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Confessions of an Enabler by Angela Masters Young

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Did you know that I like to help people?  I have a deep love for others and a desire to see them reach their potential.  That’s a good thing, right?

Right!  It is a good thing and comes from learning at the feet of my Mother, many years of following Christ, and some natural inclination.  However, like anything else, a gift out of balance becomes a flaw.  Our gifts or special abilities, when out of balance, often lead to our greatest weaknesses.  I have found this true in every area of my life.

At one time in my life, I was soooo stupid helpful that I became an enabler — and a TARGET!  I didn’t realize that taking on all those ‘helpful’ tasks for others, was keeping them from taking responsibility themselves.  I took responsibility for everything!  Often people didn’t even have to ask, they just had to hint, and I’d jump right in.  Sounds great, but it wasn’t.

First, people began to use me, or they would just assume “Angie will do it!”.  (Reminds me of the Mikey commercial — “Get Angie, she’ll do anything.”)  I allowed others to manipulate me because of my desire to help and serve  was out of balance.

I will save this story for another post, but it took a tragedy some major hard knocks to bring me to my senses.  In my eagerness to help, I had harmed myself and my family.  I had also harmed the people I had helped so assiduously!  Now there’s nothing wrong with helping people out when they need it, but it has to remain in balance, or it becomes enabling.  Enabling allows someone to not take responsibility for his or her own actions.  This is wrong.

I still have to watch this carefully.  I have realized recently that in an attempt to “be all things to all people”, I have allowed my priorities to slip again. I am no longer an enabler, and I don’t take hints at all.  If you want something from me, you must ask (and understand if I say no — or not but your problem, not mine).  But, I have still allowed my helper gene to cause me to give time tneeded elsewhere to others.  Right now I am helping out with my Dad (because I’m the only one who doesn’t have a “job” — it’s REALLY hard to retrain family!); we also get my Mother-in-law frequently, who is 86 and has dementia.  I have a husband who often gets neglected while I am busy at these and other tasks.

Sometimes life happens.  I get that.  However, I have felt conviction (often from some of your posts Anne Marie Dwyer in particular) about the use of my time.  When stressors come into one’s life, such as taking care of an elderly parent, you have to let some other things go.  It just isn’t possible to live life as you lived it before.  I have tried to do so anyway!  INSANE!

So I have assesed my priorities as I make room in my life for frequent trips south to my Dad’s again.  If I don’t show up here or on your blogs as often, this is why.  I would love to read them all and pay them forward, but I have neglected other important things to do so.  I am aware that, if necessary, some of you will get along just fine without me (ack, what a concept!) but I hope you will forgive me and be patient with me as I seek to gain and maintain balance in my life.  This post isn’t really about my internet reading and helping (unasked for by any of you). It’s about me trying to find balance after finding a new load added to my plate. I’ve taken facebook off my phone and stopped trying to keep up with every post of every friend already (I told you I’m an idiot 🙂 ).  I’ve declined some volunteer work (church) that I’d really like to do.  I have said no to a lot of things I wish I didn’t have to.  One step at a time, I am seeking to change my backsliding and find me again.

What about you?  Do you rush to help others while allowing important things to slide?  Do you have trouble weeding out the good, so you can focus on the best?  Do you take time for yourself amidst your busy schedule?  If you want, what are some tips you use to keep your priorities in line?  Do you have strengths you’ve allowed to get out of balance and become flaws?  Are you eager to help others, even at the expense of your self and family?

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It’s all about the heart, Part IV

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If you missed previous posts on this series, you can find them here:     It’s all about the heart;  Part II ;  Part III.

Heading in a different direction, Ann Marie Dwyer, or “Red” as she is called at Mommas Money Matters went a different direction in her comment on part I of “It’s all about the heart.”

Here is the pertinent sentence:

“I often engage in civil disobedience because we have legislators who have no concept of the actual function of society outside their cloistered Senate walls.” ~Ann Marie Dwyer

civil disobedience   (as defined at Dictionary.com)        noun

1. the refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands for the purpose of influencing legislation or government policy, characterized by the employment of such nonviolent techniques as boycotting, picketing, and nonpayment of taxes. Compare noncooperation ( def. 2 ) , passive resistance.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The USA was founded on civil disobedience as people rebelled against unfair laws.  As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, January 16, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about where civil disobedience comes in.  You can find a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here:  Biography.   MLK, Jr. is one of our finest examples of civil disobedience.  His goal and his dream was to have a country where everyone was free and equal, and his leadership through civil disobedience helped bring us closer to that goal.
When is it OK to disobey?
I would never, ever promote violent civil disobedience, but there are times when a government’s policies and laws go against a person’s beliefs or the good of it’s constituents.  Choosing civil disobedience is not a matter to be taken lightly.  The cause must be a good one.  However, there are times when to obey would mean disobeying one’s own conscience or God’s law.  When we see grave injustice or evil, is it time to be part of the change?  Is there a higher mandate in some cases?
Quotes from MLK, Jr. on civil disobedience

►We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germanywas “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungarywas “illegal.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from BirminghamJail,” Why We Can’t Wait, 1963

►Ordinarily, a person leaving a courtroom with a conviction behind him would wear a somber face. But I left with a smile. I knew that I was a convicted criminal, but I was proud of my crime. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.,March 22, 1956

More quotes by MLK, Jr.

