January 5, 2011

Compassion vs Enabling

I was terribly confused about the meaning of “compassion” when I first came to the program. I thought it meant making excuses for my dysfunctional family member or allowing them to mistreat me in expressing their anger and pain. At meetings I came to see that, by allowing myself to be hurt without setting boundaries, I allowed problem people to act out without paying the price. 

It was in Al-anon that I learned that if I did not take care of me, I was not being compassionate, I was “enabling.”   

If I need to know if one of my actions is enabling, it helps me to look at my emotions. Do I resent what I am doing?  If I feel resentment, is this really a loving choice? 

Let me look at my motives. Am I doing what I think is best for me? Perhaps I am trying to interfere with the natural consequences of a loved ones choices. Or doing for someone else what I cannot do for myself. Sometimes the most compassionate thing I can do is Live and Let Live (or Live and Let Learn), and let others take responsibility for their own behavior. Their mirror does not need me in it.

I have choices, and so does my dysfunctional family member. A more compassionate way to respond to those I love is to allow them to face the consequences of their painful actions.  I will do what is best for me and allow them to do the same, without interfering.

“I must learn to give those I love the right to make their own mistakes and recognize them as theirs alone.” Al-anon faces Alcoholism


  1. These are great considerations-a new turning, perspective- Thanks! I try very hard to work on
    my side of the street; and not overshadow
    someone elses!

  2. I have to take care of myself. I have to also ask what my motives are for accepting unacceptable behavior. Fear of loss is a big one for me to inventory.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~