Stepping Stones: Enabling: Good Intentions Gone Wrong

Stepping Stones: Enabling: Good Intentions Gone Wrong
February 13, 2011 Lighthouse Network

Transformational Thought

We have all seen a loved one make some destructive decisions. When someone we love is in the grip of a harmful pattern, we naturally want to help. In spite of our best intentions, our efforts are sometimes actually more harmful instead of helpful. We call this enabling, otherwise known as good intentions gone wrong.

Enabling allows those who are struggling to continue in their self-destructive behaviors. It keeps them from feeling the painful consequences that would have significant influence in convincing them to stop before their problem spirals out of control. Today’s Scripture cautions us that if we rescue a person from the consequences of his or her choices, we’ll just have to do it again … and again. We are then called a “nag” or a “martyr.”

Here are common examples of enabling. Do you find yourself covering up or “living with” the behavior of a friend, child, or loved one, or bailing them out of trouble? You might make excuses for them or even blame yourself for their problem. Are you reminding them to do certain chores or tasks so that they don’t get the consequences they deserve? Do you find yourself giving them “one more chance” … over and over again? Do you care more than they do about the consequences they might get?

A big component of our enabling behavior is our inability to tolerate negative feelings in others or ourselves. These feelings are generated when someone struggles and faces potential consequences. We feel very uncomfortable when they feel sad or hurt, or have to endure a consequence. So we keep nagging, threatening, or pushing them to accomplish their task, and sometimes we even do the test for them.

Today, be mindful that your responsibility to your troubled loved one is to be supportive and to facilitate their growth, not to inhibit it in their particular area of struggle. You need to empathize and pray for, but not fix it, because they need to learn how to fix it. You aren’t going to be around all the time. You need to encourage them when they have made an error, but not protect them from the necessary consequences. You must allow them to learn from the consequences of their actions and not rescue them. All of us need to look at whether we are helping or harming the struggling people in our lives. And then we can begin the process of being a supporter instead of an enabler. Let God, not you determine the consequences that will open their eyes, change their behavior, and hopefully, transform their heart.

Dear God, not fixing my loved one’s problems is so hard. My urge is to come to the rescue instead of letting her suffer the consequences. I realize I have to come to the rescue again and again … that nothing really gets fixed. Teach me to be a supporter instead of an enabler. Help me guide them to You … help me to trust You more. Give me the peace to tolerate my uneasiness and their discomfort. Help me to allow Your consequences and lessons for them play out. I pray this in the name of the one who gives me strength in all circumstances, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.
Proverbs 19:19

And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
Luke 15:16-18

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