Response Part 2: Supporting Without Enabling   Leave a comment

Elisabeth’s comment raises at least four additional issues in my mind.  The most apparent one, I think, is the distinction between enabling (as AA uses the term) and supporting. When people take too little responsibility for themselves, offering blanket assistance may not be the most helpful thing to do for them.  We need to take this into consideration so that we do not inadvertently hurt or weaken others by our aid (such as parents do when they over-protect their children).

When folks are in need, love calls us to discern how best to serve them.  It seems to me, the better we know someone, the better we can identify his or her true needs (so perhaps the best way to serve them is to get to know them).  The difficulty lies in determining whether the crutch I offer will aid or hinder healing, and I have many potential problems in sorting out this quandary.

I tend to expect of others what I expect of myself, but this is a dangerous measure.  Each of us has unique struggles and strengths, clarity and confusion, emotional surplus and shortage, speed of growth in different areas.  If I don’t even know my own heart well, how can I presume to know another’s?   I tend to expect too much of folks (and others’ tend to expect too little of them).  Without realizing it, I tend to help or deny help to others for the wrong reasons (because it feels good to be needed, because I am proud of my abilities, because I feel obligated, because I resent the inconvenience, because I am suspicious of their motives).  I rarely if ever respond out of pure love.

How can I tell when folks are being negligent, failing to do what they can easily do, or whether they are in genuine need of a hand up?  Without even deciding that question, I know of a number of vital ways we can support others.  We can accept them for who they are, we can feel and express empathy for their sense of need, we can listen and ask questions, we can offer encouragement and insight from our own similar experiences, we can be honest about our hopes and concerns regarding them and the strengths and weaknesses we bring to the table.  I have discovered in relationship to my wife that what I need more than anything else is someone to understand and accept me as I am.  It is far more important than the help they do or do not give me.

The Comfort of Caring Hands

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Posted July 25, 2011 by janathangrace in thoughts

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