A few days ago I started reading Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, “Boundaries.” As an external processor, I figured it’d be beneficial to share what I’m learning and thinking about in regards to boundaries in an open blog post. Plus, I’m sure it could spark some good conversations as well so feel free to comment with your thoughts and feelings on the issue.
Growing up in a rigidly conservative home, I was surprised at the “freedom” I found while in school. There was a whole new world of (mostly sinful) possibilities out there and now I had to make the right-or-wrong decisions for myself. My faith could no longer be my parents and my decisions could no longer be made just because they said so. There’s a lot of things that college didn’t teach me, but one thing it teaches everyone is to think for themselves.
Using my own brain and learning by trial-and-many-errors, I’ve discovered there is a REASON there are “rules” and/or boundaries listed in Scripture. As I’ve shared many times before, there is no escaping the Kingdom Economy of reaping what you sow. Sow good and reap good. Sow bad and reap bad. It’s humorous how we are often surprised when we go to harvest the crop of our hearts and find so many weeds – but then when looking back realize we spent no times in the fields pulling those weeds. We didn’t do the hard work to ensure we had a good harvest.
One of the topics discussed thus far in the book is word boundaries. The concept of letting your yes be yes and your no be no – biblical, Christian, and logically sound, it’s perplexing that this seems to be such a difficult concept for us to grasp. We often find ways to displace the responsibility of our decisions onto others – “He told me to do it,” or “If I hadn’t, then I would have lost their friendship.” So we “passively comply, but inwardly resent” – doing something for the sake of “serving someone” but not actually having a desire to serve, or at least not serve in that certain capacity. And all it would have taken is a simple, “No.” Saying “no” would have set the boundary that you were not willing to accept that certain responsibility – it would not make you a bad person, and for emotionally healthy individuals, should not terminate the friendship.
Another concept from the book that I’ve found particularly encouraging is that we can’t always make ourselves responsible for the well-being of others. The book gives the example of a drug-addicted son who, over time, has managed to get kicked out of a number schools. The parents come to see Dr. Cloud and ask him what they should do about their problem-child. “We’ve spent lots of money and do everything we can to get him into a better school but nothing ever changes. Dr. Cloud’s response catches them by surprise. “What if he’s not the problem and you are?” By continually making his problems yours, he’s never had to actually learned from his mistakes – because he’s never had to suffer the consequences. Setting the boundary that his results are his to own frees the parents from the burden of “making their kid succeed” – leaving them free to play the role of friend and counselor, without the heavy baggage of taking on their son’s problem as if it were their own burden to bear.
It’s hard, though. To separate others burdens from your own to and to know when to let others in and when to keep them out – when to say yes and when to say no. When to set boundaries and when to rewrite the provinces and territories of our hearts.
Marriage has placed me in a position to sort of rewrite my boundaries. I get to decide what I do and do not do, whose advice I consider and who’s I disregard, and at the end of the day, who I am is the sum of my decisions and their consequences up to that point. I cannot escape the reality of my own heart, nor can you.
Now for the fun part – what are your thoughts on boundaries? What have you learned by setting certain limits and property-lines in your life and hearts? Any takeaways you care to share? Feel free to do so – I enjoy learning alongside you.