On Enabling

This has been on my mind the past few months, and really, I think it’s time I did some writing on it.

As we’ve seen in multiple iterations, public and otherwise too I’m sure, let me just posit this statement:

Nothing is worse than an enabler.

Perhaps a little hyperbolic, but think about it; we’ve seen this too many times. Someone’s behavior is horrible, or their opinions are utterly vile, or they’re an extremely obvious hypocrite and/or liar, and there’s always someone who’s going “But they didn’t mean that! You’re just being mean to them! You need to back off them!” when in reality, no, no one is being “mean” to anyone, but everyone is roundly tired of having to tolerate that person’s crap.

Sound familiar? Seen it happen a few times? Maybe in the news?

Tell that to an enabler, though. The enabler will bend over backwards to excuse someone’s actions, no matter how godawful they are. They will go to hell and back for that person – not because that person deserves that kind of support, but because the enabler is of the mind that the person they’re protecting is incapable of being wrong. No criticism can ever be permitted of whomever they’re striving to protect, and the slightest naysay will be tattled back with a hefty dose of indignation mixed in. They will make people step on eggshells, lest anyone actually step up and shatter the illusion that the person whom they’re protecting is nowhere near like what their enabler believes them to be. The enabler would lash out against anyone who would criticize, even if that criticism is roundly deserved, because heaven forfend anyone paints the person as less than what the enabler believes them to be. Never mind if the criticism is deserved, never mind if there’s hard evidence to back said criticism – none of that will sway the enabler.

We see it a lot in two dynamics: friendships or marriages that last several decades with one person changing to beyond recognition (and I use the term change only in regards to perception as opposed to actual change), and parents refusing to believe allegations of abuse from their children to favor the abuser.

The source of the former is understandable, and I fear it is inevitable time-wise. When you know someone for a number of years, you really, really want to believe that you know them best. You want to believe the better of that person. But that’s also exactly the quandary: when you know someone for a very long time, you don’t notice the small and subtle changes in that person. Maybe they were that person a number of years ago. But what they were then and what they are now are not necessarily the same thing. It gets increasingly difficult to see someone for who they are the longer you know them, because if you still hold to the image of them at their best from however long you’ve known them, you will remain blinded to their true colors as time reveals them.

Worse part of it is if the person knows full well that they are still seen as who they once used to be. It’s so, so, so easy to take full advantage of a situation where the person knows you still see them as who they were a decade ago, and remain blind to the painfully obvious truth that they are not that individual anymore, and perhaps they never were that to begin with.

 

It’s infinitely worse in a longtime marriage. “But he just changed overnight!” said every wife whose husband suddenly up and left after a number of years. No. That’s not correct. No one ever changes overnight, and more to the point, no one changes who they are at the core. They just reveal it. No one suddenly wakes up to know that the person they’ve married is suddenly nothing like they knew at the beginning. In fact, there’s very likely a history of this same pattern of behavior, which the wife didn’t know about or (and this is facepalm-worthy, but these things do happen) chose to ignore it in favor of “We can make this work” or “I can change him.”

But worse, they’ll go, “Well, that’s what it is” – no. No no no, and no. “That’s what it is” is no excuse at all. What does it say about you if this is what you’re willing to tolerate? What does it say about the person you are if you excuse away anything with “That’s what it is” and never once stop to say, “This is just not right”?

This is what people don’t really think about when they enable someone’s bad behavior. They don’t ever ask how they, themselves, are seen when they do that. Here’s a hint: when you’re an enabler, whether knowingly or unwittingly, it says nothing good about you at all.

And I won’t even start on the parents who don’t believe when their child tells them that there’s abuse going on. This happens too many a time and each time it does, my hackles go zero to spiked in no seconds flat. To say nothing of the abuse itself and the lifelong damage it inflicts onto the child, what does it do to that child when they go to their parent, looking for protection, and find that the parent blames them for the abuse? Or worse, doesn’t believe them?

Whether or not you believe it, this happens every day.

Any parent who willfully enables or turns a blind eye to the abuse of their child, especially if another family member is doing the abusing, should never reproduce again, nor have anything to do with the child they re-victimized by not believing them. Harsh, but that’s my stance and I’m sticking with it. For all the BS about the boogeyman of stranger danger, the reality is that 95% of all domestic abuse where children are involved is perpetrated by the child’s family. In the 50s – 70s, this was known in socially acceptable speech as “having a funny uncle”. This, however unfortunate and heinous, is not new. Nor is the family banding together to “defend” their favorite family member from the “outlandish accusations” or a “child’s vivid imagination”. Both of these have been, historically, defenses offered by parents who didn’t believe their kids’ abuse was real.

Granted, yes, this could be an extreme example. But the point comes down to the same thing: enabling someone is turning a willful blind eye to who they really are.

The far greater problem with enabling is that other people suffer as a result of the enabler’s inability to stand up to someone.

And that is why I say that nothing is worse than an enabler. I will even go so far as to add that the enabler is just as bad as the person whom they enable. Because their knowledge of what’s going on and subsequent enabling is a tacit acceptance of everything. In fact, legally speaking, this can be construed as participation. There’s a reason that “accessory” is a legal term in prosecution and that people who know what’s going on in a questionable situation and do nothing to stop it are charged as they they committed the act themselves.

Don’t allow yourself to become so tolerant of someone else’s lousy opinions, actions, what-have-you that you forget whether or not tolerating any of that is the right thing to do. No one is entitled to an audience, and no one is entitled to getting away scot-free without consequences to their actions.

More I think about it, the more I realize just how much I’ve let slide over the years. Frankly, that’s inexcusable of me. And I should have never allowed people to walk all over me as they have, and should’ve never kept people around after I discovered some of the opinions they harbor. Enough is more than enough, and personally – life is too short to tolerate people who can’t be bothered to understand the extremely basic rule of life that what they support and what they accept is a direct reflection of who they are.

K.G.

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