By KATHY FOUST
Helping someone means we come alongside them to occasionally give a hand, support or advice.
When someone is capable and their responsibilities are handled for them all the time, they have not been held responsible. We have enabled their behavior and actions to go without consequences for their choices. The more we enable and allow a person to depend on us, the less motivated they are to change.
The enabler can truly believe they are doing the right thing because of their love; however, doing someone else’s work or cleaning up their messes can have a negative result, leaving us feeling resentful and unappreciated. Even though I understand and talk to clients about enabling, it’s easy to fall into the safe cover of enabling.
The term, “enabler,” is often associated with addictions. It is important to discover how someone becomes an enabler of a person with an addiction. Enabling is covering for a person to hide the painful truth, thus prohibiting natural consequences. Consequences get the attention of the addict, which can prompt taking responsibility and changing behavior.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger has given some helpful tips to stop being an enabler:
- Don’t lie for anyone. Don’t be the wife who gets on the phone and says her husband is sick when he’s hungover.
- Don’t make excuses for others when they don’t fulfill their obligations.
- Don’t clean up after a substance abuser. They should see the damage they’ve done and the chaos they’ve caused.
- Be accountable for your bills only. If you’re not responsible for it, don’t pay it.
- Stand up for yourself. Don’t let others take advantage of you.
- Don’t rescue. A person must suffer the consequences of their actions, which means don’t pay for lawyers or post bail.
- Stop trying to fix everybody. Work on yourself. Ask God, family, friends or a counselor for help. Do whatever it takes to stop yourself from hurting somebody else by enabling.
When we find that we have taken on the other person’s responsibilities, we have crossed over from helping to enabling. Now, it’s time to have a very honest look at ourselves to determine how and when we enable others. We want to help, not hurt, the ones we love.
Foust is owner of Lighthouse Counseling Services, Findlay, and is a licensed professional clinical counselor. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay 45839.