Enabling - the Wrong Kind of Help

Many are godly people who have prayed for their loved ones, yet they watch painfully as they continue down a path of rebellion and destruction. So what can you do to help you loved ones? Stop enabling!

Enabling - Offering the Wrong Kind of Help.
Enabling is rescuing your loved ones so that they do not experience the painful consequences of their irresponsible decisions. Enabling is anything that stands in the way of persons experiencing the natural consequences of their own behavior.

Galatians 6:7-8 says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from that Spirit will reap eternal life."(NIV)

God's Word is specific. Inappropriate actions have painful consequences, even when loved ones are involved. Thankfully, God can use those consequences for His purposes - if we don't get in His way.

When you stop enabling, get ready for more trouble!
When you stop offering the wrong kind of help, your loved ones may get very angry with you - and for a "good" reason. You've stopped rescuing them. Now they are beginning to feel the painful consequences of their irresponsible decisions.

When you make a decision to stop enabling you must stand on the facts - especially if you have a tender heart. You must continue to rehearse the fact of how your loved one's actions are destroying his or her life - and how enabling this to continue is the worst thing you could do.

God is a loving Father - don't be afraid to trust Him.
When you stop enabling your loved one, he or she may go further down the path of destruction. You may inwardly think, "I can't bear to see my daughter in such pain and danger." Or, "My son might get killed! And then I would have his death on my hands. I can't let that happen!"

But whatever happens, do not be afraid to trust God. Place your hope in the story of the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15. This father did not enable his son. He allowed him to leave home, knowing the son would soon waste his inheritance. Before long, the rebellious young man had lost everything - and he ended up in a pig pen, eating the food the pigs didn't want.

But all alone in the pig pen, the Bible says, "He came to his senses." The young man realized that even the hired men at his fathers household ate better than he did! And the son resolved to go and seek his father's forgiveness. When he finally meets his father again, the son's true repentance is seen in his words: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you." (Verse 21) He takes personal responsibility for his actions. It's time for joyful peace and a celebration!

Learning to be at peace with God.
Just like the Prodigal Son's father, you can rest in the peace that God has the address of your loved ones, no matter how deep they are in sin. His love far surpasses your love. He knows what will work best to bring your loved ones to that point of change.

You've got to trust God - even when things are going from bad to worse. Stop offering the wrong kind of help. Stop feeding the problem. Stop being deceived. Trust Him. Jesus is ready to help us offer the right kind of help. He promises to give us wisdom to make the difficult decisions. He also stands ready and waiting with open arms to help our loved ones who really need His help. Look to Him today for guidance on how best to help those you love.

Six Characteristics of the enabler

Works for self-improvement.
"If I were a better parent/grandparent/friend, my loved one wouldn't be doing this."

Changes the environment to accommodate the person with the problem.
"Let's change schools and get our child away from those troublemakers."

Takes on the whole world in defense of a loved one.
"The whole legal system is corrupt, and my child/grandchild/friend is getting unjust treatment."

Their pain increases.
Because the loved one is still acting irresponsibly, the enabler's pain and frustration deepens.

Communications deteriorate.
Because the issues are unresolved, defenses are high. Both the enabler and the loved one are often deluded about reality.

Enabling is habit-forming.
The enabler keeps offering the same kind of help. Sometimes the enabler derives such deep satisfaction from "rescuing" someone that he or she never assesses whether the assistance is helping or hurting the loved one.

A Tip Sheet for Parents

  • Parents, you can provide good models for your children by what you do and what you avoid doing.
  • Show that you value your freedom to think and act independently -- you don't do something because everyone is doing it. This helps your children see that unwanted peer pressure can be rejected.
  • Be consistent in your words and actions. For example, a phone call interrupts your dinner and you say, "Tell them I'm not home yet." The message your children hear is that it's okay to be dishonest for your own convenience.
  • Demonstrate your respect for your children's lives and show concern by being a good listener.
  • Be sincere, ask questions, and use a touch or a look for encouragement.
  • Be cautious in using prescription or over-the-counter medicines as a quick fix for pain or stress. Your example can help counter the media messages that discomfort can be cured by chemicals.
  • Be aware of how your own use of alcohol can influence children. Your children will notice how much you drink and why. Avoid using excuses for drinking, like having a rough day. Your drinking behavior tends to be the drinking behavior your children will have when they grow up.
  • Talk honestly about stress and conflict in your own life. Children need to know that such struggles are a normal part of life. They have a good model when they see that you are coping with problems without relying on alcohol and other drugs.
  • If you are trying to change something in your behavior -- such as quitting smoking or losing weight -- be willing to talk about what works and what doesn't.
  • Show that spending time with your children is something you value and look forward to. If you are too tired or too busy, they're likely to imitate your behavior. Spending time with your kids and building their self-confidence helps insulate them from risky behaviors. Children who feel good about themselves are less likely to deviate from what they know is right.
  • Accept the role of parent as your responsibility -- let someone else be their friend.
  • Make parenting a priority. Be there! Remember that teenagers need parental supervision as much as toddlers do. It's just a different kind. Know that your children are never too big for a hug, even when they are grown.

Most of all, tell your children you love them as often as you can, because children who know they are loved are less likely to disappoint those who love them. Know where your children are going and with whom. Get to know their friends and parents so you will be familiar with their activities. Make your own home available to your children's friends.

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Copyright 2007-2014 by Sheri Liegh Adams.
All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Sheri lives in Canada.

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