I grew up in a broken family. I must say had it not been for the rough experiences, I would not be here sharing this blog.
After my father decided to leave us for another woman with barely any financial support, we had to suddenly go through a lot emotionally and mentally. Because my father had left, I felt the need to grow up and take care of my mom. Clearly she was devastated and due to that, I toughened up and was her shoulder to cry and lean on.
Over the course of the next few years, I did not really deal with what had happened but just kept going. I was taking care of her, myself and the bits and pieces around the house. One would say that is quite normal. When her grieving period was over, I should have stopped allowing her to sulk, complain, nag or fix her situations or problems. That was wrong because I was enabling her to continue to be stuck. I was sending her the message that it was okay to be in that state and that I would sort everything out for her.
The damage of that is that she did not get the chance to learn to take care of herself or even her children. She did not learn to buckle up and smile after the shit hit the fan. She learnt to continue to blame others and not take responsibility and I take responsibility for having enabled her.
I want to focus on enabling and how many of us do it without realizing because we think we are helping. Helping is when someone steps in to do something for others because they are incapable of doing a certain task whereas enabling is when the person is doing something for someone while that person has the capability to do it on their own.
Some would argue that not knowing how to do something may seem as incapable and to me that isn’t the case. Not knowing how to do something is normal as we are constantly in the process of growing. Not having a skill is not a reason for someone else to help or step in. Skills can be acquired. Helping is when there are no resources available or possible for a person to learn that skill and therefore help is needed.
As an enabler, I know I have constantly tried to help people and I realize that I’m not helping but weakening them. For instance, by me sorting out the broadband problem or the helper dispute or not showing my fury about drunken behaviour, the message I am sending is it is okay to rely on me and that I am there to sort these things out. The question is when will the person learn to shape up and grow? Never. Hence it is vital to stop enabling and lovingly but honestly say “I cannot help you because I know you can do this on your own. I trust that you can”. We need to have faith in those we love. I am grateful to have a man by my side that is my equal and is my shoulder to lean on.
My reflection is a way to help my viewers to step back and think about whether they are helping or enabling. I hope you empower your family and friends by giving them an opportunity to do things for themselves and in that way they will have more to offer. I am sure they will thank you years from now.
“We cripple people who are capable of walking because we choose to carry them.” – Christie Williams