Helping Without Enabling: Is It Wrong to Hold the Addict We Love Accountable? Part II

In Part I of this blog post, we talked about helping an addict without enabling.

And we ended by asking how to deal with the guilty feelings that come with such strong expectations. We feel like we’re being un-Christian by not “helping.” So, how do we deal with these negative emotions and truly help the ones we love overcome their struggle?

Let’s look at how Jesus handled the situation and see what we can learn about addressing these feelings in ourselves as we move forward.

In John Chapter 8, a group of religious people brought a woman they caught cheating on her husband to where Jesus was. The law said to kill her for what she did. The leaders asked Jesus what he thought they should do. Jesus pointed out the fact that none of them were perfect. Embarrassed about their own shortcomings, they all left. Only the woman remained there alone with Jesus. So, he asked her who was there to condemn her for her crime. She said, She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11 ESV).

Jesus showed her love. He did not condemn her. But he also had a high expectation – “from now on, sin no more,” he said. He helped her, but he also expected her to change.

There is nothing wrong with helping someone and clearly telling them that you expect for them to change.

In fact, people will live “up” or “down” to whatever you expect of them. If you have no expectation with the help you provide, then you may be enabling the one you love. Hold them to an accountable standard and you will see them rise to the expectation.

And holding them to that standard is not un-Christian. Jesus did it Himself. 

So, what tips can we glean from the example Jesus gave us? Let’s look at 2 practice steps.

1. I Will Help You, but You Will Help Yourself Too

If you give your money to someone or use your vehicle to transport them, then you have the right to ask for something you expect as well. There is only so much you can do. Eventually, the addict will have to reach for help. And (s)he cannot do that unless you expose the person to helpful environments (church, therapy groups, etc.) One way to implement your expectation is that you use your car to take him or her where (s)he needs to go this week. But Sunday, you expect to be using your car to bring him or her to church.

  2. Hold Your Loved One Accountable to Your Expectations

Suppose your loved one committed to the example we just mentioned in point #1: (s)he agreed to go to church with you Sunday to get help. But Sunday morning comes, and the person breaks their commitment. Tuesday rolls around and you get a phone call requesting another ride. “Yes, I’d love to take you there… as soon as you follow through with our last arrangement. I’ll pick you up for church this Sunday, then we can go to where you’re needing to go now as soon as church is over.”

This will show the person that you are serious about your expectations.

Also, you may feel like this is “forcing” the person to go to church and that doing so will not do much good. In reality, you are not forcing them. You are giving the person a choice. And the person is choosing to start helping himself/herself by following through with the expectations you have set for helping him or her yourself.

Additionally, the leaders forced the woman to go to Jesus. They put her right in front of him. But Jesus still healed her and set her free because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).

And however the addict got into God’s presence is irrelevant once the person is there. God has a way of touching the human heart and setting people free in spite of the circumstances surrounding them.

So, there is nothing wrong with expecting the person you love to change. And when you love, you must love with grace. But you must also love with truth.

And the truth is that the person you love can change – that Christ is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV). And since He is the author of the faith of the addict you love that means there is still another chapter in that person’s life to be written.

And that chapter begins with you helping, not enabling, the person to become all that God intends for your loved one to become in Him.

Justin FranichComment