Are you an enabler?

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Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your children while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction. 19 A violent tempered person will pay the penalty; if you effect a rescue, you will only have to do it again.

Two key ideas jump out to me in these verses:

1. To “discipline” someone is to make them accountable for their actions. V.18 specifies “children” as those needing discipline, but this applies to adults as well.

2. v.19 refers to a “rescue”. We “rescue” someone when we allow someone to avoid the consequences of their actions. This may appear to “help” in the short-term, but it short-circuits the learning process in the long-term. And when people don’t learn from mistakes, they are bound to repeat them.

One of the most difficult things about raising adult children is letting them make mistakes and suffer consequences. As parents often want to protect our children from harsh realities, but that doesn’t serve them well in the end. This has been a hard one for me to learn as a parent.

Rescuing someone we love from the consequences of their actions is not, in the end, an act of love. 

But this doesn’t just apply to young people. I recently had an older adult ask for money to get out of a financial jam. Problem? It’s not the first time this person has made such a request, so I chose to dig a bit deeper. It became clear there are a number of chronic issues that regularly result in low cash flow. The problem, however, is not fundamentally a money problem. It’s much more involved than that.

Without dealing with the core issues causing the problem, the problem will simply re-appear in a short time. Which will result in another request for money.

So I had to say no to the request. It was a hard thing to do, because I care about this person, but I love the person enough to give space for consequences to teach. Giving money would only enable bad behavior, which I will not do.

I do not want to be an “enabler”.

But it’s HARD! Know what I mean? Perhaps you’re in such a situation. Someone is asking for your “help”, but what they’re really asking for is help avoiding the consequences of their actions. Do you love them enough to say “no”?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s hard to know when “help” is not actually helpful. Give us your grace to know when we need to step back and let consequences take effect. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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