The professional literature has more
definitions for these terms than religion has denominations, and that’s too
many. In hopes of simplifying,
I’ll give you two more. Codependency
and enabling are pretty much the same thing, making
it easier for someone else to stay addicted to a bad habit.
Another way to look at it is caring about the feelings and needs of a messed up person to the neglect of your own. “Messed up” means what professionals call “dysfunctional”—their lives aren’t working to get their own needs and responsibilities met due to their own bad habits.
Such people are addicts, as they are usually addicted to some chemical or habit that messes up their lives, and the lives of enablers who try to rescue them. Examples of such habits would include alcoholics, drug abusers, sex addicts, compulsive gamblers, and eating disorders.
Codependent enabling goes further than addictions, because rescuers not only drain themselves on addicts, but also on folks who are just plain immature, irresponsible, or immoral. Now codependency is not taking too much care of invalids like paraplegics, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenics, or the chronically ill. It is overprotecting addicts, and those who refuse to grow up, do their chores, and do what they know is right.
Enabling dysfunctional people is not showing them too much love as some might think. It’s showing them too little respect and understanding. Just like parents who wait too long to wean kids from the bed, the bottle, or the temper tantrum, if we truly respected and understood them, we would recognize they need us to expect them to become more responsible.
Helping them get through a tough spot is helping them avoid responsibility for their recovery, maturity, morality, and responsibility. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.