An enabler is one that enables another to achieve an end; especially: one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.
Before you move on to the next post feeling some peculiar air of superiority, please note that while the definition cites substance abuse as a self-destructive behavior, it doesn’t disqualify the many of you that enable friends and family financially, as well. It’s one thing to assist someone who may find themselves in a bind from time to time, but it’s another to allow people to become another line item on your own struggling budget. When you do, I believe you might actually be guilty of financial abuse.
Not only is helping them, actually hurting them, but it can be hurting you, as well.
Singer and actor turned author, Tyrese, put it best while on tour a few years ago to promote his book, How To Get Out of Your Own Way. His words echo in my mind still daily: “Sometimes to help someone, you have to stop helping them.”
So simple, yet so remarkably powerful. And yet, I know how it goes. We feel obligated to help family and friends who are in a financial bind. After all, isn’t it the noble thing to do? It might be if it weren’t for the fact that nobility can often create an inability in a person to figure “it” out on their own. Financially speaking, “it” can be a number of circumstances from how to earn their own income and manage their own money wisely to how to decipher between their own wants and needs, pay their own bills on time and essentially how to hustle.
So, how can you tell if you are enabling someone in your life? Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following 8 questions:
- 1. Constantly find yourself having to bail out grown and able-bodied adults? (If you’re a parent and your “baby” is above college-age, yes, they count as an adult.)
- 2. Tell the few people who actually offer to pay you back not to worry about it?
- 3. Financially support anyone whose neediness is purely derived out of their own laziness?
- 4. Find yourself afraid for this person, or convinced that he/she “cannot handle” a basic life situation without “falling apart”?
- 5. Excuse this person’s behavior as being a result of “the economy, stress, misunderstanding, or difficulty coping,” even when the behavior hurts or inconveniences you?
- 6. Wish others in this person’s life would change their behavior or attitudes to make things easier for this person?
- 7. Ever feel manipulated by this person but ignore your feelings?
- 8. Make yourself more available to another person, at the expense of your own financial obligations, energy, or time?
If you have said “Yes” in your head, committed a shy nod, bitten your lower lip or rested your chin in the palm of your head and leaned forward, then more than likely, my friend, you are an enabler.
Find out what you can do to stop participating in financial abuse with those you claim to love by reading more here.