Given the volatility of the subject matter, I am probably putting my nuts in a vise, but I was thinking about the word "enabler" this morning.
"Enabler" is defined by one internet dictionary this way:
One that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behaviorFor example, as a teenager, I probably acted as an enabler as my mother sank deeper and deeper into alcohol and pill addiction. My excuse? (and enablers are filled with excuses) -- I was too young and too unaware and too viscerally hopeful that a parent would be the loving and responsible party in any relationship with a child... in this case, me.
These days -- or perhaps ever since the word itself was invented -- the word "enabler" does not simply suggest a relationship and encouragement. I think the word "enabler" also brings with it a tone of disapproval and smug, analytical distance, as if the one using it could see things more clearly and were immune to the confusions and negative impact of enabling.
Those who can cite "enabling" may be entirely correct in their assessment of some destructive or self-destructive behavior. But what crossed my mind this morning was that clarity is different from finger-pointing analysis. The American electorate, for example, enabled an egomaniacal George W. Bush ... or anyway that's my take, but waving the "enabler" wand is not really the end of the story, however convenient ending the story with that smug judgment may feel.
I haven't got the energy to weave an entire tapestry this morning, but I guess I think that we all enable each other, for better or worse, all the time. Literally, we are all enablers, whether we look in the mirror or look elsewhere.
I don't mean to disable the appropriate and accurate assessment of "enabling" (to fade away into some grand philosophical or religious ooze ... let him who is without flaw cast the first stone), but I do mean that without recognizing our own roles in the enabling of others or ourselves, there is hardly any chance that we will begin to correct what has gone astray. Without that recognition, our sense of superiority and righteousness will invariably cloud the scene of what is actually going on.
Enablers will no doubt have an explanation and an excuse for their righteousness, but I think such excuses only leave a hole in the heart, a sense of uncertainty that causes all enablers to redouble their efforts to excuse their righteousness ... and thereby expand the hole in the heart.
Suzuki Roshi once observed approximately about the dicta of Zen practice, "there are things to do and there are things not to do." I like that better than standing at some imagined, unconnected distance.
I cede the balance of my time to the ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere.
I think that today's post about enabling misses the main point. Perhaps you are confusing some personal issues of your past with the problem of confidently speaking out against wrong doing.ReplyDelete
When we see fellow adults immersed in spiritual practice enabling their "teachers' " unethical goals and / or self-destructive habits and / or disruptive proclivities, the analysis and the speaking out and the disapproval are pretty much justified (even if the motives aren't entirely pure).
Yes, these adults may not see the resources at their disposal. But in the case of the adults enabling is tantamount to facilitating crimes and / or immoral actions.
If instead of speaking out about these things, we engage in hand wringing and second guessing we aren't really helpful.
The trick is, of course, being skillful about dealing with the self-destructive or unethical behaviors and those who enable it. There is nothing wrong about taking a direct approach except that it may not be effective. On the other hand, law enforcement and legal proceedings may be the only way to effectively stop the unethical behavior as is often the case with, say, parental and clergy sex abuse.
As stated in the OP:ReplyDelete
"I don't mean to disable the appropriate and accurate assessment of "enabling" (to fade away into some grand philosophical or religious ooze ... let him who is without flaw cast the first stone), but I do mean that without recognizing our own roles in the enabling of others or ourselves, there is hardly any chance that we will begin to correct what has gone astray."
" But in the case of the adults enabling is tantamount to facilitating crimes and / or immoral actions."
My awareness of anything is not anothers awareness of the same anything. The assumption that we have some understanding in common as to what constitutes innate rightness or wrongness in anything is simply unsupportable in the careful observation of everyday activity.
The very common assumptions, everyone gets it and my position on it is the correct one does every bit as much damage to the intent of a correction as the original action which seemingly needs such effort.
"law enforcement and legal proceedings may be the only way to effectively stop the unethical behavior as is often the case with, say, parental and clergy sex abuse."
There is no effective or proven deterence in using law enforcement to prevent a given behavior. None.
I wonder how much we, including the teachers, enable an enlightenment mythology, that is anything but a self-fulfilling prophesy. Seems to me that the culture of magic is alive and well in our sanghas--teachers who need to claim awakening to serve their own images and sometimes marketing strategies, and students who, socialized by our educational system to view achievement as a rite, need the teachers to look up to. It is good to call this out in the service of moment to moment awakening. I liked the post in the service of just this, really, just this ordinary world we live in in which we all struggle to remember: lost, found, lost, found, a little more found than lost with practice.ReplyDelete
En means come to be and able means competent; thus enable is to become competent.ReplyDelete
Anthony Demello suggests in the book Awareness that any useful dialogue begins with the admission and understanding by all involved that; I am an ass and you are an ass. Thus all egos concerned are put in a relative light.
This hardly ever seems to work.
"There is no effective or proven deterence in using law enforcement to prevent a given behavior. None. "ReplyDelete
If I have a credit card company and I want to charge 40% interest, I will set up my company in South Dakota where there are very lax usary laws.
If I am a sex offender and I want to set up a church, I will do it in New York or Nebraska, where there are very lax clergy sexual abuse laws.
I would not set up my church in Minnesota because they will put me in prison when I sexually abuse my parishioners.
If I am a mining company and want to pollute the rivers, I will choose a country with lax environmental protections.
Laws and consequences absolutely influence behavior.
"I do mean that without recognizing our own roles in the enabling of others or ourselves, there is hardly any chance that we will begin to correct what has gone astray."ReplyDelete
I agree. I think that some of the most engaged social activists are people who realized that their silence had contributed to the problem.