Other interesting quotes on the subject

►If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

►I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not so desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. ~Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849
►Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it. ~Albert Einstein
►When leaders act contrary to conscience, we must act contrary to leaders. ~Veterans Fast for Life
►You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. ~Malcolm X
►If… the machine of government… is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849
►We cannot, by total reliance on law, escape the duty to judge right and wrong…. There are good laws and there are occasionally bad laws, and it conforms to the highest traditions of a free society to offer resistance to bad laws, and to disobey them. ~Alexander Bickel
►Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.  ~Henry David Thoreau
►It is necessary to distinguish between the virtue and the vice of obedience. ~Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays, 1911
What do you think?
Do you agree or disagree with these quotes?
Where is the line?  Is there one?
And finally, a reminder that civil disobedience is not easy:

►It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. ~Voltaire

What are your thoughts on this quote?
What would you consider worthy of civil disobedience?
What would you risk for your cause?
I apologize for the formatting.  WordPress is acting up.  Angie

Communication Busters: Civility in politics?

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In a read-worthy article in Christianity today called “The Cure for Election Madness [How to be political without losing your soul]” , Amy E. Black brings up some very good points about the political situation today.  Having recently been cursed out and called a few names by those who disagree with me politically and having them point out I’m a highly unintelligent ignoramous for my beliefs, I know exactly what she means when she discusses the lack of civility in politics.  This is nothing new, but it seems to have escalated to a great degree.

Distractors

When a person stoops to name-calling, all real debate, all communication has ceased to exist.  Both sides of the US political scene have been guilty of the incivility, especially as they approach the 2012 election cycle.  Lacking the ability to debate one’s own beliefs or substantiate one’s own claims leads to an attempt to take the voter’s eyes off the real issues.  Mud-slinging is nothing but a distractor from the real issues.  It does what the name implies and covers all the issues with mud, so that you, the voter, can only see mud – everything gets ‘muddied’, muddled, and mutilated.  It also distracts from the fact that the mud-slinger cannot express him/herself in any other way.

What about you?

Most of us have come to accept, even though we dislike it, the idea that politicians are going to dig up the other candidates, great-great-great-great-grandfather’s sordid affair with the midwife and other such superfluous issues.  However, if you discuss politics at all, you must realize that the candidates are not the only one’s slinging mud.  What happened to civility?  Why do we have to put others down for not believing as we do?  They do have the right to be wrong!  So do you!

Amy Black writes:

“If we are to seek peaceful solutions and honor God in politics, we Christians of all people must avoid such hateful talk. James 4:11 commands us to “not slander one another,” an exhortation that should extend beyond how we treat other believers. Whether talking with friends or campaigning for our favorite candidate or cause, we should engage our political opponents and their ideas with respect, welcome the opportunity to learn from other perspectives, and find ways to disagree charitably as a natural part of the political process.”

►Engage other’s ideas with respect

All people deserve respect, even if they are wrong.  Since God is very clear that none of us really understand or get it right all the time, how arrogant are we to think that our beliefs (those not specifically spelled out in the Bible) are the correct ones and that means we can disrespect who we want for whatever reason we want?  [“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Romans 3:11]  To be blunt:  this too is sin.  This does not mean we have to be politically correct and bow down before the forces of evil.  It does mean we disagree in a respectful, Christ-honoring manner.  Jesus was known to call a few people names, such as ‘whited-sepulchers’, but we are not Jesus.  Jesus was speaking of their spiritual condition, and pointing out the hypocrisy of their religious trappings without a relationship with their creator.

