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Ask Dave

A Real Failure To Launch

Bob has 40-year-old twins and can't keep them motivated to keep a job. Bob can't bring himself to cut them off because they have families. Dave says a little desperation is good for the soul.

QUESTION: Bob in Texas has 40-year-old twins. After all these years, he can’t keep them motivated to keep a job, and Bob is approaching retirement age. He’s looking for ways to motivate them. Bob can’t bring himself to cut them off because they have families. Dave says a little desperation is good for the soul.

ANSWER: To me, if someone isn’t capable, it’s one thing. But if they’re just being contrary, that just makes me want to smack them. If someone isn’t able, I don’t want to smack them. That’s not the point. If you’re just telling me you’ve got 40-year-old grown men who won’t pull their own weight, well, I can cut them off in a heartbeat.

A little desperation’s good for the soul. Have you ever been scared enough that you went to work? I have. I’ve been so scared I worked around the clock. I’ve been so scared I worked until I had bony fingers. You know what I’m talking about.

If you’re dealing with someone who has Down syndrome, that’s a whole different discussion. If someone is deficient, then that’s someone you give mercy and you help in any way you can. That’s a different discussion. That’s a different part of your heart you use.

I think you’ve got to make a call here. It’s hard for me to judge in a two-minute radio conversation exactly what’s up, and I’m not getting enough clues from our discussion to make a valid judgment, I don’t think. I’m still not positive. I have a tendency, with some of the language you’re using and the way you’re talking about them, to believe that these guys just need some hard times, and the hard time will be good for them. As far as their kids go, if their kids are hungry, tell them to come over and Grandpa will feed them. But don’t send any food over there, and don’t pay the light bill or the rent anymore. And if they have to go live under a bridge somewhere, drop the kids off at Grandpa’s until they get some work. It sounds like these guys don’t have to work.

Henry Cloud says in the book Boundaries that sometimes we need to help people have problems. We need to love them enough to make sure they have some problems. They don’t have any problems because you’re always there to catch them.

Tough love has “tough” and “love” in it. Adulthood sucks sometimes. I’m thinking you need to help them have some problems. Has what you’ve done to this point helped them? You’re not helping them; you’re hurting them. Enabling is hurting them. An enabler is someone who defined “help” wrong. You thought you were helping, and instead you were actually harming. If your conviction can’t come from that, listen carefully to the words. Quit hurting your children. That’s conviction.

I think we have some fruit in their lives that’s rotten. Let’s try something new. What we’ve been doing with these two kids has not brought them dignity or you satisfaction or brought them success. We’ve not got any part of winning going on in this conversation, so let’s try something different.

I can’t tell you it’s going to be easy, but I think if you start understanding deep down in your soul that you’ve actually been hurting them and not helping them, then it’ll become a lot easier.