Reflection: To Be or Not To Be—An Enabler

by Father Don Thomas

In all walks of life, it is both interesting and important to consider the role of "the enabler" in relation to the success or failure of endeavors undertaken. This particular reflection is pertinent to the lives of all people, in all professions, with no exceptions. Conclusions from the consideration, and then steps taken, will provide the difference between success and failure, between hope and despair.

In my own life I have experienced the results or effects of both sides of the coin, enabling people to express themselves and develop their own talent., leading to success and happiness, and on the other hand, due to a lack of courage or being afraid to speak up or hurt others' feelings, I have witnessed devastating failures and miserable endings to situations that should have had more pleasant and successful results. As victims of human respect, worrying about what other people might think of us, we frequently end up promoting failure rather than success, discouragement and despair rather than success and hope.

At the expense of repetition for some who are familiar with the term “enabler", but also for the benefit of those who may be considering the term for the first time, let us define an "enabler" as a person who empowers another to do something. That is a simple but adequate definition for our reflection. It is a blessing to be an enabler for good. It is a tragedy to be an enabler for what is wrong or evil.

Life frequently provides each of us with countless opportunities to be one or the other. At this point, I would like to say to those reading this reflection that it is a lot easier to look through the windshield of a car than through the rear-view mirror. That is just another way of saying that it is better to look to the future, to what is ahead of us, rather than living in the past and constantly worrying about the mistakes we may have made in our past lives. Without a doubt, the windshield provides a wider, clearer and safer visionary approach, with less distractions and greater assurance of what we are doing. What I am suggesting, therefore, is that starting today, when and if you read this article and you think it makes sense for you, forget about the past and make up your mind to become an enabler for good in the future. It is assuredly wise to learn from mistakes of the past, but unwise to live in the past. God has. placed our eyes in front of our heads for good reason.

As I look over the past fifty years, and yet, not posing as an expert, it has been my experience to observe the term "enabler" always used in reference to wrongdoing. It always seemed to refer to a person "covering up" for another, or empowering another to pursue a life of excessive abuse in areas of drugs, stealing, drinking, sex, wife ­beating, child abuse, and more. This fact is illustrated by the example of the alcoholic who loves to visit one brother, and completely avoids his other brother. The reason behind this conduct? He intentionally avoids his one brother who told him that he could come any time he wants but that there would be no alcohol brought into the house, nor would any be found in the house. Unhappy and upset with those rules, the alcoholic turns to the other brother who is an "enabler", one who tolerates all the abuse of drink and many times encourages it. What a sad situation! This is not what love of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters is all about. In this situation, love is not in the heart of the "enabler", but rather in the heart of the brother who is trying to help overcome the problem of the alcoholic brother.

Haven't we all had experiences in our lives, when family members or close relatives, friends, or neighbors were going through rough times and were dealing with very serious problems due to human weakness, and how did we respond to those situations? Is it possible that we shut up instead of speaking up? Did we step up to help or did we step away to avoid the trouble? Did we sometimes encourage these weak and unfortunate individuals to continue the abuse, or did we ever charitably try to confront them and offer them help and hope? Enablers for bad? Enablers for good? We've all been there, I bet.

More about enablers for good! Prior to the Vatican Council II, the Mass was like a one man show. The Priest did everything and the people were like spectators. How fantastic it is that the church became an enabler for good. Men, women and children are now enabled to utilize so many wonderful talents as lectors, extraordinary ministers, altar servers, choir, ushers, cantors, and in other capacities at the holy Masses. The Church has enabled men and women to serve on parish councils, finance committees, education boards, and in various related functions. We all have different gifts from the same Spirit, and thank God, this concept of enabling has found its way into our schools, churches, offices, and homes. The dictatorial approach of ruling, for the most part, has failed in many ways, and has been replaced by an approach by which students, employees and children are enabled to make choices and judgments instead of having all decisions made for them. When accountability and responsibility are part of the equation, it seems to me that enablement and empowerment are the correct approach.

I will now conclude this reflection by enabling you to decide whether you want to be an enabler for what is right and good, or for what is wrong and bad. Believe me, you will have plenty of opportunities.


The End


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