►Welcome the opportunity to learn from others

“Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”  Proverbs 27:17   I frequently find, in civil discourse, that I discover some new aspect of something.  It may even lead to a change of mind, change of focus, or at least a shared understanding.  It is the lack of civil discourse which leads folks to start thinking of themselves more highly than they ought, believing they are the true founts of knowledge from which all others must drink.  Once again:  how arrogant!  At the bottom of this tendency is pride:  bow to my wishes, ideas, political beliefs, etc., or I’ll make you wish you had!  I don’t know about you, but when people go on the attack, I don’t want to discuss with them any more.  Some people seem to like arguing, but I don’t like arguing just for the sake of arguing.  That is drama.  I do enjoy a good debate, however, where each side presents their ideas in civility, actually listening to the other person instead of eating them alive for daring to disagree.  It is when we isolate ourselves from the ideas of others (not accepting, but treating the person with respect) that we become narrow-minded hypocrites, full of self, seeking to make others into a carbon copy of us.

►Find ways to disagree charitably

Agreeing to disagree (in the political arena and elsewhere) allows us to share with one another, sharpen one another, and change society as a whole.  Regardless of what you think about my beliefs, ideas and ideals, feel free to agree or disagree, but please don’t scream at me, curse at me or call me names.  People are always in the teaching process.  When someone does the above, he or she has taught me something.  When a person is disrepectful, he or she has taught something.  People constantly teach others about something through their words and deeds:  they give a glimpse into their character, that inner person.  Civil discourse teaches others that while you uphold your own beliefs, you are willing to listen respectfully to others, and maybe, just maybe, learn something in the process.

God cares about the way we argue

“We shouldn’t retreat from the public square and we should work to build a better society. But I’m convinced that God cares about the way we argue as much as He cares about  the issues we espouse.”  This quote from Daniel Darlings blog post “Some great advice for the election season,” [where I discovered the Amy E. Black article].  As we dive into the debates, caucases and general election melee, God is watching and listening.  He cares about how you present yourself to the world.  He calls all of us to love, even when we disagree with one another!

 

Have you been guilty of mistreating another who disagrees with you?

Have you ever been on the recieving end of such?

How do you respond when others disrespect your beliefs or your right to have and express your beliefs, especially in the political arena?

How do you respond when others disagree with you?   Have you ever evaluated or prayed about your response?

You may be the only Jesus some people see.  Evaluate your ideals, beliefs and actions in light of the Scripture, and then go out as a light in the darkness and as salt to savor a bland world, debating with civility and the keeping the real enemy in mind.

Starvin’ Marvin’

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Have you ever wondered why we fall into the same old patterns of behavior – even tough we don’t want to and are determined not to?  The previous post gives us part of the answer – feeding the “flesh” makes it grow in its ability to control you.   The other part of the answer is to not just stop feeding, we also have to take an active role in starving it.

Garbage In

One of the first ways we starve our flesh is by stopping the inflow of garbage that comes in through our eyes and ears.  That movie that tempts you to look at porn or fantasize about someone other than the spouse, that song that spews foul words,  that game that causes us to spend too much time away from our loved ones or yelling at them to get out of the way or be quiet, that computer site that also eats our time and adds its own temptations.

What makes it garbage?

All of the above and more are not inherently bad things.  There are good movies, songs, video games, books, magazines, plays, television shows, etc., that are not garbage, but cause us to neglect more important things.  Maybe one thing is not your area of temptation and has no effect on you, but stymies your brother.  The important thing is too look objectively at the things we allow into our lives from the aspect of it’s content and what it does or does not cause us to do or not do.  Some things are automatically on this list from a biblical perspective, but others depend on how you use them.

Good better best.

An old saying my Mother used to use says,  “Good, better, best, put it to the test, till your good is better and your better is best.”  Some things are not wrong in and of themselves, but often we spend too much time on the good and miss out on the best.  If your time would be better spent on something else, this item needs to go on your garbage list.

Garbage out, now what?

It’s not enough just to take out the bad or stop putting garbage in. We must also start putting in the good if we want to conquer the flesh.  There’s a saying that talks about nature abhoring a vacuum.  That works here too.  If you leave an empty space, your enemy will soon find a way to fill it.  So along with taking out the garbage and cleaning house, we must bring good things into our ‘house’ to replace those bad things we threw out.

It works for all

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

If you are one of my non-Christian readers, this concept will help you as well, although the power of the Holy Spirit in the committed Christian goes a long way toward fighting fleshly desires.  The point is that replacing that garbage with beautiful furnishings of things that are just, pure, true, honest, good, and worthy of praise, helps keep that old garbage from creeping back in over time.

Discovering the counterfeit

Bank/treasury works learn to spot counterfeit money by handling real money so much that they instantly recognize a counterfeit when it passes through their hands.  Deciding what is “garbage” and what is lovely works in the same way.  We have to become so familiar with the good, with the things of God, that we instantly know when we are being fed garbage.  The enemy is very good at making the counterfeit so much like the real that many people have no idea they are eating the garbage.  But the more time you spend doing/hearing/seeing the good things, the God things, the more likely you will be able to make that distinction as you seek to starve out that fleshly nature.

