ARE YOU AN ENABLER?
First of all, let me just say this: we’ve probably all enabled someone at some point in our lives.
If you care about others, if you like to help out when you see a need, if you tend to be “nice,”– basically, if you are human–then it’s likely you have “enabled” one or more people in your lifetime (in big or small ways). We all have our biases, especially when it comes to relationships and personal responsibility. And we will all get things wrong from time to time when dealing with interpersonal conflicts.
However, when one goes beyond the occasional instances of general “enabling” and it instead becomes the consistent pattern of how they relate to one or more individuals, we would say they have become an “Enabler of Error.” In this case, rather than being the exception, enabling becomes the rule. “Enablers of Error” display demonstrated patterns of unhealthy enabling.
With this in mind, the following observable patterns are helpful in allowing us to identify and understand “Enablers of Error.”
TOP 10 PATTERNS OF ENABLERS OF ERROR
1. Lacks Objectivity
Enablers of Error lack objectivity, often willfully. They tend to be exceptionally biased—particularly toward the enabled individual—and, therefore, steeped in error going forward. Of all the problems in enabling, if this one thing changed, if somehow the Enabler was truly 100% objective, then there would likely not be much of a problem with enabling. Therefore, being objective, not biased, is the key (cp Lev 19:15; Deut 1:17; Prov 18:17; 24:23-24; Jas 2:1, 9). Furthermore, in matters of judgment, when we show favoritism or bias, we are in sin, according to Scripture (Jas 2:1, 9; 4:17).
2. Avoids Problems
Enablers of Error try to “manage” problems, rather than address and resolve the real cause of the problems. They will try to appease; make people happy; avoid conflict and uncomfortable situations; procrastinate in addressing sin or failure; and fail to give or allow appropriate consequences. Therefore, they often tend to “kick the can” (i.e., problems) down the road. This does not merely delay the inevitable, it makes things worse and worse. And, ironically, it makes people far more unhappy, while resulting in more conflict, more strife, more problems, and increasingly uncomfortable situations.
3. Blames Others
Enablers of Error tend to shame, blame, and attack any person who tries to address and resolve a given problem. Enablers do this first by redirecting the focus and concern away from the real problem—and, more specifically, away from the person who is truly causing the problem (i.e., the “Offender” or the“Enabled”). Instead, they twist and distort words, facts, and reality (even in their own mind) to make the “Confronter” (e.g., the person addressing the issue) the main focus and the “problem.” Frequently used accusations leveled against the Confronter by the Enabler usually sound something like this: “You’re just being judgmental!” “This wouldn’t be an issue if you didn’t keep bringing it up.” “Why don’t you just let it go?!”
4. Attacks The Victim
In addition to blaming others, Enablers of Error often blame, shame, and attack the victim themselves. Enablers usually do so thinking that this is somehow helping and loving the Enabled. Or, the Enabler is so distorted in his or her thinking (e.g., lack of objectivity, bias) that it is nearly impossible for the Enabler to admit that the Enabled could be involved in this sin or error. Blame has to go somewhere, and Enablers will often shift that responsibility onto anyone but the Offender/Enabled person. While the worst scenario occurs when they accuse and attack the true victim (cp Ps 64:4; 94:21; Prov 17:15, 26; 18:5; 24:24; Is 29:21), some Enablers may even take on the blame themselves (attempting anything to keep the Enabled free from responsibility).
5. Avoids Consequences
Enablers of Error often go out of their way to help the Enabled avoid any unwanted feelings (e.g., disappointment; unhappiness; guilt), or any unwanted consequences from their wrong behavior–and they likely see this as loving. Undesired feelings—which result from our offenses, sin or error—are necessary, God-designed, God-given indicators that something is wrong (e.g., conviction; pain; sorrow), and they are the essential motivators we all need to make things right (e.g., Acts 2:37ff; 2 Cor 7:8-11). Appropriately giving or allowing these consequences is supremely loving. Yet, Enablers rob the Enabled of much needed life-giving motivations (2 Cor 7:8-11). As a result of this “rescuing,” Enablers are often directly or indirectly responsible for the destruction and even “death” (e.g., lack of life) of the Enabled (cp Prov 19:18; 23:13-14; 24:11-12).
