The relative who lends money to a drug addict is enabling that addiction. And a parent whose child asks to be “bailed out” of a situation they’ve created because of their poor choices is enabling irresponsibility.
Those who constantly enable dysfunctional behaviors are called co-dependents. I don’t want to be a co-dependent of anyone…..especially in my child’s life. The reality is, enabling not only doesn’t help the person to overcome or learn anything, but it actually causes harm. It can make the situation much worse and continue to repeat itself.
Stepping in to “solve” the problem, takes away any motivation for the person to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for them to change their behavior. Enablers can help their spouses, friends, and children dig themselves deeper and deeper into trouble. People have to solve their problems without a “bail out” (a rescue) or THEY haven’t solved the problem. Therefore, they have most likely not learned from it either.
There is definitely a fine line between helping and enabling. “Helping” would be like letting a teenager ignore their chores while studying for finals or because of a busy work week. Dismissing a teenager’s drug use, drinking, lying, defiance, violence or rebellion as “just part of being that age” is NOT helping.
If you ignore unacceptable behavior…you are an enabler.
If you solve all of the problems brought to you by a person…you are enabler.
I have crossed that ever so fine line of “helping or enabling” myself. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Boy is it a tough lesson to learn for both the parent and the child. The child who didn’t get money at their request, or the “bail out” they feel they deserved after their poor choices, may feel they have lost the parents love. But…Oh how wrong that is….
A Strong love… teaches others to solve their problems, grow and learn from them. Even when it’s painful and can cause heart ache.
Love your children, spouse, friends, and relatives Strong!
Pray for them!
Show them a love that does not enable their behaviors, addictions or defiance’s.
A Love that helps them to grow and continue to blossom.
A Love that allows them to learn from their mistakes and become better at solving them.
A love that never stops loving them, but never loves their poor choices.
A love that guides them in the right direction without picking them up and taking them there.
A Love that does NOT enable.
A person struggling needs a Strong Love…
Christ love for us is Strong!
I am not a professional…..But If someone you know becomes mentally unstable please do not hesitate to seek medical attention. I suggest seeking a counselor or therapist for anyone that has a dysfunctional behavior that could cause harm to their self or someone else. If an addiction to drugs or alcohol is the problem, I suggest enrolling them in a treatment plan, attending a local AA group or a Celebrate Recovery Program and or seek counseling.