The definition of “enable” is: to provide with the means or opportunity and to make possible, practical or easy.
Let’s talk about bullying.
Bullying was once considered a rite of passage, a sort of “kids will be kids” thing that was largely tolerated.
As society finally woke up to the damage it caused, bullying was pegged as wrong and not to be tolerated.
We took it a step further and proclaimed that bystanders were just as wrong, because they allowed it to occur while doing nothing, thus enabling the bully and his or her actions by remaining silent.
By and large, society is brimming with enablers.
I’ve been an enabler at times, though I strive not to be one.
I do not agree with the mentality of, “Oh, that’s just Joe. That’s the way he is. We can’t change him. We just gotta let him be Joe and come to it on his own.”
So if Joe is an alcoholic who neglects his children, do we tell his children when they are 18, “Yeah, I could have stepped up, said something, tried to do something, but instead I decided that’s just your dad and the way he is. And well, now you’re 18 and dysfunctional. My bad.”
Too many people shrug their shoulders and say, “Not my problem. That’s his life. That’s her life.”
First, you don’t tell people what they want to hear, you tell them what they need to hear.
It’s easy to ignore things, mind your business, or adopt a New Age-type mentality that the universe will bring people where they need to be on their path.
It’s hard to take a stand and selflessly care. That takes work. Rolling up your sleeves and saying, “This is wrong,” takes work.
So instead many do what is easy and act as enablers.
A human services organization watches as red tape prevents them from adequately tending to clients and does nothing to take a risk and a stance and shine a spotlight on what is clearly wrong.
A company lays off employees in an unethical fashion and those still there continue to work, accepting what the company did instead of standing up and demanding answers, or perhaps holding a sit in and sticking up for their wronged colleagues.
Someone uses language such as “that’s retarded” and “that’s gay” and no one within earshot points out that the individual just equated a population of people to whatever that individual found weird, distasteful or frustrating. Or if someone stands up and another contends people should lighten up, no one steps forward and points out that it is easy to say such things when you aren’t the one being hurt.
We know that hard-working people are deprived of adequate health care and ignore it because we had no problem covering our last doctor’s visit.
Enabling often stems from perceived self preservation: “Why should I do anything, especially if doing so might negatively impact me?”
There is something to be said for serving the greater good, and if you disagree then you should realize that what ails the so-called greater good will eventually infect the individual. Sooner or later, no matter how successful or secure your spot in society, if society as a whole degrades you will eventually degrade with it. Society also explodes at times, at which point it won’t matter how fortunate you seem to be.
But forget self preservation. My naivety envisions us breaking free from our enabling shells, standing up and saying, “Stop.”
By risking our false sense of security, we not only stop being enablers, we regain our freedom.
Reach Editor Stephen Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.