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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Breezies”
I’ve touched on this topic in earlier devotionals before, but I think it merits a second look.
Out of all the matters I have personal experience with, the one that I hope no one ever has to deal with themselves is the same thing Fluttershy learned in this episode. Sometimes the biggest act of love you can do for someone else is to do something “cruel”. This is very difficult not only because it seems contradictory to the spirit of Christianity, mercy, love, and forgiveness, but also because, in simple terms, it’s incredibly painful. In spite of how much the Breezies pleaded and cried, Fluttershy had to refuse to “be kind” to them and kick them out of her house, or they would face certain destruction trying to live in a world far too big for them. Even if it made her miserable, even if it made them miserable, it was the right thing to do and the most loving thing she could have done. The most harmful thing she could have done in that situation was what she had been doing: encouraging them to stay in Ponyville by her enabling behavior.
When it comes to addiction or abuse, there is a term that counselors use that comes to the forefront: codependency. The fact is when a person is an addict or trapped in a cycle of abuse or destructive behavior, it’s rarely just isolated to them and a matter of saying yes or no to a behavior. There is a whole slew of things that leads to it and an entire environment about them that contributes to them staying in the cycle. A drug addict, for example, might find themselves waking up in strange dirty houses, latching onto criminals or unsavory people, and doing destructive behavior such as stealing from family members or driving while intoxicated. All of these lead to bad consequences, whether they be physical, emotional, mental, social, or even legal. Yet the addict continues to do it because they get something out of it…some sort of substitution for an unmet need or some sense of control they lack without the drug or behavior. Until this unmet need is resolved, the addict will continue to seek to meet it using addiction/abuse or, even if they get clean, will find a new addiction/abuse.
Yet that’s only half of the equation. There are many others usually around this individual who act to facilitate this behavior. One of those is the individual who is ironically usually viewed as the “good guy”: the enabler. An enabler is a well-meaning friend or relative who sees the bad things that happen to the addict or abuse victim and seeks to “rescue” them, usually out of what they feel is love. In reality, a chronic enabler is often sick themselves; feeling that it is somehow their duty or responsibility to take care of everyone and that failing to care for everyone makes them a horrible, uncaring, unloving person. They end up bailing them out in times of trouble and sparing them the consequences. Unfortunately, by sparing the addict/victim the consequences, the individual sees no reason to change and continues the cycle.
I myself have experience with this. I know an individual who, in their first year of college, became addicted to drugs and alcohol. It stemmed from long-repressed stress and micro-management of her life throughout high school, causing her to never developmentally mature, and her desire to be independent and free. At her worst point she was living with a criminal, and I’m not sure I want to know what went on during that time. She ended up sent out to an expensive rehab clinic that several other family members attended, which is where they learned about codependency. Yet after this was done, she continued to struggle with drug addiction for years, falling in and out of AA even after she had a child.
And during that entire time, her parents were enablers. They would always bail her out when she went to jail. They would always work with the court to try and get through DUIs. They would always foot the bill for education when she failed. They would pay for repairs, watch her child and pay for her school and medicine, let her stay at the house without rent, and even go so far as to pay for birth control. This went on for years. They had attended the same clinic. They learned all about codependency. They learned all about enabling. And yet…they always, always, always bailed her out.
Why? They couldn’t bear the thought of her being in misery. They couldn’t stand the thought of her being in trouble she couldn’t get out of. They were horrified of her losing life opportunities and wanted her to have a chance to get them. And so they kept footing the bill and spending sleepless night after sleepless night worrying about her. And when anyone tried to confront them about what they were doing, they would get angry; saying that they had a right to worry about their child and not want to see her suffer. They would yell about their worries if she was lying dead or dying somewhere and considered it “heartless” to not try and help out; that it somehow meant they had failed.
Ironically, it was not the parents that broke the cycle. By the grace of God…it was the addict. One day she essentially ran away from home, more or less, along with her daughter and barely made contact with her parents for the next week or told them where she was going. They were livid, stressed out, and infuriated that they didn’t know where she was or their granddaughter was. That only got worse when they found out that she had moved into horrendous public housing and was now relying on mass transit to get her and her daughter around, when they knew they could provide better. And yet, all of that was important, because while it may have been substandard and horrendous…it was all things that this family member “got for herself”. She got her own job, started paying her own bills, and cut herself off from family assistance. She was totally responsible both for herself and her child. And as a result of this, she developed independence, confidence in her own abilities, and the desire to return to AA and Church of her own accord…and finally broke her addiction because she no longer had the freedom to have anyone care for her but herself.
Today, the family’s relationship is much better and no longer full of sleepless nights and worry…or chronic bailouts, for that matter. Yet it could have been spared years of this if the parents had done the hard-yet-necessary thing themselves years ago: “tough love”. The fact is there was no guarantee that this individual would have gotten better or stayed safe if she had been cut off, but there was a guarantee she would repeat the cycle of addiction so long as she kept being enabled. She recognized that and cut herself off from her own enabler, and praise be to God for granting her the wisdom.
It would have been hard, of course. I doubt her parents went more than five minutes for the next week wondering if she was dead, constantly checking police reports, and unable to sleep or eat. Anyone who feels any love for their own child would feel that. Yet it had to be done, and it was the most “loving” thing that could have been done. Enabling wasn’t helping anything. It was only making things worse; a toxic “love” that helped no one and perpetuated misery.
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructed: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 5:4-5, Paul, when speaking of a member of a Church found engaged in sexual immorality, said: “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Both of these passages can be, at the basest form, interpreted as outright kicking people out of the community and condemning them, but I don’t think that was the intention. Rather, I believe the Bible is promoting “tough love”; knowing that if someone is engaged in a self-destructive behavior that there comes a point where simply “loving them” or constantly bailing them out or overlooking their transgressions isn’t helping. The Bible doesn’t instruct to physically punish them or exact retribution, but also not to just idly enable the behavior anymore. Rather, allow them to suffer the results of their actions, no matter how painful to them…as well as to ourselves…so that hopefully they will repent.
Remember in the story of the Prodigal Son that it wasn’t the father rushing to his son’s side after he had spent his half of the inheritance to pay for any more debts or care for his needs that caused him to turn around. It was when he was left on his own and reduced to slopping pigs, far away from his father and in total poverty and misery, that he realized his mistake and repented of it.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for being merciful enough to me in all the times in my life in which you have sent me consequences for my ill actions rather than feeling the full punishment/end of my behavior outright. Grant me the courage to never be an enabler but always show love in the way it needs to be shown to those I care about; even if it’s painful for the both of us. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”