Someone who counsels recovering drug addicts shared this quote with me once:
“IF AN ADDICT IS HAPPY WITH YOU, IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU’RE ENABLING THEM. IF AN ADDICT IS ANGRY WITH YOU, IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU’RE TRYING TO SAVE HIS OR HER LIFE.”
Actually, I just remembered an amazing (short) video by Tiffany Jenkins of “Juggling the Jenkins” which she called, “If there’s any chance you are currently enabling an addict, please watch this.”
She’s awesome. Watch this four-minute clip:
Right off the bat, Tiffany says that dealing with an addict means you have to be ready to “let them fall.” This seems like a pretty cold/calloused statement, but she goes even further than that. She says:
“There’s a difference between enabling and loving. Enabling, essentially, is loving people to death. If you love an addict and you are doing things to make their lives easier, you are not doing it to help them. You are doing it to help you.”
How many Christians need to hear that exact, same idea when it comes to “being Jesus” toward those who are spiritually hurting themselves?
Recently, I wrote a post about pastors who are leaving the Church and BLAMING their old spiritual family for making them angry. They often invite people to follow them, even though they don’t know where they’re going.
And isn’t that classic addict behavior?
Not knowing where we’re going in the long run, but only caring about temporary “fixes” of agreement and encouragement?
Looking for teammates?
Defining “support” based on which people tell us what we want to hear?
Doesn’t it remind you of an addict–the way a person struggling with theological questions may threaten to give or withold affection/approval manipulatively, in order to protect their current beliefs and lifestyle?
Don’t all addicts hate their addiction–and yet they guard it from the people who are trying to empower them to change? (Because empowerment is HARD and scary…)
The truth is: all of us display addictive behavior at least on occassion.
NOBODY likes to be told they’re wrong and they’re hurting themselves.
Whether we’re sticking a needle in our arm or we’re using spiritual/emotional lies like numbing drugs, all of us will need to be confronted with our bad habits at different times. And, when someone gives us the painful truth, we will have the chance to scream, “I HATE YOU” instead of accepting the light they’re holding for us.
But–if you “love” (and “support”) a headstrong sinner, in order to make them comfortable in their self-injury, then you are LOVING THEM TO DEATH.
When a sinner is happy with you, then you’re likely enabling them. If a sinner hates you, then you’re probably trying to save their life.
And–to you enablers–I know that it’s hard. I know you’re genuinely trying to do what’s right. I know you’ve been misled and confused by so many mixed-messages preached by ex-Christians who are abandoning our churches, especially when they are former leaders who spread their confusion from their various platforms.
It really is hard to know what’s right sometimes.
However–when someone says “I’m Leaving the Church and it’s Your Fault,” you can either challenge that statement (which will make them mad), or you can agree for the sake of peace.
You can make sure the person stays temporarily happy, in the name of misguided “love,” or you can say what Tiffany Jenkins recommends: “I love you too much to give you what you THINK will help right now.”
I could take screenshots of HUNDREDS of comments from Christians who are “supporting” ex-Leaders like Josh Harris and Marty Sampson on their “journey” away from the Church. They’re terrified that they will be the reason Josh or Marty commits suicide like Jarrid Wilson, and so they double down with even MORE of the same enabling poison that they call love.
I’ve lost track how many times I’ve seen the phrase, “You’re brave” and “You’re beautiful” and “there’s NOTHING wrong with you,” from people dutifully following the Suicide Awareness Script. They are caring people who really think they’re helping.
But they’re not helping.
And then–when the addict shouts, “HELP there’s a Bad Cop trying to put handcuffs on me! HELP!” they immediately run to the rescue, scolding that mean police officer and telling him he needs to learn to be more loving like them…
These enablers ought to be embarassed that they’re calling themselves the hands and feet of Jesus when, in reality, they’re only helping themselves feel better. In reality, they’re afraid to do what it takes to help a self-destructive person recover.
They’re afraid to make an addict mad.