It seems that the world consists of two kinds of people, the givers and the takers. It’s easy to look down on the takers and love the givers. On the surface that makes a lot of sense. But it’s not really that simple. I’m afraid the givers have to take some responsibility for the fact that the takers get what they want. Sound harsh? Maybe it is…a little bit. But it’s true. For every taker there’s a giver who is an enabler. You probably don’t need to look much further than your own family for proof of this. Do you have a sister, brother, aunt or uncle who always seems to be there with his or her hand out when you come into a little cash? Is there a relative who always jumps to the front of the line when there’s a death in the family…looking for the most treasured items, the highest value goods from the estate?
You probably talk about this person don’t you? How ugly her actions are. How insensitive. How selfish. But what do you do when this person puts his hand out? Do you simply step aside? Give in? Allow him to get exactly what he wants? Or do you even take it a step further and offer cash or your recently deceased grandma’s antique china to him before he even asks?
If so, you’re an enabler. We all are to a certain extent. I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I like to think of myself as a giver. I’m always the last one to put up my hand for stuff, preferring to earn my own way. I don’t like to feel like I owe anybody anything. But I have a friend who is very poor. She’s always in need of some kind of help. And since she’s a nice lady, she always gets the help she needs. I’ve given her cash. I’ve given her clothes and furniture. I’ve bought her stuff. And, to be honest I don’t regret a bit of it. I believe we should take care of people who need our help. But there’s always the concern that by giving stuff we help people stay weak. It’s so much easier to take what is given us with good will, then to go out and find a way to work for it.
It’s easy. But is it good for emotional health? Does it teach the right messages? Is it smart in the long run?
No on all fronts. It isn’t good for their psyches, it doesn’t teach the right message, and it isn’t smart. It’s human nature to want to help, and I’m not suggesting in any way that we shouldn’t help each other. We should always help. But maybe we need to change the way we help so we don’t enable the wrong behaviors, locking people forever into dependency. Because dependency sucks.
Remember the old adage: Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
Sounds like good advice to me!