Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Loving Versus Enabling

Winston Smith, counselor and faculty member of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation answers the question “What is the difference between enabling someone and loving someone?”

Enabling is something I do for me as much if not more than for the other person. Typically enabling is a fear response. Either I want to rescue the other person from something unpleasant or I want to spare myself from the unpleasant treatment at the hands of another. Love is other centered which may mean that I do not protect them from the unpleasant consequences of their actions. Love does not respond out of fear but out of grace and compassion.

Sometimes the line gets a little blurred. We stop at the liquor store for the person who is suffering from chronic pain or we buy cigarettes for our spouse who is suffering from emphysema because they get very angry if they run out.

I would go so far as to say that when we enable someone it is unloving. If someone has a problem with anger or they are alcohol dependent or abusive, etc. we do not help that person by overlooking what they are doing and/or making excuses for them.

Most often the behavior in question is not contained, i.e. it affects many people not just the one doing the enabling. The person’s children, co-workers or spouse could be adversely affected.

You need to stop and ask yourself “Self – is this really the most loving thing I can do for this person OR am I doing it to avoid some form of unpleasantness?” If your response is the latter, seek help both for yourself and the person you have been enabling.

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