The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 13:14 NIV)
Bishop Leecroft Clarke defines unhealthy / ungodly "Soul Ties" in this way:
Helping someone who has unhealthy and ungodly soul ties is ministry that requires great wisdom and spiritual maturity because of this truth: Most people who have unhealthy soul ties will try to tie themselves to you in the same unhealthy ways. Because of the naiveté of most well-meaning, albeit ill-equipped people, their gracious offer to help soon becomes filled with hurt and pain when they discover they've been "had." To help those who are "tied", those who help need to understand this key principle: Helping to break soul ties is about life transformation, not comfort. The classic enabler is a person who takes over responsibility and accountability for an unhealthy person, therefore enabling them to continue in their illness undisturbed. Meanwhile, the enabler lives a completely disturbed life because they live two lives... their own and the life of the other person. If you are an enabler, you too have an unhealthy soul tie within you that must be dealt with. Wisdom, patience, love and care... but never enabling... this is the ministry of breaking soul ties.
Build Fences, Not Walls
Walls keep people out but fences set the boundaries. Good ministers of healing to those with unhealthy and ungodly soul ties build good fences, but never walls. They don't shut people out, but they know how and when to say "no." Slowly, I see people learning this wisdom. They are learning to say no to enabling behaviors without disengaging from the person's life. Boundaries are actually about clearly defining what you will do more so than what you won't do. Boundaries define for you the options you are willing to provide.
If you're not sure where to build the fences, talk with people who have been enablers. Ask them how others have taken advantage of them. Some classic examples of people learning wisdom comes in dealing with those who ask for money. I once agreed to help someone with a shortfall in their rent. The "fence"? I decided to take the money directly to the person's landlord. Upon arriving at the scene, the one I was helping became incredibly uncomfortable and confessed that the money was not needed for the landlord. Fences help teach trust. The other person cannot learn to stop lying if I just feed their pockets every time the lie to me about a need.
If you can't stand being unpopular with people, or if you are a classic people pleaser, then this will be a tough concept. Helping those with unhealthy soul ties as you lovingly lead them to transformational opportunities, will likely mean experiencing some forms of hot, emotional rejection. I once was asked by someone for money for food. Before we discussed the money, I asked how they ended up short. It turns out they had pawned and bought back an item from a pawn shop three times in the same month. They lost so much money, they came up short. Since I wanted to talk about that behavior first, the other person became angry and hung up on me after hurling some insults in my direction. I decided to just let it be. A short while later, still hungry and short of money, they called back. After I received an apology from them I offered groceries, but not money. I also built this fence: "If this happens again, I will offer you counseling to help you manage your finances better, but I will not offer groceries." The person agreed.
Love is so much more than comfort. Love wants what is best. Love wants spiritual and emotional freedom. Love wants the demon bound and the chains broken. Love cares. Love never enables but guides. Love risks. Love is hard when love must be tough. Love is your choice even in the face of rejection of the other. Love must reign in these relationships. Love must pray without ceasing through intercession.
Have you ever helped someone with an unhealthy soul-tie? Did you get tied up yourself? Perhaps you've vowed to never help again because that is the surest way to avoid being hurt. That is not what God intends for His children. He wants all of us free to give of ourselves. People's lives are at stake.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.