Enabling is a sin.
We don't think of it as such, but we can't repent of sins we don't see or won't acknowledge. So let me try to point the sinfulness of enabling out to you, my fellow enablers.
When my wife, Karen, was at her worst, our entire family, led my me, enabled her. We looked the other way when she would gorge herself; we picked up the slack for work around the house that she was too obese or too depressed to do; we made sure to avoid talking about touchy subjects that made her angry - in other words, we had to avoid acknowledging the truth of her situation. We had to ignore the plain facts and pretend like the elephant in the living room was not crowding out the rest of us - and leaving a lot of elephant dung behind.
And here are some rather extreme, but absolutely true, examples of enabling that I've come across, some very recently. I have changed the names and tweaked a few details so as to keep the people involved anonymous.
- An actress of mine is shacking up with a man who has been diagnosed a schizophrenic. While she and I are out of town performing, she gets word that her schizophrenic boyfriend has let the dogs out, entirely through his own negligence. Rather than saying, "What do you mean, you left the door wide open when you went to get the mail and the dogs ran away and are still missing?!" - rather than saying that, she talks to him on the phone with extreme deference, tip toeing around the issue, as if she were dealing with a three-year-old child. "I can't afford to talk to him about how irresponsible he was!" she tells me when she hangs up. "There's no telling what might set him off!" She eventually marries him.
- An friend of mine who is in the midst of a difficult marriage is kept on a tight shoestring budget by her husband, who won't even discuss how much money he makes at his full-time job. He handles all of the finances - secretly - and injects himself into family squabbles by communicating with her relatives behind her back and ticking them off. He also routinely lies to her about "working late". Her solution is never to discuss anything with him directly, and just hope he doesn't get angry and blow up at her.
- A woman is dating a man she hopes to marry. He is not at all cultured or sophisticated, and so she becomes his "keeper". She won't let him have a Facebook account, she often speaks for him in public in order to be a buffer so that he won't say goofy things to others in a conversation, and she keeps him on a kind of leash when they're out and about, taking charge of every situation. No one else is supposed to notice this, and so it's difficult to be around them.
- In the most bizarre example, a middle-aged man molests his adopted teen-aged daughter. He is sent to prison for it; his wife leaves him and divorces him, taking all the children with her. After his release, he meets a woman who is just a few years older than his victim. This new woman (let's call her Ceci) knows his history (though of course he claims to be innocent). And although he's old enough to be her father, and although she has other prospects her own age, Ceci marries the molester (20 years her senior), in effect taking the place of the victim, and signing up to take over the adopted daughter's role in this strange incestuous dynamic. They move to a rural location, start a business, and Ceci actually has children with this man, one of which is a girl. No one knows the man's history, as Ceci works hard to make everything normal. But if you begin to doubt his honesty or get a creepy feeling around him, and you Google his name (like I did), the Sex Offender Registry pops up and all doubt is removed.
We often forget that God is Truth, and that our own Unrealities can only go so far. But others can always see through our enabling more easily than we can. And, sooner or later ...
... all that is secret will be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light ... (Luke 8:17)