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How to Stop Enabling by Taking a Good Look at Jesus
I have a natural tendency to enable. One reason is because I grew up in the home of an alcoholic. When you are surrounded by those with addictions, it’s natural to want to cover it up and excuse the behavior. However, by doing so, we enable the addict to continue his or her harmful behavior.
It’s always been difficult for me to discern the difference between enabling someone and being Christlike toward them. Isn’t serving someone enabling them? And Christ called us to serve others. Isn’t loving them unconditionally enabling them? And Christ calls us to love and forgive others unconditionally.
I didn’t understand the difference until I took a good look at Jesus in Scripture. Jesus did not enable others to continue in their sin or dysfunction. He empowered them to change.
Enabling someone’s rude, inconsiderate, or dysfunctional behavior is not loving. Enabling is not synonymous with patience and other fruits of the Spirit. Enabling a person’s bad or unhealthy behavior is ignoring the issue and allowing them to continue it. Enabling always leads to drama, which can result from pent-up anger and bitterness.
The only drama Jesus participated in was the dramatic glorification of His Father.
My friend Brenda, a mom who ministers to others, reminded me of something about Jesus’ character when it came to not being an enabler:
Christ often drew the attention of a lot of people as He moved about in ministry, and we have several examples of times when the people left once their emotional or physical needs were met (or sometimes unmet). It’s interesting to me that He never sought to chase them down (enabling drama). Instead, He left them to go their own way, even telling His disciples at one time to shake the dust off their sandals and move on to the next town. In some ways, this is a great visual for us when we encounter drama.
Brenda is right. Some people want help when it comes to drama in their lives, but others don’t. So don’t chase them down. Some people want to vent, but you don’t always need to be the one to hear it. Some people want to bring others down; don’t be the one they pull down. Others want a partner in crime or complaining. Don’t volunteer.
A Prayer for Discernment
Lord, please give me discernment about who should have the bulk of my time and how to limit my time with those who simply add drama to my life. May I be to those drama-filled people a breath of fresh air and an inspiration of how to live for You rather than myself.