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Enabling is the not same as Grace…

“Just give me some grace.”

This statement yelled with anger and frustration to a pastor friend of mine.  (For you Office fans – think Michael yelling at Toby and telling him that this a place of welcoming.)

The story is too long and tangled to explain to you about how it all happened, but it is safe to say a few things:

One, this person, in their deep anger, was not asking for grace; instead, they wanted to be enabled. We don’t distinguish well between the two anymore I am afraid.

Let me define grace and enabling and then let’s look at a scenario so the next time you deal with a person who is in need, you can offer grace and not enablement.


Grace:   is forgiveness for failures and at the same time, a tangible/real hope and ability to overcome the very thing that got you to step into your failures to begin with.  (For reference sake – grace in it’s purest form comes from God, but we sons and daughters of the Creator can model grace to our fellow humans)

Enabling:  is excusing or reasoning away someone else’s failures with wishful thinking that it is not a big deal or one day they will get better.   Enabling is a version of not holding others accountable for their actions.

Why I am even thinking about all of this. Last week I preached on Ephesians 1:7:  we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace,[1]

Grace gives forgiveness, but it also frees us from the things that bind us.  Enabling lessens the blows of the failures, so no one feels bad.  Grace invades and changes.   Enabling skirts and ignores.

Scenario: So I once knew a person that had an addiction. He was addicted to banging his head against a wall – he particularly liked blue walls. And no matter how much he had headaches, he would not stop. Bleeding, bruising, soreness – none of these stopped his habit.

If this man was your friend or loved one, what would you say to him? How could you best help him?

Enabling would sound like this: “I know it hurts. I am sorry it hurts. I hope it gets better.” Internally, you would be saying, “He will get better. I can’t push too hard. I don’t want to upset him. He is not that bad. Everyone has problems. It will get better, I just need to accept him and his actions. That is what it means to love him well.”

Grace instead says this: “I love you, and I hate seeing you hurt. You hurt because you keep banging your head against walls. What can we do to stop this behavior? I am here to help, but I am not here to tell you this is okay. This behavior is not okay. It is hurting you and those around you. You are made for more than this life you are living. There is hope.”

(Again – real hope is based in the work that Jesus does – His overflowing grace that provides forgiveness for our failures. It is tough for me to imagine grace properly speaking outside of Jesus. It appears time to time in glimpses, but the grace that changes and transforms at the deepest level – that is found only in Jesus.)

Please, don’t confuse offering someone grace by providing them enablement.

Going back to where we began with the person yelling: give me some grace.

Grace is not demanded – grace is instead an invitation received with real hope.

Enabling is demanded – and it is relinquished with no real hope of change expected.

Live in grace and hope this week.

Strength and courage,



[1] Common English Bible. (2011). (Eph 1:7). Nashville, TN: Common English Bible.

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