1 – to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist:
2 – to make easier or less difficult; contribute to; facilitate: [dictionary.com]
Part of my mission on this site and in my daily work is to Help people reconcile their relationships with God and Money. I help people now because for years I personally sucked at it and I don’t want anyone to suffer the pain that I went through figuring it out.
Today people ask me all the time for help with their finances and I am happy to oblige. But I recently had to stop and really think about what it means to help. My mission statement goes on to explain that I do it by teaching and that is a key distinction.
You see, there is a fine line between helping and enabling.
1 – to make able; give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize:
2 – to make possible or easy: [dictionary.com]
On the surface the two definitions seem almost interchangeable. Of course to help is to make able isn’t it? But look closer; to help is to provide what is necessary while enabling is simply to do something that provides a desired result.
Consider this analogy – when changing a light bulb a helper provides the ladder and might even help you find a new bulb, an enabler just plugs-in a whole new lamp.
The end result is the same, light in a darkened room, but the helper has given you tools and instruction that you can use again while the enabler has added clutter to the room and provided nothing of lasting value, what happens when that new light bulb ultimately burns out too?
Sometimes what is necessary is hard to take. Helping people to learn new skills can be difficult and painful. Enabling does not take into consideration the process of learning or strengthening or even just assisting in the same what that helping does.
Best Selling Author and Radio Personality Dave Ramsey says; “enablers are the nicest people on the planet, but they’ve defined help wrong,” and I wholeheartedly agree. To truly help someone you can’t just be focused on the short term result like in our light bulb analogy but on the process.
Sometimes making things possible or easy, as the definition of enabling states, is the opposite of helping.
Have you ever defined help wrong and in the end caused harm? I think if we’re being honest we all have. It’s time to get a better definition of help.