One thing I’ve noticed about abusers is they rarely function in a vacuum. Where there is a chronic abuser, there will be enablers. I once read the account of a young woman who grew up in an abusive home. Everyone knew her father was violent. The clerk at the small town grocery store. The parishioners at her local church. Her neighbors. Her family. No one cared enough to help. You see, abusive people are bullies. And most bullies are cowards. For their manipulative tactics to work, they must not be resisted. They must be obeyed. They must bend others to their will and have the control they desperately crave. They must be enabled to continue their behavior. Let’s examine the definition of an enabler:
- a person or thing that makes something possible.
- a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.
But what happens when this symbiotic relationship is broken? What happens when an enabler “turns off the tap” of submissiveness and support? What happens when they refuse to play the game? Well, often it results in consequences to the former enabler that are doled out by the abuser and any remaining enablers. The abuser will try harder and harder to force the now-victim to give in. They will become enraged if they do not succeed. They will gather to themselves their remaining allies to fuel the attacks.
Enablers spend their time serving the oppressive agendas of abusive people.
See, being an enabler is easy. Anyone can do it. It’s the path of least resistance. But enabling an abusive person is also one of the most unkind, awful things you can do, to the abuser, to everyone around you, and to yourself. It hurts the abuser by fooling them into thinking their behavior is acceptable. It hurts the victims, current and future, who refuse to lie down and take it by adding fuel to the very fire already burning them alive. And ultimately, it hurts the enabler by trapping them in an unhealthy, toxic relationship that remains safe only as long as they comply with injustice and oppression. Enablers themselves are often prone to depression, repressed anger, and projection of this anger onto innocent parties. Enablers spend their time serving the unjust, oppressive agendas of unhappy, abusive, controlling people. And that, my friend, is no life at all.
Growing up, I gravitated to books about heroes and warriors and the greatest justice fighters of the world. I’ve always had a passion to fight for the oppressed, so one thing I could never understand is why, in real life, I often saw supposedly good people stand by and do nothing when they saw others being hurt. I used to ask myself how people like that could ever sleep at night. Didn’t they have a guilty conscience? It wasn’t long before life taught me the answer. Enablers lie to themselves.
Enablers add fuel to the fire that is already burning victims alive.
They tell themselves since it’s not their fist dealing the blow, it’s not their lips spewing the poison, and it’s not their match starting the fire, then they are innocent.
They are so very wrong.
My friend, if you see someone being hurt and you do nothing, you are complicit. Another great word to define here:
involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing.
Sometimes people become enablers simply out of self-preservation. They themselves are victims too. I think of the woman who lives in fear of her irritable, demanding husband. Her very existence is defined by the every whim of this “benevolent” dictator. She tells herself every excuse imaginable to hide the fact that he is abusive and it is wrong. Usually these enablers have little to no support system and no way to escape. If they are ever presented with freedom, they often retaliate or withdraw, unable to imagine life outside of oppression.
Other times, enablers simply get a thrill from being part of the drama. They’re not on the receiving end of the abuse, and in the small scheme of their boring, unfulfilling lives, it’s something exciting. They get a high from not being the recipient of the oppressor’s rage and derive a sick pleasure in the victim’s pain. So, they side with the abuser. Sometimes they will manifest themselves as a flying monkey and openly declare their allegiance, other times, they’re more subtle. They’re present when the abuse happens and simply provide either unspoken or verbalized support for the oppressor.
Even more often, enablers come in another form. Most people would simply call them cowards. They understand what is going on right in front of their very eyes. Yet they do nothing. They say nothing. They turn their head. They look away. They pretend the problem doesn’t exist. They are peacekeepers, not peacemakers. Enforcers of the status quo, they often hold the power to stop the verbal, physical, spiritual, or emotional abuse or to simply encourage and support the victim. But their fear, apathy, and selfishness will speak louder than the victim’s pleas every time. Like Pontius Pilate of the Bible, they wash their hands of the matter and pretend that the blood is gone. It isn’t.
You see, when we realize that people are being hurt, that something very wrong is happening right now, right in front of us, there are two choices: support the abuser or support the victim. Let me say this next part very clearly: there is no third option. If you choose to not assist and support the victim, you are supporting the one is oppressing them. It really is as simple as that.