This article was written by Alyssa and published by Faith in Recovery.
There are two sides to enabling: the positive sense of empowering others or the negative sense of encouraging dysfunctional behavior. Today, we’re going to focus on the negative form of behavior, in which an individual protects someone from experiencing the full impact and consequences of their actions. Enabling can be applied to many situations, with one of the most common being addiction. As a Christian drug rehabilitation center, this is a problem that we see in many of our clients’ relationships. For this reason, we’re answering the question “What does the bible say about enabling?” as well as the red flags of enabling behavior.
What Does the Bible Say About Enabling Bad Behavior?
It can be difficult to watch a loved one suffer, whether it’s from addiction or any other bad situation. Enabling is often done as a way to help and is rarely done with poor intentions. For instance, a parent may keep taking their adult child into their home every time they lose a job because they feel bad for them. Or the mother of an alcoholic may continue to bail them out of bad situations they were caught in because of their drinking.
While it’s not wrong to care for our loved ones, and while it may be done with good intentions, the bible discourages enabling any kind of dysfunctional, unhealthy, or unhelpful behavior, as it will only further hinder the individual. With that said, there’s a big difference between enabling and helping someone.
Helping is doing something for someone that they’re unable to do. On the other hand, enabling is doing something for someone that they can and/or should do. But how do you determine whether you’re being a helper or an enabler? As a Christian drug rehab, we like to turn to scripture to better understand the problems we are presented with.
Below is what we found about enabling in the bible and how it may apply to your situation.
Enabling doesn’t want what’s best for the other person
Galatians 6:7 reads, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” This means that a bad choice will almost always result in a bad consequence. When we want what’s best for someone, we might believe that the best way to help them is to take care of this bad consequence. However, as is the case when raising a spoiled child, removing the consequence will only foster more bad decisions.
One of the best examples of not enabling is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15: 11 – 32. When the son demands his share of the inheritance so he can live how he wants to, his father grants it to him despite the pain it caused him. Eventually, the son hit rock bottom and realized he was wrong. When he came home, his father forgave him on the spot and welcomed him with open arms. In this story, we see how the father allowed the son to make his choices and experience the consequences and then was willing to forgive when the lesson was learned.
This story shows us that we aren’t truly loving someone when we enable harmful behavior. Rather, we truly love someone when we allow them to learn from their mistakes and improve themselves.
Enabling encourages idleness and lack of responsibility
God celebrates the virtues of hard work throughout the bible and chastises those who refuse to pull their weight. Some common bible verses about enabling drug addicts to remember include:
- Galatians 6:5: For each will have to bear his own load.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12: For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
- Proverbs 10:4: A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
Enabling encourages a person to remain idle, lack responsibility, and become entitled because they’re always being taken care of no matter what they do. As you can imagine, this can support addiction and other harmful behaviors.
Love always speaks the truth
When you love someone and want what’s best for them, you won’t sit idly by when they’re doing something wrong or harmful. Love rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). We can admonish or lovingly call out a loved one when they’re doing something wrong without supporting their actions because encouraging the truth and exposing the bad are ways of truly loving others.
Love recognizes that suffering with consequences can be necessary
We tend to think that suffering is always a bad thing, and we want to protect our loved ones from it at all costs. Parents, in particular, are notorious for enabling their children because they hate to see them suffer, no matter what caused the pain. However, when we intervene and don’t allow someone to take responsibility for their actions, we prevent them from learning a valuable lesson and make it so they’ll likely make the same mistake in the future. Hebrews 12:11 explains it beautifully, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Enabling doesn’t provide true satisfaction
Just as enabling prevents the development of character and positive change in behavior, it also contributes to a lack of satisfaction. When enabling an addict, for instance, the act of enabling allows the individual to continue engaging in a behavior that only provides them temporary satisfaction. Because they never go through the consequences of their actions, they never learn the seriousness of their situation. In the end, this further prevents them from finding true satisfaction in sobriety and other improvements.
Dangers of Enabling Addiction: Are You an Enabler?
In addition to what the bible says about enabling, we also wanted to share some of the typical ways that you may be enabling a loved one:
- Blaming yourself for the person’s behavior
- Covering up the individual’s behavior
- Denying to others that the individual has a problem
- Finding it difficult to ever say no to the individual
- Frequently bailing them out of jail or paying for their fines or legal fees
- Giving them money to buy drugs or alcohol out of fear that they’ll resort to stealing or dangerous means of getting them
- Letting them live with you without paying rent, contributing to the home, or doing housework
- Lying to protect the individual from consequences
- Paying for their expenses while they remain unemployed or they spend their money on unimportant things
- Putting your life on hold or neglecting your well-being to focus your time and attention on the addict
If you recognize these behaviors in yourself as a loved one of someone with an addiction, we encourage you to seek out support. Our Christian-based rehab offers family therapy to help the loved ones of addicts better understand the severity of addiction and teach them how to stop enabling and truly offer their support. If you’re unsure of where to go from here or how to help your loved one, we can guide you.