A few years ago, there was a couple living in our building that made life miserable. We’ll call them Ann and Bob.
They fought, sometimes physically, at all hours of the day and night. Bob was bipolar, but make no mistake – you can be bipolar and still be a jerk and the two are not always mutually exclusive. Doors slammed constantly, there was always screaming, things got thrown… including the Ann. One night, very late, my husband and I heard a crash, followed by sobbing. Bob had thrown Ann through a glass table and she was covered in blood and shards of glass. After he realized what he did, he overdosed on booze and pills and my husband stayed with him to make sure he was breathing while I comforted Ann. She admitted to me that he had punched her in the chest, but refused to discuss it with the police.
I desperately wanted to help them. After all, I understood bipolar disorder. I was all too familiar with angry rages, though I never got violent with anyone. I spent more and more time with them, trying to referee fights. But Ann got into the habit of coming to our apartment whenever Bob became abusive, which only made him angrier. The constant visits and fights wore me down and I needed anxiety meds to cope, and I wasn’t helping my neighbors’ situation. They were still sick, and they were making me sicker. My husband and I started arguing over the fact that there was always someone in our home, crying, but unwilling to make changes. Something had to change.
I eventually realized they didn’t need to be rescued. What they really needed – especially Ann – was to reach rock bottom. Always having me as a backup only prevented that from happening. I started turning Ann away at the door, and my husband and I made a deliberate effort to keep our distance. I was wracked with guilt and constantly questioned whether or not I was handling things in a Christ-like way, but every time I turned to someone for an opinion, they confirmed that I was taking necessary measures.
I don’t know how they are now. They finally moved – much to our relief. They professed faith in Christ, and I hope they are living it and pursuing God. I hope that Bob changed his ways and got the right help, or that Ann left if he didn’t. No one deserves abuse. As for me, I’m still learning about boundaries. Being in a Christ-centered recovery group has taught me a lot about the importance of letting God be God, and not trying to step in to take His place.
I believe that is the true definition of enabling: trying to be God to another person. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to let them fall.