“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” Col 3:12
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal 6:2
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Gal 6:9-10
So…the question becomes: what does this look like in practice?
Generally, I don’t find these to be hard concepts to put into practice. But, there is a needy person in our lives. High maintenance, one might say. Delightful, fun, funny…and needy. VERY needy. It seems that I regularly hear about how this person was there today or over there yesterday, seeking help for this thing or that issue. Competent to do it with less help? I think so. Able to? No, not really.
In this particular instance, I know the extended family reasonably well. Have for many years…over 20, in fact. My every dealing with the extended family has been pleasant and over time I have seen that the extended family is honest, hardworking, and forthright. Highly respected in the community and at church, I have no reason to distrust their observations about the needy person. The issue? They have used words like ‘manipulative’ and ‘controlling’ and ‘conniving’ to describe my needy friend.
Where does that leave me? How do I do as Scripture says and ‘do good to all people’ if she is using me (and others!) in a manipulative, controlling way? Where’s the line between ‘doing good’ or ‘being helpful’ and ‘enabling?’ Is there a point where our compassion and bearing her burdens is more harmful than helpful? What is the best kind of help in this situation? How do we come alongside and support without being manipulated? How do we kindly, gently, lovingly encourage/facilitate independence? For the sake of the young children involved, is there a good way to teach coping skills that are not co-dependent?
It truly is a dilemma. There are other, complicating factors, but the problem remains: how much is enough? What is too much?