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When is helping turns into enabling?

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I got a phone call today from Kent; he was asking me for advice.

Kent has a successful business for years, and he use sub contractors regularly. Kent’s problem is with Sean; a long time friend who is also one of Kent’s sub contractor. The problem is Sean is very unreliable. Sean would go MIA (missing in action) days at a time, and often time no show at jobs that Kent had setup.

This had been an ongoing problem for years, but Kent always felt bad for Sean. That is because Sean is in a bad marriage; Sean’s wife would disappear days at a time, leaving him home alone with 3 kids. And because Sean had confided in Kent about things, therefore, Kent felt he should do his best to help him. When Sean is a no show, Kent would reschedule. Whenever Sean is MIA and inevitably Sean wouldn’t be able to make his rent, Kent would front Sean the money. The latest was Sean needed money on Christmas Eve day, so Kent gave him a few hundred dollars, and Sean promised to work it off after the holiday!

After the holiday, first day back to work. Sean was MIA again. Kent knew Sean’s rent is due on the 5th, and like clock works Sean called, asking Kent for rent money. But unlike any other time before… this time Kent said, “You come into work first, than we can talk about your rent money!”

Sean was furious at Kent and he screamed out, “How can you do this to me!? They are going to kick us out of our house!” Sean started to justify on his where about, but Kent just told Sean to come into work. So, out of frustration Sean hung up on Kent.

 That is when Kent called me, he is very concern about Sean and his 3 children being kick out of their home in the middle of winter. Kent is now feeling guilty about what he had done. “Did I over react? Should I have given him the money…I have the cash!”

I told Kent, “For years by you bailing him out, you are allowing him to NOT deal with the real issues at home. Were you helping to solve the real problem, or were you helping financial just enough to prolong their situation?” The phone got silent and I said, “Do you want to give him the money, because it will make you feel better? Or do you truly believe that is going to help him?”

Would you give Kent a second opinion? What would you say to him?

Giovanna Garcia

Imperfect Action is better than No Action

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11 Comments

Henie says: 6 January 2009 - 1:46 am

Giovanna,

This is a difficult one to asses but I believe that in the end, we are the only ones that can truly help ourselves…and sometimes, “tough love” is best.

Shaw Funami says: 6 January 2009 - 3:33 am

Hi Giovanna,
Your topic is very difficult one today. It is true that there is no clear border between real help and sudo help. But I guess Kent should think how he can change Sean so that he could be more reliable and accountable before trying to rush and patch work. Kent should have thought he might have been spoiling Sean, hence making the matter worse, making Sean more unaccountable by doing what he was doing. Only his kids issue stuck on my mind… I need to think it over.

LifeMadeGreat | Juliet says: 6 January 2009 - 8:07 am

Hi Giovanna

I think that Kent should no longer continue to bail Sean out. Sean needs to learn how to look after himself and his family on his own - and he probably can. If he is a true friend and learns, he may thank Kent one day. Perhaps he needs to wean him off slowly (for the kids sake), but it needs to be done.

Often one can’t simply keep giving without nothing in return - even if what is given in return is minimal.

What struck me is how not only does Sean go MIA, but so too does his wife! Sean is doing one of the very things that Kent is trying to save him from!

Juliet

Giovanna Garcia says: 6 January 2009 - 10:42 am

Hi Henie

I argee with you :-) My grandma always say, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can make him drink it..”
Yeah, Tough Love is what Sean need.

Thanks for your comment, I enjoy reading it.

Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Giovanna Garcia says: 6 January 2009 - 11:10 am

Hi Shaw

I know the kids does make this one hard. But my feeling is if Sean and his wife continue to be the same way, the kids will be living with this type of things all their lifes. That isn’t good for the kid either…

Thanks for your input.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Giovanna Garcia says: 6 January 2009 - 11:15 am

Hi Juliet

Good point on the MIA thing. I was thinking about that one two! Sean’s wife go MIA form home when she is overwhelm. Sean goes MIA from work when he is overwhelm with home. When is the kids going to learn?!

You give some great points. Thanks for your comment, I think all of these will help Kent!

Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Ovid Diaconescu says: 6 January 2009 - 11:43 am

“No” is a harsh and unfriendly word — which we have to use if one doesn’t face his/her problems — and we have to do it for his/her sake AND FOR the kids sake — for they have to see and learn the ‘constant struggle for a solution’ parents go trough. …Good story to bring up Giovanna!

Ovid-

Giovanna Garcia says: 6 January 2009 - 11:49 am

Hi Ovid

Yes, sometime we have do tough love!
That is how the kids are going to learn they can’t just go MIA and that doesn’t fix things.

Thanks for your comment, great to see you here :-)

Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary says: 6 January 2009 - 2:41 pm

Sean and his wife should be facing their fears .. sorting themselves out .. perhaps explaining to the kids what is going on .. but as you say he should sort his life out - a tough decision. Kent needs to let Sean know that he’s still got a job .. Sean will need tough love support through the process.

DaveMurr says: 7 January 2009 - 5:17 pm

Since I am not Sean or Kent - its tricky to provide any advice.

That said it sounds like Sean is relying on Kent - using him like a crutch instead of facing the music. Sean won’t stop until he has to stand on his own two feet.

Giovanna Garcia says: 7 January 2009 - 10:51 pm

Hi Dave

I agree with you. I think Sean will actual get better when Kent stop supporting him. Kent just need to understand by him not helping he is helping!

Thanks for your comment.

Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

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