Let me go straight to the point.

Enabling is doing life FOR someone.

Enabling however often comes disguised as supporting.

Let me paint the picture for you.

Doing the homework for your children is enabling them. Supporting would look like sitting with them and encouraging them with a difficult question.

When you support, you help with brainstorming solutions, giving encouraging words and breaking the problem down into smaller pieces so they can work through it themselves.

It’s easy to see the enabling behavior when we talk about doing a kid’s homework but yet we fail to recognize it in other scenarios.

There is a fine line between support and enabling, wouldn’t you agree?

And those in helping professions walk a fine line between the two.

According to the Cambridge dictionary enabling is defined as making something possible or easier.

Enabling shields people from experiencing the full impact and consequences of their choices.

The intention is to support, empower, teach, guide and build up, however, many helpers find themselves in the position of enabling unintentionally.

The bible clearly states that there are consequences to your choices.

Positive and negative consequence.

Unfortunately, the negative consequences often result in some form of suffering, either emotional, physical, financial and/or relational.

There are many reasons why it is tempting to rescue someone from their suffering.

  • We feel compassion for the person’s struggle
  • We remember our own difficult situations
  • We don’t want them to feel disappointed or discouraged
  • We wonder if God has placed us in their life for this situation
  • We think we may be the only solution for them

 

However, support is walking beside someone as they carry their suffering, rather than removing the suffering for them.

Back to my example, enabling would be seeing your child struggle with a question so you do the work for them.

You remove the struggle and their suffering.

And if you have children like mine they make their suffering known loudly to everyone around them.

#eyeroll

If we enable our children in their school work we are taking away the opportunity for them to learn and build confidence and pride.

Self-confidence, faith and resilience are built in the struggle.

From overcoming difficult situations.

Apply this same logic when you are supporting people through difficult life situations.

Rather than giving others the solution and answer (for example loaning money or doing the work for them), do what you do with your children and their homework.

Be a consistent support besides them.

Help with brainstorming solutions, giving encouraging words and breaking the problem down into smaller pieces so they can work through it themselves. Sounds familiar? 😉

Encourage them and reframe the situation so they are better able to understand it, and track with them until they are done.

There is such joy in celebrating with someone when they overcome.

 

When we take the struggle away we are taking away someone’s opportunity to grow. 

 

Support is doing life WITH someone.

Enabling is doing life FOR someone.

PS: If you have been in the habit of enabling others it might come as a shock to someone when you don’t rescue them from their suffering. There may be push back and conflict.

Check out this blog about setting boundaries and saying no.