Something I found at a counseling web site:
Are You an Enabler?
Do You Know Why?
Do You Know How to Stop?
Do you enable others to proceed/progress in their unproductive patterns of behavior? Perhaps it's your partner, a co-worker, your child (adult or minor), your parent, friend, or sibling [or your cult leader]. Do you understand why you do this, and how you can stop?
The person(s) whose unhealthy patterns you enable may be doing one or more of these behaviors:
- Drinking too much
- Spending too much
- Overdrawing their bank account / bouncing checks
- Gambling too much
- In trouble with loan sharks / check cashing agencies
- Working too much / not enough
- Maxing out the credit cards
- Abusing drugs (prescription or street drugs)
- Getting arrested (you are bailing him/her out)
- Any of a number of other unhealthy behaviors/patterns of addiction [including being a destructive cult leader]
However you look at it, they are driving you to distraction, and ruin!
Enabling is Very Often Part of Codependence
Any time you assist/allow another person to continue in their unproductive/unhealthy/addictive behavior, whether actively or passively, you are enabling!
Silence condones. So even when you say nothing (such as `minding your own business'), you are enabling the behavior to continue.
Sometimes you say nothing out of fear -- fear of reprisal, fear of the other person hating/hurting/not liking you; or fear of butting in where you don't think you belong. Perhaps even fear of being hit... or worse!
"What are some of the ways enabling manifests?"
- Sometimes enabling takes the form of doing something for another that they should do for themself.
- Sometimes it takes the form of making excuses for someone else's behavior. [sounds familiar]
- Sometimes the spouse of an alcoholic will call in to their boss to say that person is `sick' when they are really so hung over they can't make it to work.
- Sometimes it constitutes a parent bailing out their child when they have been arrested for whatever:
- Sometimes it is the parent of a young child who is in denial about that child's misbehavior at school, on the playground, in the neighborhood; and
- Rather than recognizing there is a problem, they get into a fighting mode and defend, rather than taking responsibility for correcting the situation in a healthy way. [also sounds familiar]
- Do you buy alcohol or cigarettes for a user/abuser of these products?
- Do you cover bad checks for a spouse, a child?
- Do you loan/give money, over and over, to anyone in your family who hasn't put forth the effort or the commitment to get their own act together?
- Do you finish up/do the work of a co-worker, who isn't pulling their share of the load?
- Do you cover for another in any way? (There is healthy helping, and there is unhealthy enabling. We have to learn the difference.)
Why Do You Enable?
You more than likely enable out of your own low self-esteem. You haven't gained the ability to say no, without fear of losing the love or caring of that other person. People who learn `tough love' have to learn that their former behaviors have been enabling, and that to continue in them would constitute allowing the other person's pattern of behavior to continue... and to worsen!
One type of enabling that goes on in certain abusive households is so-called codependent enabling. I recently heard a description of Sarah Barry as a "classic codependent enabler" that seems to fit her to a tee: "[Barry] turned into the classic codependent enabler--a role she played to perfection for years, always deflecting criticism from Sam Lee [as abusive father] and acting as a 'safe' outlet ['comforting (spiritual) mother'] for those of us who needed to complain."
A classic example of an enabler in the Bible might be the priest Eli. You read the passages about him, and he doesn't seem like such a bad guy, yet God held him, the enabler, responsible for the sins of his sons.
I resolve not to be an enabler this year.
Some related verses:
Leviticus 19:17 - "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt."
Proverbs 28:23 - "He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue."
Ezekiel 3:18 - "When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood."
Ezekiel 3:20 - "Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood."