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Family, Love, Responsibilty and When Is Too Much

Updated on November 6, 2010

When Does Helping Become Enabling

   I don't know how many of you have large families, or how every family feels about helping out a family member who is having a difficult time, especially these days, finding a job, paying their rent and that sort of thing.

   I have a very large family, and I find that especially when it comes to the kids, who by the way are no longer kids but young adults, need assistance either financially or in any way, what is the right thing to do.  it is so easy help a loved one, either by loaning them money, or taking them groceries, or maybe by letting them move in and take up residency on the couch for a while, just until they find another job.

   I find it difficult, if not impossible to not help someone I love and care about ,out there in the world, without helping them in some way.  I mean, I really have a problem not helping, for I tend to worry about them, losing sleep, and wondering what they are going to do if I do not help out.

   Here is my dilemma though.  When is helping not the right thing to do.  Have you ever given a helping hand just to wonder whether later that perhaps the person took advantage of your good nature?  Have you ever wondered later on if by helping them you actually just made it easier for them to do things with their money that might have been better spent some other way?  That maybe when you paid their bill for them, that you just made it easier for them to spend their money on foolishness, or they went out and bought clothes or something else that they probably could have waited on, and got it later?

   How can we know when it is necessary to lend a helping hand, and when by doing so we are forming bad habits of borrowing when it was not needed and the problem could have been worked out another way, by budgeting their money differently?  I, being a mother and having that nurturing mentality find it extremely hard to turn down my grown kids when they ask for a loan, or ask for help.  My oldest son who is just turning 30, is in college and has had problems in the financial department.  He recently lost his place to live due to a money crisis that could not be helped, and is now a resident of my living room.  He does not like it, and to be honest with you, neither do we.  We are experiencing a lack of privacy, and a lack of being able to do the things that we, as retired individuals are entitle to do.  Now he feels as though he should be included, and we cannot afford to include him, nor should he be doing these things, for he needs to spend his free time ,looking for gainful employment.  It is all so difficult.

   Then there is the problem of the extended family and how far you should go helping these people, separating them in category only, in aiding them, the siblings, nieces nephews, aunts uncles, etc.  There have been times in my past when brothers have helped me, and I in turn repaid them as soon as was possible.  I have found though, that when I have helped out lets say my brother in laws, that not only was the loan not so forthcoming, but they took full advantage of the help, as though it was expected, and treated it as though it was a well deserved vacation.  Maybe they did or did not feel that way, but that is how I felt about it/

   Then, there was the one extended family member that I helped, giving them about half of the rent money they needed to pay their rent so that they did not become homeless, to find out later that they did have a little of that money and spent it on drugs, alcohol, or something of that sort, and later i felt as though i did nothing but help enable their bad habits.

   I am not sure what the answers are here, when is it right, and when is it not, how far do we go, and how long do we go on helping the person who is looking for work, unable to pay the rent, especially when kids are concerned, and when do we say no, you need to learn to take care of yourself..  When is tough love the right thing, and when is tough love over the edge because the person is really trying to do it themselves, but just cannot.

   These are all tough issues, and I know that there are no pat answers for all of them, for each must be looked at individually taken for face value, for I know that family should help one another, for certainly nobody else is going to.

   Hard times are difficult to deal with.  I do not have the answers here for you, but what I can say is this, make sure you are there for the ones you love, but on the other hand, do not do for them what they can do for themselves, for this is when it crosses the line and becomes more of an enabling gesture that is no good for anyone. 


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  • ddsurfsca profile image

    ddsurfsca 7 years ago from ventura., california

    thank you for the comments, with a large family, and I being the oldest of the brood, and all our parents out of the picture, it sure is difficult to be a judge of who and when sometimes. My son who is living in the house right now, made me proud, as just as I finished this hub came and told me that he just got a job and starts monday, and he would start paying me back soon thereafter. Thanks again for your input.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    The drug thing was inexcusable. Everybody needs help at one time or another. My brothers and I help each other out when needed, but we don't waste it on nonsense. The young adults you speak of may need help, but at the first sign they are using you...out they go. I have had to do that. My sister did it to me, but I deserved it. Tuff love is sometimes needed.

  • Neverletitgo profile image

    Abdinasir Aden 7 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

    Great hub ddsurfsca, it is very important that one should help his loved ones whenever you see that they need so. There is proverb: One good turn deserves another. So helping loved ones is something you expect that God will pay you back. I voted up.

  • profile image

    warm_whispers 7 years ago

    dear,, your subject so important if there's understanding and respect for the family environment ,the responsibility the first to build the love .. this my way if i wanna build a strong family kingdom...thank u so much for your lovely post thump up and great...