Thoughts On Boundaries

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.

boundaries

Broken Being Becoming

There’s an album that I’ve recently been listening to on repeat by a hip-hop artist that goes by NF – it’s called “Mansion” – referring to the ‘Mansion of his mind’. You can find the 12-track album on Spotify and I’d highly recommend giving it a listen at your earliest convenience. But what’s intriguing to me about this particular track-list of music is the transparency; the supernatural ability this young artist has at laying out his heart and frustrations with being a twentysomething adult trying to figure himself out.

His mind is the ‘Mansion’ he’s trapped in as the title track explains. And this line nails it on the head…

“I regret the fact that I struggled trying to find who I am – and I lied to myself, saying ‘I’m doing the best that I can.’ Shrug it off like it ain’t nothing – like it’s out of hands – and get ticked off whenever I see it affecting my plans.”

I was in the gym after another weekend of going out a few too many times. You know – the usual – hating myself for indulging and then punishing my body by working it too hard (as if that fixed the root issue). So I’m on “the bike” – and putting in a pretty solid cardio-routine for a guy like myself (10 miles) – and those lyrics hit me right in the chest.

I’m in a stage in life where I’d say I’m “becoming” – trying to reach the mountaintops of the business world.

It just feels like I’ve been in the valleys just a little too long and that I’ll never amount to much of anything.

So I avoid reality – watch another movie, go dancing with another pretty girl, meet friends up for drinks or coffee somewhere and chalk lack of success up to being young and inexperienced and perhaps that’s why no one’s truly utilizing my full potential. Because that’s a hell of a lot easier than admitting that I might be (at least part of) the problem.

I could work a little harder; spend a little less; become more joyous and content with what I’ve already been blessed with; but I think the monumental concept I need to focus myself on is just being.

I swear this has been the hardest aspect of my “becoming” – of me graduating from college and tackling “the real world”. Embracing the man that I am at the time. Whether’s that’s the charming guy on his next date, or the brokenhearted and lost soul that I was about four months ago during my first breakup. Whether I’m the go-getter in the office, or the guy that could use a little extra coaching to improve on techniques he’s become lazy with. Whether I’m the inspiring Christian, or the concerned critic. Whatever season I’m in – if I could just look whatever guy is staring me back in the mirror that day, and take responsibility for his actions, I think I’d start to see some real progress.

Part of the problem – I’m starting to believe – is that I can easily confuse self-love and avoidance or selfishness. There’s a difference between spending time on myself (recharging with friends, going on the occasional date, taking a night “off the grid” to clear my head, writing in the library like I am right now, etc.) to refresh and simply burning time  (sulking in the library, endlessly dating, going out as often as possible) to avoid hard realities like a truck that needs replaced, a grown-man still living in his parents’ house, heaping piles of student-loan debt, and a heart that yearns for intimacy.

I want to love myself more, while avoiding myself less.

Part of “becoming” is learning to “be”. So here I am – the Big & Tall, joyous and confused, provider of bear hugs and witty jokes, charming and reckless, broke yet rich, Justin. And I can honestly tell you that tonight, I’m choosing to love myself and not avoid the reality that I’m a broken being becoming.

I’m Back,

Justin

Broken Being Becoming

Where The Men At?

A recent conversation I had revealed the devastating reality that there are few men left. Oh, don’t worry, there are plenty of individuals that can mark “male” on questionnaires, but upstanding gentlemen–good luck.

I wish I could pride myself more-so on my own contributions to the coed relational world, but I’d be hypocritical and dishonest if I were to not admit that I’ve had my own slip-ups here and there throughout my young-adult years. So, men (and women), before you continue reading and pointing fingers at one another, realize that I am first preaching to myself on this topic before I exhort you (and you should do the same). ENOUGH of the finger-pointing within The Church; seriously. Take responsibility for your own actions, exhort your brothers and sisters with biblical counsel, live out your faith, read the Word, and then leave the convicting, heart-changing, and life-changing to the Holy Spirit (He’s been in the business a while and is SO MUCH BETTER at it than you and me–we tend to get prideful and mess things up).

Back to the conversation I was having…A friend of mine sent a Facebook message to me and asked if there was any hope for finding a guy that would wait (for that magical three-letter word, s-e-x), because she was being pressured by all kinds of “men” to compromise on her convictions. My first instinct is probably like yours–“well, they’re jerks, wait and date a gentleman”. Note that “gentleman” is a word compromised two smaller words–“gentle” and “man“–are there any men gentle enough to sacrificially love, wait for, and pursue their bride-to-be?

And men, this is the question I’ve come to realize that many upstanding young women our age are asking themselves, “Are there any real men left?” Or, is it time for them to lower the standards they’ve been raised to uphold, so they may have some slight chance of a man being willing to pursue them? But at this point, what are they being pursued for–for them (ALL of who they are), or simply for the perks in the bedroom? 

I’d venture to say that the women in this world are ready for a new kind of man; Not necessarily an entirely new breed of man, but men that are still willing to uphold old-fashioned principles–like waiting for marriage. Not only that, but as many of you likely know, there has been a societal epidemic of a fatherless generation–where are the men at? Where have they gone? Why do they run from their children?

Men desire respect above most other things, but men, respect is earned

I don’t claim to be the mac-daddy of the dating-world, but I’m fairly certain respect is not earned by shirking fatherly responsibility or pursuing women solely for the provision of momentary fulfillment.

Have I upset enough readers with my bluntness just yet? Great! That’s the goal…guys tend to stay relatively chill about things until it engages their emotions, or hurts their pride a bit. Now that your cage is rattled, tail-feathers are ruffled, and the like…give me a second to calm the waters.

No one is void of responsibility in the issue of men lacking in society. We all need to be doing our part to raise up a stronger generation of men, to become that generation ourselves, and to cherish the women in our lives.

Ladies, you are not all perfect little princesses all the time, so please do not judge your brothers haughtily in this situation. Many of you are fiercely opposed to the leadership of men, which, by the way, is a biblical principle–I hope to find a wife that will be okay with me leading.

Oh, right, I said I would calm the waters… 😉

Here’s the thing…everyone is responsible. And responsibility is lacking miserably in the American culture. If you mess up, fess up. If you are currently in a relationship that is going nowhere, but somewhere it shouldn’t be going, GET OUT OF IT. If you have a baby, take care of it and raise it to be a child of God, an heir to Grace. If you want respect, earn it. And for the love of men’s purity, dress modestly. It’s actually been scientifically proven that the more scandalously-clothed a woman is, the easier it is for a man to view her as an object, rather than a person. Do you want to be someone’s object, or someone’s companion? Attract the right kind of man.

This world is ready for a new class of man. A new brand. It’s seen enough of the Biebers, Timberlakes, Chris Browns, and Barney Stinsons (the star-character of How I Met Your Mother) and is ready to be reminded of what a true, classy man is. It’s time to get old-fashioned. It’s time to be responsible.

Learn from your mistakes. Correct your peers gently. Be overwhelmingly courageous, encouraging, and resilient always. And for the love of humanity, never give up.