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There is a fine line between coddling verses empowering. Do you know which line you ride? How can you tell if the support you give is truly helping or hindering those you love?

I think it’s very easy to confuse being of support to someone with coddling them. We think we are helping when in fact we are doing more harm than good.

I had a friend of many years who’s life was always in distress. She would often call me sobbing profusely because she was depressed, fed-up and needing something in her life to change. Of course, I would respond just as I do with my clients. I offered insight and understanding into her issues as a way to help her grow out of her limiting circumstances. Unlike my clients, however, my friend never seemed to take the higher road. Instead she would choose to remain inactive and in her pain.

Then recently one day, she called again, wanting me to listen to her hysterics. In that moment though, my higher self screamed out to me saying, “you know she has zero intention of taking proactive steps to resolve her issues. Don’t feel like you have to spend the time and energy to coddle her right now.” That was it . . . I listened to her – briefly – then interjected that I had no words of advice and that I was sure she would figure it out on her own. To say she was angry would be a complete understatement.

So what happens when the coddling our loved ones depend on from us comes to an end?

When I responded differently to her crisis this time around, my friend began yelling at me. She said that I didn’t care and that no one in her life ever cared what happened to her. Again, I listened to her rant. When she was done the only words my higher self had were that I loved her and whatever she decided was best for herself was fine with me. I then assured her that I felt certain she could figure this out for herself.

When our conversation concluded, she said she’d never speak to me again – which honestly felt like a relief. However, two weeks later she called and I answered. Immediately, I could sense that things were different on the other end. She apologized and said she’d given consideration to the few words I spoke. She realized that she was more in need of attention than advice and vowed not to do that to me anymore.

What are the implications of coddling verses empowering?

What do you think the relationship between my friend and I would be like today if I hadn’t drawn the line and practiced a little tough love? She would still be draining my energy and wouldn’t be making progress in her own life.

When you coddle a person, you stop them from growing. However, when you listen to and express your confidence that they are strong enough to find solutions and overcome their issues, you empower people. Doing someone else’s work for them is simply not healthy for anyone.

How to break the cycle of coddling 

  1. Identify the dis-empowered – Ask yourself if there is anyone in your life (other than young children) that you feel wants you to take more responsibility for them than they are willing to take for themselves. You will likely know immediately or have a pretty good idea who in your life may be taking advantage of you.

  2. Be Honest with yourself – Ask yourself if you like to rescue others because it feeds your ego in some way. People generally fall into the role of “fixer” because they want to be recognized for their remarkable problem-solving prowess. However, that has nothing to do with a desire to be of service to others. When you want to be the fixer, you will draw individuals to you that want someone else to do their work. Consider how you can let go of your need to be the smartest and most capable in the bunch. Instead, learn to allow others to have the opportunity to access their own resources to work through their problems and discover the solutions they most need. 

  3. Remember the golden rule – You can only heal yourself. As much as you can lend time, energy, and insight to someone in need, they are the only ones who can truly change their own circumstances. As difficult as it might be, learn to refrain from offering advice and direction. Become contented with letting others figure things out for themselves so they can grow like you have.

If you want your support to helpful and not harmful, it’s best to stop rescuing people from themselves. Only when they face their hardships and overcome them, will they learn to harness their potentials and be a true equal in the world.


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