Note: Enablers often fail to rescue the true victim, all while rescuing the real offender from the appropriate responsibility and consequences.
6. Needs To Be Needed
Enablers of Error often “need to be needed,” especially by the Enabled individual. Many Enablers love to be needed (e.g., fixing problems). They long to be the hero, to save the day, to be depended upon, and to rescue the “victim” (i.e., the Enabled). This is commonly called “co-dependency” in pop-psychology and recovery circles. Scripture would describe this false “need” as “the fear of man” (Prov 29:25) and even idolatry (cp Rom 1:25; cp Jer 17:5-9). Often what the Enabler thinks of as “love” is actually destructive, and usually includes: compromising the truth; distorting or sacrificing truth; evading reality in order to avoid unwanted feelings or consequences; deadly dependencies; along with distortion and abuse of grace and forgiveness, to name just a few.
7. Minimizes Personal Responsibility
Enablers of Error lack sufficient desire to be accurate regarding personal responsibility—particularly when it comes to the Enabled individual. The solution to this is always a love for the truth (Zech 8:16; 2 Jn 1-6; 3 Jn 1-4). Nevertheless, even though some Enablers might even have “good theology,” they consistently err on the side of error—particularly by giving too little responsibility to the Enabled (e.g., they excuse, minimize, justify, or distort the responsibility of the Enabled).
8. Manipulates & Abuses
Enablers of Error often practice some of the same tactics of Manipulators and Abusers (especially when they are enabling Manipulators or Abusers). Enablers, in order to help the Enabled person evade personal responsibility and consequences, also tend to rely on manipulation, “white lies,” “bald-face lies,” blame-shifting, minimizing, denial, distortion of responsibility, shaming, attacking the Confronter, slandering/gossiping/spreading misinformation, and overall compromising of principles and truth.
9. Fears Those They Enable
Enablers of Error tend to fear the Enabled individual. They fear upsetting the Enabled. They fear his or her wrath. They fear that the Enabled will make life difficult. They may also fear not having favor with the Enabled person (i.e., because the Enabler is perceived to not be on the side of the Enabled). The Enabled has likely learned that he or she is able to control situations and people, while evading confession and consequences, through their anger, fits of rage, emotional responses, intimidation, bullying, tears, self-pity, threats of self-harm (or harming others), playing the victim, etc. Also, those around the Enabled and Enabler have learned that if the Enabled person is not happy, then no one is happy (because he or she makes sure no one is happy. Therefore, the Enabler often appeases the Enabled individual so that this drama and grief can be avoided (e.g., seeking happiness over wholeness and holiness).
10. Misplaces Trust
Enablers of Error tend to give far too much credibility and trust to the Enabled person (e.g., trusting too soon, too much, when it is foolish to do so, or when it is unloving and dangerous to do so for everyone involved). To make matters much worse, Enablers often insist, if not demand, that others trust the Enabled (the unrepentant serial offender) who is not trustworthy, and is likely to repeat the harmful behavior. Furthermore the Enabler of Error tends to believe and to live as if forgiving an Offender means one must trust the Offender.
As we can see, after just a brief look at these common patterns, the snare of enabling is a convoluted and crippling mess. Therefore, the more that the truth is known and applied, the better off everyone will be.
Know that there is hope. There is always an abundance of hope to be found in God and His Word (Rom 15:4, 13). All of these things can change. Jesus came “full of grace and truth,” and He will abundantly bless and strengthen us to overcome any challenge we may face.*
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. -Romans 15:4
Questions To Consider
- From the list above, what stands out to you the most?
- Which of the Top 10 Marks of Enablers have you seen or experienced?
- Which ones are the most harmful?
- In what ways might these patterns apply to your life and family now –or in the past, when you were growing up?
- After reading this list, what actions or changes do you need to make?
As always, if you would like help in this area or with another aspect of life, please feel free to contact us.
*Excerpt taken from an upcoming booklet on One-Sided Reconciliation