It’s always a surprise to me when people–parents, friends, anyone, really–fail to set limits for themselves or for their children — or for anyone in their lives. They “put up with” some of the rudest, most unhealthy behavior, often claiming it’s in the name of love, or helping, or some other excuse. It’s astonishing how many people don’t see how their failure to set limits simply enables the other person to continue their own unhealthy behavior ad infinitum.
Enablers do a lot of damage in the name of love.
What is “enabling?” It’s removing the natural consequences of a behavior.
So when I ran across this explanation of enabling I knew I wanted to share it far and wide:
People who “enable” tend to see their behavior as an expression of devotion. But enabling is its own form of dysfunction because the enabler is avoiding the discomfort that results from saying “no.” It is … a function of being afraid and insecure.
This makes a lot of sense. The enablers I know are people-pleasers, folks who just can’t say “no.” They think they’re “being nice” but the fact is, they’re hurting the person they are enabling. Enabling parents (and I do know some of those) do more harm than they can even imagine because children of any age need to know that adult life requires dealing with limits. When none are set, maturation is stunted. It’s hard to be an adult if you’ve been catered to for most of your life.
Dickinson says enabling is rooted in being afraid and insecure, and while I’d never thought of it that way, I think she’s right.
Are you an enabler? Here are the the top signs that you are:
- You take over the other person’s responsibilities when s/he doesn’t do them.
- In an attempt to “keep the peace” and avoid conflict you don’t confront the issue.
- You don’t say “no.”
- You ignore and endure their behavior.
- You make excuses for them.
- You put your own needs aside so they can do what they want.
- You don’t allow them to face the consequences of their behavior.
Most enablers fail to recognize that thin line between helping and enabling.
So, are you an enabler? Do you know any enablers?