The Difference Between Helping and Enabling

Unconditional love is such an amazing non-reality. Why? Because “unconditional” love means you don’t make judgments, which are absolutely necessary.  We have to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and sacred from profane. And one of the judgments we all have to make at one time or another is the difference between helping and enabling.

Doing a nice thing for someone or helping out occasionally is one thing, but when a person is capable and their responsibilities are handled for them all the time, they are not held responsible. Enabling protects them from the consequences of their choices and actions. And the more you let them depend on you and take you for granted, the less motivated they are to change.

Now let’s talk about the enabler. There’s a payoff for everything in life or else we wouldn’t do it. The enabler enables because it gives them a false sense of superiority and makes them feel needed. They also feel control over the other person (through guilt) by helping them. However, they ironically still end up feeling resentful, frustrated, or unappreciated.

Real love for somebody is being able to step back and allow them to suffer enough to recognize their need to change. That’s the only way to help make them a whole human being again.

Here are some tips to help you 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. You don’t have to be mean, but you do have to put your foot down.
  • 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. You’re not a magician and you’re not God. Work on yourself. Get the support of friends, family members and counselors. Join Al-Anon or some other 12-step program. Do whatever it takes to stop yourself from hurting somebody else with your notion of helping.