Monday, March 19, 2012

The Difference Between Enabling and Equipping

I would like to try something a little different in today's post. I've spent a little time doing social work, and during that time, I came across certain patterns of behavior in the clients that I had contact with.

One behavior that was evident to some degree in all clients was their ability to enable negative behaviors in those around them. This was seen in parents toward their children, brothers toward their sisters, and just within the context of the whole family unit.

Enabling behavior is such a broad topic--- with an abundance of research and good books to help one get a good understanding of the topic.

In this post I would like to compare the difference between enabling and the Biblical idea of equipping.

I came across this excellent article on the warning signs of enabling behavior, here are the 20 signs that were listed in the article:


1. Do you find yourself worrying about a person in ways that consume your time, or do you find yourself trying to come up with solutions to his/ her problems rather than letting that person do the solving?

2. Do you find yourself afraid for this person, or convinced that he/she “cannot handle” a situation or relationship without “falling apart”?

3. Do you ever do something for a person which he/she could and even should be doing, in order to learn him/herself?

4. Do you ever excuse this person’s behavior as being a result of “stress, misunderstanding, or difficulty coping,” even when the behavior hurts or inconveniences you?

5. Have you ever considered - or have you - giving this person money, your car, or talked to someone for this person as a way of reducing this person’s pain?

6. Do you feel angry if this person does not follow through with something you have suggested -- or do you worry that you may not be doing enough for this person?

7. Do you ever feel you have a unique and special relationship with this person?

8. Do you feel protective of this person - even though he/she is an adult and is capable of taking care of his/her life?

9. Do you ever wish others in this person’s life would change their behavior or attitudes to make things easier for this person?

10. Do you feel responsible for getting this person help?

11. Do you feel reluctant to refer an individual to a source of help or assistance, uncertain if another person can understand or appreciate this person’s situation the way you do?

12. Do you ever feel manipulated by this person but ignore your feelings?

13. Do you ever feel that no one understands this person as you do?

14. Do you ever feel that you know best what another person needs to do or that you recognize his/her needs better than he/she does?

15. Do you sometimes feel alone in your attempts to help a person or do you feel you may be the only person to help this individual?

16. Do you ever want to make yourself more available to another person, at the expense of your own energy, time, commitments?

17. Do you find yourself realizing that an individual may have more problems than you initially sensed and that you will need to give him/her your support or help for a long time?

18. Do you ever feel, as a result of getting to know this person, that you feel energized and can see yourself helping people like him/her to solve their problems?

19. Have you ever begun to “see yourself” in this person and his/her problems?

20. Has anyone ever suggested to you that you are “too close” to this person or this situation?

After reading and thinking through the above list take the time and ask yourself if you exhibit any of these negative enabling characteristics.

Now, lets look at what it means to equip those around us---and compare the difference between enabling others and equipping them. 

The Apostle Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus tells us why Christ  gave  believers pastors, teachers, and prophets, Paul says this, now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.Their responsibility is to EQUIP God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Vincents Word Studies says this about the word equip that is used in Ephesians: " Only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek of refitting a ship or setting a bone. 

The purpose of pastors, teachers, mothers, fathers, are to bring others to "maturity," (refit the ship, set the bone),  baby Christians are not to stay baby Christians-toddlers are not to stay toddlers-teenagers are not to stay teenagers---and the whole idea behind equipping is to bring a person to be "set on the right course." In the Christian context it is to bring a person to  full trust and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the parenting context---parents are to allow their own children to "feel" the weight of their own bad choices---parents are to allow their own children to fail, and not pick up the pieces for them. Parents are to provide the "tools" that their children need in order to be independent and not dependent on them.

In the end we as the body of Christ grow in our dependence on Christ---for the Christian being equipped is having the wisdom to know that when we are weak we are strong---it is having the wisdom to know that our sin natures can lead us astray---it is having the wisdom to know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

Father give us the wisdom to understand the difference between helping others and enabling others. Father help us to grow in our dependence on you. Help us to grow into full mature believers so that we in turn can minister to the needs of others in the body of Christ.

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