When you grow up around others that would rather live in victim status rather than surviving their past you easily take on the role of an enabler. You become the one to try daily to empower them to be the best they can be regardless of their past. It is easy to watch yourself cover for these people for their behaviors instead of expecting them to overcome. You think you are doing what is right and what you are supposed to do but unfortunately it can be deadly to an addict for example. Enablers will cover for those they believe can’t defend themselves and in the process they empower them to get worse and worse and not learn to survive. It’s like the saying, ” Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” If you see yourself enabling those around you then you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself are you really helping them or hurting them? You could be LOVING THEM TO DEATH!
As a mother of children who genetically inherited mental disorders they didn’t ask for or even deserve, I often feel this guilt for the choices I made. I know their pain as though it were my own even though I try to not enable them just because they are battling. They are strong at the core even though they feel they are victims at times. I often think of it like those who speak of the ghost pain after a limb is amputated, As a mother our children are an extension of ourselves and we do actually feel the pain they go through whether it is real to us or not. We will forever be connected to them but have to accept that they are a separate being and have to be allowed to make their own choices and experience their own failures. Love them but don’t love them to death.
Are you one of those people that always has to make everyone happy even when you hurt yourself at times? You can’t stand seeing others sad so you give anything it takes to make them happy? It is a great thing that you have a big heart and you want to take care of others but there always needs to be a balance. If you are always giving, in time you have nothing left for yourself. In this process you lose yourself and if you lose yourself then how can anyone who cares about you truly be happy. Making you happy first needs to be priority and those who truly care for you will understand. When they don’t is when you need to be stepping back and evaluating things. Are they that unhappy or are they just selfish?
When I think of Tough Love, I tend to wonder how can you be tough on someone you truly love? It isn’t easy to not want to help those you care about and watch them struggle when you have the means to help. How do you help them without actually enabling them?
Think about our kids and how we tend to want the best for them. If we continuously give to them without any expectations they aren’t able to learn how to fend for themselves. Now if we decide to teach them how to achieve their own goals we then give them the tools they need to succeed in life away from us. As parents we learned that we aren’t perfect ourselves but we want to give to our children what we didn’t have. In doing this there are times that we actually hurt them more than help them. If you can honestly say you have guided your children and given them the proper tools and they still choose the wrong path then it is definitely time to step back and let them figure things out for themselves. However, if you have only expected them to grow up and not shown by example how are they truly supposed to learn. Children are followers until they are shown how to be leaders. By first showing unconditional love, they still know they are loved when you are forced to implement tough love.
This same philosophy goes for those around us. If we continue to tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear, how are they going to grow and better themselves when they are perpetuating the same behaviors over and over. Tough love isn’t easy but again when your friends and family know you love them unconditionally, they will know you only say what you say out of the kindness of your heart.
Just remember that in order to implement Tough Love, you first have to show Unconditional Love. Otherwise you are just being selfish and controlling and that doesn’t teach anyone anything positive in the end.