Compassion vs. Enabling


Are you choosing to fuel a negative situation by enabling someone who needs to stand on their own two feet?

I was recently asked, “What is the boundary between compassion and enabling?”

Compassion is standing by someone’s side without judgement. It’s being empathetic to another’s situation in the form of kind words, a hug, sending love or sitting in silence because your presence is a gift to a lonely heart. Compassion may include verbally standing up for someone who is unable to stand up for themselves, or letting someone know they matter when they feel void to the world. Compassion is love, support and encouragement. Compassion has the power to inspire great change in both the person giving and receiving; and regardless the side, it always feels good and is life-giving.

Enabling is compassion turned toxic. A hug and kind words turns into:

Let me carry you and take on all your troubles so you don’t have to live your life lessons. Let me take on your negative energy, even though it exhausts me, so you can walk free and easy. Let me carry your burden so that I might feel an ounce of love for my good deed.

Enabling examples include:

  • I’ll work more and give you money so you don’t have to feel the pressure to get a job.
  • I’ll hide your troubles to protect you and myself from other people’s judgement.
  • I’ll let you treat me like crap, hurt my feelings, and degrade my self-worth if it makes you feel better about yourself.
  • I’m willing to sacrifice who and what I am and aspire to be, in order for the people around me to benefit from the “good attributes” of the person I’m enabling.

Compassion is life-giving. Enabling is life depleting. Compassion is an action of choice driven by the heart. Enabling is a cyclical behavior driven by internal hurt and loneliness–oftentimes due to past baggage and a longing for the good life. Enabling is toxic for the person giving and receiving. When you enable, you take away the opportunity to become your greatest self. And you take away the opportunity for the other person to become a healthy functioning human being.

Moral to the story… Showing compassion helps someone stand on their own two feet–because they received support and encouragement to do it themselves. Compassion creates sustainable life change. The boundary between compassion and enabling exists in the intent of your actions. If you choose to always love and respect yourself first, your actions will always be life-giving and filled with compassion.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.  

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