Why Bother Noticing Unhealthy Helpfulness?
There are times when everyone needs help and a hand up. Asking for help is not unhealthy, but sometimes our helpfulness can debilitate and weaken a person. By its very nature, learning forces us to constructively struggle and causes growing pains. Whether it is acquiring wisdom in money matters, communicating effectively with another adult by trial and error, or practicing healthy living habits, we will feel some discomfort in the process. Taking away the constructive process of struggle from someone is unhealthy helpfulness or more commonly called, enabling.
Stepping away from unhealthy helpfulness is painful, both for the giver and the receiver. Yet, it is only by making a clean break from the habit of enabling that either person can hope to gain a sense of what healthy relationships entail.
Though it takes two people to make an unhealthy relationship, it takes only one to step aside from an enmeshed union. One person can decide to replace old and destructive thinking with something new and constructive. We can change, even if the other doesn’t. Though it only takes one to step away from a cycle of disaster, it is not a cycle that is easily altered.
Deciding whether or not our pattern of thinking and relating is debilitating to ourselves or someone else, is not always obvious. But if a suspicion arises that all is not “right,” that can be enough for us to consider taking a closer look at what we think might be askew.
Signs of healthy helpfulness include giving and receiving from both sides, not just one. People who do not enable or who do not enjoy being enabled, are those who are invested in the wellness of the other person. And, both understand that they are ultimately responsible for achieving their own good.
I cannot exercise, quit smoking or go to counseling for anyone else. They have to do that for themselves if they want a healthy life. And if they don’t, I can’t shield them from the consequences of their choices; heart problems, lung cancer or unresolved personal issues.
Sound minded relationships are comprised of people who can both give and receive opinions respectfully. Though one may be tempted to manipulate the other into thinking or doing something for selfish gain, it is not a temptation that follows through to an action. No one is exempt from desiring someone perform a beneficial favor for them. But, knowing the favor requested is from a purely selfish motive overrides and eradicates the request in sound minded people.
Finally, giving and receiving healthy helpfulness is between two adults who see each other as equals. If I treat another grown up as though they were still a child, then I am projecting my superiority and their inferiority. I am telling them that I know what is good for them and they do not. This invites a dependence that will suck the very life right out of us.
Why bother to notice unhealthy helpfulness? It is worth noting our enabling habits. When we do, we can alter not only our lives for the better, but maybe the other person’s life as well.