Are you EMPOWERING them or ENABLING them?
Oooh, the line can be so blurry-seeming sometimes, because in both cases, they truly need help, and you genuinely want to help.
One of the key differences though, is that they WANT help helping themselves. They may want help out of a situation, or help getting something, but if they don’t want help helping themselves, there’s a great chance you are enabling them.
And it’s not their WORDS that matter. It doesn’t matter that they’re TELLING you they want help helping themselves. If their ACTIONS are showing you that they’re not changing, trust the actions.
This is a super tough subject to tackle, because for just as many unique scenarios as there are, there are unique exceptions, and there’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.
BUT, if you notice that you’ve been “helping” someone an awful lot and their behavior hasn’t changed, it’s time to really examine where you’re helping or hindering them.
If you’re enabling their destructive behavior, then you’re NOT helping them.
If you’re empowering them to make new choices, and they ARE, then you’re helping them.
Here’s an example from my early years as an Accountability Coach (before I learned the subtlety of empowerment vs. enabling)…
👉 Client shares their goal, we work out a tangible action plan for them to achieve said goal, and then we’re off.
👉 I check in consistently (to the point where client knows exactly when I’ll be checking in), and client updates me.
👉 We walk through what worked, what didn’t, and what we’ll adjust moving forward.
But the sticking point is that I had gotten too invested in trying to “help” that I was checking in too regularly, and client was learning to depend on ME to keep moving forward, vs. client learning to grow through their pain points and hold themselves accountable throughout.
I had failed to EMPOWER them and was enabling them to wait for my check in before they looked at where they’d maybe gotten off track.
Instead of doing their own self reflection to adjust mid-course, in between our check-ins, they only were making progress after we talked, and then progress would fade again until our next conversation.
That was NOT helping them.
In the grand scheme of things, I know this is a small example – and I know you may be walking through some really serious scenarios right now (like a family member who’s abusing drugs, and empowering them means you needing to kick them out of the house if their behavior doesn’t change).
I don’t mean to take this lightly, and if you’re in a serious scenario like that, I highly encourage you to seek professional help in approaching those conversations, and being able to maintain boundaries once they’ve been set and communicated.
BUT, if you’re reading this and feeling convicted because you know that you’re actively enabling someone, my hope is that you will consider what you can shift so you’re actually EMPOWERING them.
The world doesn’t need anymore enabled adults. Far too much unnecessary damage has been caused by enabled adults, and it starts with empowering people here and now, whatever age they are.
Let’s commit to being the change, and to taking ownership of our own stuff.
If you find yourself waiting on someone else before you take a step, stop waiting. That’s fully on you. Take the step, learn from it, and course correct along the way.
You’ve got this!