This blog is the fifth in a series about the Relationship Rescue. We’re searching for the ten most powerful New Testament principles about building healthy relationships. What would your Ten Commandments of Relationship be?
#4: Thou shalt not encourage irresponsible behavior. Have you ever heard a bad actor screaming at a loved one, “You made me do it?” No doubt, they’re generally wrong in passing the blame, but sometimes those miserable men and women are half right! Do you have a Bible handy?
What you read in Galatians 6:2-5 may seem contradictory on the surface. In verse 2, Paul directs us to”bear one another’s burdens.” Two verses later, he observes that each of us must carry his own load. People in Bible Study groups often get bogged down in this text and wonder if one of those statements is a mistake. But in the original Greek language, the two ideas fit precisely together. When Paul directs us to bear one another’s burdens, the Greek term in question denotes a huge, ovewhelming, crushing weight. It conjures images of an unexpected crisis that appears overwhelming. By contrast, when Paul explains that each of us must carry his own load, the Greek word speaks of a backpack- the kind a soldier or hiker might carry. A backpack is reserved for the routine, daily necessities of life.
On one hand, God desires that you and I be responsible. Each of us is expected to develop healthy priorities, recognize the things we require for life and success, and plan to take care of those responsibilities. We should teach our children to develop responsible behavior, and we should encourage the same among relatives, friends and co-workers. On the other hand, we should recognize that life can occasionally send an unexpected tsunami that threatens to overwhelm somebody we love. When someone finds himself at risk due to unanticipated and overwhelming circumstances, we should be glad to rush in and prevent the victim from being swept away.
Here’s the bottom line: If you want to help a spouse or a friend get sucked down the toilet bowl of irresponsible living, it’s really simple. All you’ll need to do is regularly help that person carry his daily backpack of responsibility. When he forgets it day after day, you rush home and retrieve it for him. When he loses it through careless living, you neglect your own “To Do” List to search for his lost backpack. When she wastes the essential resources of daily living on foolish decisions time and again, you put your own resources in the “victim’s” pack. And before long, your spouse or friend will come to believe that being irresponsible, selfish, immature, careless, impulsive and foolish has no real cost or consequences because someone else will always come along to take care of any problems.
- You see, that’s one reason careless people do stupid, impulsive things over and over again. They have a “special friend” who will always come along to pick up the pieces or cover the losses. When you are that “special friend,” we call you an Enabler. (And believe me, you’re not so special.)
- An Enabler may rationalize this away and say, “I only do it because I love her.” In fact, that’s not true. Real love encourages responsibility and healthy living. The reason I enable a loved one to continue pursuing a reckless life is because I enjoy that sense of being needed. This person really needs me! And if I allow this person to continue this kind of life, I will probably always have this person around to make me feel “loved.” (Did you ever wonder why Michael Jackson’s inner circle failed him so miserably? The answer begins with an “E.”)
So let’s be honest. Encouraging bad behavior in other adults is not about compassion. It’s about settling for the illusion of “power” in another adult’s life. It’s about trying to ensure that I won’t eventually be all alone. Of course, when that other person finally self-destructs or finds another “special friend” with more resources than you, you will lose your power and your companionship anyway.
So let’s be responsible. Encourage responsibility. Extend grace when others are threatened by unexpected catastrophes of life. And learn to know the difference between a backpack and an overwhelming burden.
Lift up the Cross!