You knew this was coming

Some of the things we can do, besides following the above verse, are listed below.

Using all the items at hand to keep from feeding the flesh and start starving it will help you in your walk with Christ or your search to eliminate those bad habits or sins that so easly beset us.   It may will take a lifetime, but it is worth the pursuit of purity.  Expect that the flesh will not go down easily, however, and watch out for his tactics.

Can you think of other ‘weapons’ you can use to starve the flesh?

Do you have a story of how you have (God has) defeated the flesh?

Does anything work better for you than another?

Do your intentions get in the way of your follow through?

Strength & Weakness: Nurture – when self-sacrifice becomes a weakness

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Strength & Weakness: Nurture.

“Yesterday, we established self-sacrifice as a strength, but identified the same characteristic as a weakness. Natural self-sacrifice is truly a strength which furthers humanity. Self-sacrifice as a weakness is not an instinct, but instead, is learned behavior.”

In a blog post, a continuing series about strength vs. weakness, Ann Marie Dwyer hits the nail on the head when it comes to self-sacrifice and how it can be a strength or a weakness.  She puts into words something I have struggled with my entire life.

Self-sacrifice is good.   Right?

As I read this post, my mind was immediately taken back to my childhood.  I love my sister very much, but she is and was a very strong-willed person.  She often took more than her share in many ways.  My baby brother, hyperactive and adorable, often took most of what was left.  Angie sacrificed in order to keep peace (only part of the reason).

Example:  The car

We lived about 10 hours away from my grandparents, so a trip to see them often involved my dad driving us all at night, hoping the kids would sleep through it all.   The put stuff on the floor in the back seat to make it more bed-like and covered it with blankets.  The sister got in and got comfortable.  The brother found a way to get comfortable.  Angie sat in a corner and stayed awake – uncomfortable.  Self-sacrifice.

It’s called enabling

When a person sacrifices to this extent, it is called enabling.  When the quiet wheel lets the squeaky wheel get away with drawing all the attention, this leads to the wheel learning to squeak to get attention and the non-squeaky wheel to just keep rolling along, pondering these things in her heart.

Personality vs. invisibility

Part of the tendency to do this had to do with personality.  Some people are naturally less aggressive and quieter.  However.  when a person takes it to the extent that they become invisible, it has gone too far.  This writer had a major struggle in adulthood because she believed she really was invisible (figuratively).  She didn’t think she deserved to squeak or have attention.  She still struggles with this.

Whose fault is it

While my parents should have intervened, and my sister could have been a little more generous in that area (she is very generous in other areas), the problem became mine when I continued in it even to adulthood.

Self-sacrifice as a weakness

I won’t go into the struggle to overcome this in this post, but the above was to point out that self-sacrifice is not always a strength.  Sometimes, it’s a big stinky weakness!  Taken to an extreme, it becomes enabling, teaching others to take advantage and feeding their own issues.

Unaware

Many times when self-sacrifice steps over the boundaries in this way, the other people are totally unaware of the struggle going on inside the self-sacrificer.  The person may have resentment and more fermenting inside, but since they don’t express it or set boundaries, the other person has no real way of knowing.  Often, especially with this type of self-sacrifice, we want others to ‘know’, but we want them to do it instinctively; we don’t want to have to tell them.

Becoming aware

There came a point in my adult life where I realized I had to take back my own power and stop sacrificing myself to the point where I became an invisible mass of unmet needs, holding resentment for the boundary violations but never letting others know.  I remember the moment well when I told my sister NO!  and started telling others NO!  and learning how to actually set boundaries.

Boundaries boundaries boundaries

If we do not set boundaries (make them known to others) we cannot blame them for stumbling past them.  Self-sacrifice is not about becoming an invisible no-one.  It is about being very confident in oneself, setting boundaries and protecting them, letting others know where those boundaries are and when they have crossed them, and then choosing at times to give place to others.   When self-sacrifice crosses the line into enabling, it definately becomes a weakness.

As Ann Marie says in her post, women tend to be more likely to go there than men, and it has a lot to do with the nurture aspect of society’s and other’s expectations about what it means to be a woman.  Rather than taking this to the other extreme and sacrificing nothing, we need to move to the point where we are self-nurturing, giving us the strength we need to sacrifice when it is called for.

Have you ever self-sacrificed in a way that was a weakness?  Do you think others should just know when you have a need or when your boundaries have been crossed without your permission?  Where would you take this post from here?  Ann Marie sparked this post, and I hope this one (or her original one:  Read here) can spark your imagination and we’ll see a post (writing, blog, facebook) from you.  Please share.

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