Loving or Enabling?

I’m one of those people who like to help other people out.  It gives me pleasure.  But helping others can be tricky.  I was talking to a good friend today about just that thing.  She said she isn’t as eager to help others as she once was.  She said many people weren’t willing to help themselves, and she was left in a sinking boat with little left to do but bail out before she sank with them.  I responded that many times we plant seeds and it might be years before one can see a harvest (change)–we aren’t responsible for the watering and growing afterwards.  She responded that I had a spiritual viewpoint that others might not share.  She’s right.  I’m an incurable optimist about good deeds.

Maybe that’s why I get trapped in doing too much for my family.  I have bailed out grandchildren repeatedly, and some others I shouldn’t admit to.  Each time they are so appreciative and will be much more responsible in the future, they declare.  Yeah, right…

WiseGeekHealth.com compares helping and enabling as “Helping someone entails doing something for that person that he can’t do for himself, while enabling behavior involves doing something that he’s completely capable of doing, but chooses not to.”

So paying my grandson’s auto insurance one month is helping, but the second month due to a lot of eating out is enabling?  Just an hypothetical example, of course.

There’s another aspect many of us helpers dream about.  The reciprocation of kind acts.  Another friend was telling how she would ask her husband if he would like a drink, and then bring it to him.  An onlooker commented that he had two feet–let him get it himself.  She laughed and said the onlooker didn’t realize her husband pampered her often, and it was a a joyful, loving act on her part to serve him.  I remember my mother and father-in-law fought often.  The fights were about who got to wash the dishes or get an iced tea for the other, never any of the bad kinds of fights.  I learned a lot from these people.

I guess it all boils down to how people respond when you help them out.  If it really helps them get out of a jam, and they correct the behavior that caused the jam, it’s good.  If they really can not do something for themselves, it’s okay if you want to do it, but if they can do it for themselves, they’d better get on those two feet and go do it.  Otherwise, you may be guilty of prolonging their problem, and they might need to hit bottom.