Saturday, August 1, 2009

What is the difference between nurturing and enabling?

Who nurtures you? I was supposed to answer that question this week in my Artist's Way group, and I had to really think about it, especially the difference between a "nurturer" and an "enabler." I hear those two terms all the time on Oprah but I'd never really thought about what they actually mean to me.

I realized that the helpers in my life are those people who are honest with me, who tell me the truth about things, who encourage me and lift me up so I can take the steps I need to move forward and achieve something new and often exciting when maybe I didn't have the vision to see the possibilities myself. They don't do things for me, but they let me know they have confidence in my ability to do them for myself.

The enablers aren't truthful with me. They tell me what they think I want to hear or give me what I want whether or not its good for me. They will make me happy in the moment, even if it's bad for me in the long term. I know when I've been with one because of the feeling I have after I'm with them-- a little like that moment after you eat a piece of cheesecake and think about all the calories now residing in your stomach.

On the other end of things, it's not always so easy to be a nurturing friend -- sometimes it can be downright scary when you have to find a way to tell someone the truth about themselves or to say no to them about something when "yes" would have been so much easier. I've been on that end myself as a friend, a sibling, and a parent. That's when you find out whether the person you are talking to is a "frend" or an "acquaintance." But that's a different blog for a different day.


Holli said...

Teri, after reading this, (and I'm being perfectly honest here) I think I nurture everyone but I don't have anyone to nurture me. I couldn't think of one person.

Lit and Life said...

Teri, I like to think of myself as more of a nurturer but I'm sure I've been an enabler on more than one occasion. I know I have--I'm guilty of much too much help when kids are struggling with homework. On the other hand, I've had other kids at my house who've said their moms are never as honest with their kids as I am so I hope it balances out.

paperqueen said...

It is a fine line, but the older I get, the easier I find it is to stay on the "right" side of that line. When I was younger, and pleasing people was so important to me, I was guilty of saying what I thought they wanted to hear.
Now....I have little patience with dishonesty and diplomacy. If I love someone and I see them heading for disaster, I can't shut up. If it pisses them off, I think to myself, "well, you're mad now, but you'll be glad later."
Ha! A little simplistic, but works for me.

paperqueen said...

And one more thought....
when you nurture someone, you see the good, the special, the stength in them, and your actions bring that out. When you enable someone, you are reinforcing their weaknesses, not their strengths.

freebird said...

I try to be the nurturer and not the enabler but sometimes the waters are rather murky. Great thoughts on the subject here though. I didn't quite catch this so much as I read the book.

Mandy said...

Teri ~ This was a great personal reminder. Sometimes I think we find the enabling side easier although we would prefer the nurturing. As a daughter, mother and friend -- sometimes we try to avoid hurting those we love or making things easier on them when in reality we are secretly hurting them. I think with a little conscious effort we can be more nurturing when it isn't always easy. Love this!!

Thauna said...

Honestly, I have been both a nurturer and an enabler and sometimes to the same people. And I'm quite the enabler with myself as well. I'm learning to nuture myself more, but like Holli said I spend most of my life nuturing others. I need/want someone to nuture me. Well my online chick friends do and I'd be lost with you/them. :o)

Sandy..... said...

What a great question! My husband and I have this conversation often, as his family is quite full of enablers. You know the 35 year old who has only worked spuratic odd jobs in her life because she would always make any needed money at the family business...and the 30 yr old professional student who lives off mommy and justifies it by "but i go to school".

As much as the "enabler" annoys me, I do hang my head recently when I find myself doing it with my children. I never want them to "want" for anything.

It's a difficult, but neccessary line, we all need to be aware of.