As a natural-born caregiver (oldest of 7 children), I have had tendencies in the past to attract alcoholic/addicts into my life. I used to think I had a neon sign on my forehead saying, “Here I am, abuse/use me…” My ex-husband was an abusive alcoholic/drug addict. When I decided I was leaving for good, he checked himself into a St. Luke’s rehab hospital for a 3-week program (he was back to his old ways within 3 months because he would not call on his sponsor and his ‘friends’ would not come around any more). It was during the family therapy groups there that I learned what enablers were. I also learned a lot about what it means to be an enabler from the Al-Anon program. Both parties have dysfunctional issues that need to be dealt with, mainly self-worth and who we are in Christ.
Enabling is codependency in action. An enabler is someone who responds to another’s problem by attempting to take care of the situation by making things all right. Feeling that the other person’s problem is most likely our fault, an enabler allows the behavior to determine our worth. Only when we are doing for others do we feel “I’m somebody, I’m appreciated, I have value.” This over-developed sense of responsibility makes it hard to let go and allow others to take responsibility for their own behavior and problems.
The solution to the quicksand of enabling is found in a new understanding of what God says about our relationships with others and about who God is and who we are.
Scripture makes it clear that no one is responsible for the actions of others – Romans 14:12 “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” From time to time I still need this reminder. I have learned to catch and overcome that feeling that “it must be my fault” or “I must have done something wrong” so I need to fix whatever is wrong when someone seems in a bad mood. Since I know I have done nothing amiss to them, I ask myself, “Could it be they are having a bad day, or maybe something happened to them today…” I then say a prayer for them and try to be an encouragement, even if just by giving a hug.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus – Mark 10:17-22 “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” Jesus spoke truth to him, then He let him make his own decision. He did not attempt to follow the young man or manipulate his actions–though He loved him dearly.
Letting go is hard, and those who may have become accustomed to our enabling abilities will not take kindly to our letting them go. In fact, they may react in very hateful ways and we may never see them again. However, understanding that God alone is the Great Shepherd – John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”, and that He does His job well – Isaiah 40:11 “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” makes it possible for us to release even one greatly loved to the Lord. I have found that when I have let go of those who loved me for all I would do for them, I have released them into the loving arms of Jesus and His healing hand, because He loves each and every one of us as the individuals that we are.
The enabler, most of all, needs to understand who she/he is in Christ – Ephesians 1:17, 18 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” We are of great value because God loves us–not because of what we do, but for who we are as His beloved children. The Lord loved us before we had a chance to accomplish or fail at anything; and as a new creation in Christ Jesus, we are holy and blameless in His eyes – Ephesians 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” God’s love and mercy toward us (even before the foundation of the world!) are rich and great – Ephesians 2:4, 5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”, and we are His children because God wills for us to be so, not because we have earned favor on our own merit – Ephesians 1:5 “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”.
After two failed marriages, I finally took time to know who I was and who I am, and I learned that God loves me for who I am in Him, a sinner saved by Grace. He also showed me (by sending me a man who loves me more than I thought it possible to be loved by any man, when I least expected it) that I am a pretty good ole gal worth loving. I in no way deserve abuse, and I am not responsible for how someone else may be feeling or what they may be going through. Had I taken time to grow in Him in my younger days, I would have known to go to Him about the soul mate He had for me.