The Fine Line Between Enabling and Supporting

supporting or enabling

There is a fine line between supporting and enabling.⠀

Most of the time, crossing the fine line is innocent and done from a place of love and caring. But sometimes what we may think is supporting, caring, and loving is actually enabling an unhealthy behavior to continue and potentially causing a negative ripple effect for them and for others later on.⠀

Take a look at your own thoughts and behaviors. An honest look. Are there things you want to change but haven’t been able to shift? Do you find yourself venting about the same thing to the same person and getting the same response over and over again? If so, get curious about whether your person’s response could be enabling you to skip out on the tough thing you may need to do (e.g., have the tough conversation, leave your job, challenge your core beliefs, get help, stop drinking, start exercising).⠀

Similarly, from the goodness of your heart, you can be enabling your person’s negative thought patterns and behaviors by going along, by not challenging, by buying the alcohol, by changing who you are so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable. When a friend or loved one comes to you with an issue, before you respond, pause for a moment. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How can I show this person empathy (i.e., understanding what they are going through)?

  • Could this person be helped by just being present, listening, and reflecting?

  • If I comment or offer advice, is it in their highest good?

  • Am I feeling pulled to “save” him or solve the problem?

  • Am I enabling the behavior? (i.e., am I coming to the rescue and encouraging negative behavior? Am I changing what I do or making my world small to keep this person comfortable?)

  • How can I help this person grow? How can I grow in this situation?

You might not always have or know the answer to these questions, but by asking the questions, you are bringing awareness to the situation rather than reacting from an old pattern.

When you get honest about what is actually happening, you have the opportunity to do or say something different. It’s not easy, but growth rarely is :)⠀