i think that one contraction sums up the idea pretty well but i should probably expand on this sage advice.
for the purposes of this post this is the definition i’m using these two.
“: to make (someone or something) able to do or to besomething
: to make (something) possible, practical, or easy
: to cause (a feature or capability of a computer) to be active or available for use”
i think a lot of enabling is not with ill intent. we think we are doing something good or making something easier for someone else. yes. maybe there is some guilt as a motivator.
we enable others on a constant basis. it’s a series of degrees as far as the consequences go. helping your child (i.e., doing their homework) may have really no consequences or may help to foster the idea in your child that 1. they can get someone to do their work if they put it off long enough, 2. someone will bail them out so they don’t ‘fail.’, 3. ‘failing’ or making mistakes is a bad thing.
maybe it does just help them through that assignment and they don’t pick up bad habits. that moment (sarcastically and not sarcastically) may define for them an understanding about compassion for their fellow man by being a force for change through their acts, kindness and otherwise (e.g. robin hood).
the law of unintended consequences. aside from those who can see the future or receive said knowledge from the future, we can’t really say what our good intentions will lead to.
“give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. -proverb”
“give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.” this is enabling.
“teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” this is not enabling. this is empowering.
my modification: “teach a child to fish and they can teach the world.” this is paying it forward.
we can help a family member out with a loan of money but if they have been financially irresponsible being a co-signer on a loan might just help bail them out in the short term but will they learn the good habits of spending. will you lose a lot of money when/if they fail to pay back the loan?
as well, your kid/spouse/family member/etc calls you at 2am because they are in jail for hopefully some minor offense.
at what point do you get them? is it a matter of degrees again? “i was with someone else and i didn’t do it.” or “i didn’t mean to have that third drink and then drive.”
there is an aspect of tough love that should be taken into account when one considers enabling. the act of NOT helping can be the greatest expression of caring about someone. to believe that you are being more helpful but doing less or nothing at all. not bailing someone out. not helping with the project that the teacher said was for the student to do.
i’ve helped at a science fair where i knew straight up that some of those kids did not do all the work on their own. they must have had parental interventions to make the poster board look that good or the cuts in the balsa wood that precise or the weld stick those two pieces of metal together. that’s not to take away from those kids that did do things on their own. just that the assignment, as i understood it, was for them to do the work on their own and to use the parents as a resource, not a worker.
can you prove your love by being a force for change by letting them be and letting the mistake happen? you can’t protect your teen from all problems, you can only help to prepare them with knowledge and skills and to a certain degree let them be free to make the mistakes we remember making. the pain of working through something might be just the push necessary to help them to grow and mature. instead of the teen, how about a co-worker or other loved one in your life?
hoping that we can help someone without causing future problems while hoping their life doesn’t get screwed up because of a ‘simple’ mistake that stays as a black mark on them also for their future.
that’s the power and penalty of enabling.
uncle ben said it, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
-Santa’s Fallen Angel