Real Men Are Enablers  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADysfunction usually involves two parties: the person with the self-destructive behavior and a second person who encourages or makes easier the negative or self-destructive behavior.

We call this second person an enabler.

Most enablers realize too late that they’ve been sucked into an ever-increasing downward spiral centered on a sick dynamic.  And contrary to popular misconception, men are just as apt to be enablers as women.

But enabling has a positive side.

I’ve made it my business to assist others to be the best they can be through my (often imperfect!) word and example.  I believe it is core human mission to leave our world a better place than when we were born into it.

One such example of a great enabler was my father Mike.

Mike died at the age of 88 in 2009.  As I age I find myself referring to him more and more as a role model.

He was a remarkably well-balanced and cheerful individual, despite a difficult childhood.  A machinist all his life, he didn’t always have the job of his choice.  Nonetheless Mike went to work and came home like clockwork every day.

His intent was that my mother could stay home with the kids and that we’d receive the security that they hadn’t enjoyed as children.

My dad enjoyed watching sports, chatting with neighbors, and helping others.  He had a wide circle of friends, the Warren Pals, an East Cambridge neighborhood club that a bunch of the boys formed in the 1930’s and that stayed intact until recently.  Dad was up to almost any handy-man task at home even to the extent of building a new room onto the house from the foundation up.  And though he chaffed at my mother’s ever-growing “honey-do” list he usually got around to getting everything done.

Dad also sewed quite well (though not as meticulously as my mother), cooked a wide variety of dishes, assisted my mother in house cleaning, and loved opera and classical music.  On Sunday mornings I’d wake up to the smell of salt pork and onions sautéing on the stove, as he browned sausages and made meatballs and tomato sauce for lunch (I still use his recipes).

He listened to music from his collections of operettas and light classical as he cooked, and sometimes sat in front of the speakers while “conducting” the orchestra.  And if it weren’t music on the radio, he’d be listening to Italian language stations that broadcast on Sundays.

My parents brought us to the Museum of Science and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  They were not formally educated but were always curious.   They knew little of the great masters, but appreciated beauty and higher culture.  They were over-achievers who were forced to leave school during the Depression to go to work and got their GED’s late in life.  Both would have gone far with formal education.

MichaelParise150Because my father was such a good enabler I also learned to cook, sew, play musical instruments, paint, and use tools.  I’m not adverse to housekeeping and troubleshooting home repairs.  My father gave me the permission to be a complete man, and completely myself.  My only regret was that I was never able to come out to him as gay.

I’ve discovered that enabling is a kind of mentoring or modeling that a lot of gays and lesbians need.  When I do even mundane activities and chores with purpose and intention and share how I’m dealing with my emotions and thoughts I know I am helping others.  How might we be more open and curious and so encourage others to be enablers?  Are we willing to ask questions and open ourselves to how others go about their lives?  Are we patient in explaining ourselves so that others feel invited along for the ride?

Positive enabling can take many forms and ultimately can be the avenue to deep healing and integration of body, mind, and spirit.  This is the core of the human spirit.  It is also a particular work for gays and lesbians, for which we are uniquely suited.

About Michael Parise

Michael Parise is a highly sensitive person who has the emotional “wiring” and insight to promote soulful healing. He does so through his Life & Spirit coaching, spiritual direction, and integrated energy work. His keen intuition, deep empathy, and spiritual consciousness enable him to discover hidden factors in our lives that need attention. Michael’s training and experience in pastoral ministry and spiritual formation gives him access to the mysteries of the soul. He has assisted hundreds of people to cope with being overwhelmed by life, to find stronger connections with themselves, others, and God, and to address the inner critics that can sabotage happiness. Michael works in person as well as on the phone.