• Kristen Cole

Confessions of an Enabler


* I do not want to talk about what happened in the past. I want to live in the present.*

Clear enough?

I thought so.

The first few sessions with this new counselor were generally good, despite the sour old taste in my mouth from previous experiences. She and I were getting to know one another, seeing if we were a good fit. I admit that I was distrusting, at best.

It wasn’t long before I exposed thought patterns from my past simply by using my every day speech during our sessions. I soon realized that I was an enabler. And I was good at it. What I had used as a coping mechanism for good in my youth turned toxic in my adulthood.

In one dictionary, the term enabling, describes dysfunctional behavior approaches that are intended to help resolve a specific problem but in fact may perpetuate or exacerbate the problem. Though intended for good, I had allowed many behaviors to be “swept under the rug” in an effort to keep the peace instead of speaking up, speaking out and setting up healthy boundaries. I quickly realized that it was time to change the only person’s behavior I had control over. Mine. (OUCH!)

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I realized that the very thing I wanted to keep closed up in a box forever would be the very thing that would set me free. Those moments of release started an ongoing process of ripping out my past behavior like one would rip worn, stained and tattered old carpet. That same metaphorical carpet was hiding all of my pain beneath it. And it was coming up for good!

I finally let myself feel that particular pain and it was quite liberating. It was the starting point for a “me makeover” as I realized the importance of being my best self for my husband and kids. I needed to first expose and then sweep the dust, dirt and grime that had become too much to hide under the carpet of my mind right out the back door. I knew it would take a lot of hard work and that it might mean being misunderstood. But I also knew it would be eternally worthwhile.

I realized that I had often glossed over the details of Christ’s crucifixion for the same reasons that I swept those destructive behaviors under the rug, refusing to deal with their associated pain. I’d preferred not to consider the soldiers dividing Jesus’s clothes among themselves, leaving Him in undergarments. Skimming through the flogging, the beating, the placement of a crown of thorns on his head felt better than actually reading it and considering that reality. I’d see the words, “mocked, spit, struck” and I moved right along to the resurrection (taken from Matthew 27:28-31). It was just too painful to read and I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want those images in my mind. I’d rather live in the present and embrace the freedom that the resurrection allows me.

However, if the pain of the crucifixion had not occurred, Christ would not have risen. And that one event changed everything for my future. The details of that pain are crucial to acknowledge, to feel and to fully absorb. Glossing over the details of the crucifixion undermines the extreme magnitude and power of Christ risen from the dead.

Left to me, I would have hidden every bit of my past enabling behavior and pain forever, glossing over every yucky detail in an effort to move on to the happy moments of the present. But its raw existence had to be confirmed and felt for its grip on my mind to be cut loose and for new hope to rise.

God did not leave us to face any past, present or future pain alone. He promises that we will have trouble and hardships in this world…but that because of this pain, we will experience perseverance, character and hope. It is the very acknowledgement and feeling of our pain and suffering that allows us to appreciate present joy in its fullness.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” -1 Peter 1:3

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope.” -Romans 5:3

#counseling #enabler #pain #past #enabling

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