By now, I think I’ve made a reputation among my regular readers for being someone who enjoys a book that makes me think. I want to process things and grow in the Lord. I want to draw ever closer to His design.
The book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend has so accurately articulated a number of problem experiences in my life. I already knew I had a problem. But the detail with which they diagnosed my issues caught me off guard!
Here’s to hoping that the authors’ solutions will be biblically sound.
The Dr.s Cloud and Townsend use the term ‘boundary’ to refer to limits in a person’s life (emotional, spiritual, physical, mental) to govern what they’re willing to do and how far they’re willing to go. Healthy boundaries allow the individual to reach out to others in loving gestures while setting limits in order to guard their hearts against harm – theirs and others’.
For example, someone might determine not to go out to social events on a Sunday afternoon so that they’re available to spend time with the Lord.
One point that this book brought up is “The Law of Exposure”. It’s an appropriate throwback to last year when I studied biblical vulnerability. Remember that?
The authors proposed this:
The Law of Exposure says that your boundaries need to be made visible to others and communicated to them in relationship.
-Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries
That’s where their thoughts end and mine begin.
I think that regardless of whether or not we admit it, everyone has boundaries. Some people confidently and clearly communicate them. They’re not afraid of saying “no” to things that threaten their established limits.
Others among us (and this is where I include myself) are ashamed of our boundaries clearly. We despise, downplay, and suffocate them. We want to be generous, selfless givers and we think that means that our time, energy and services ought to be at the disposal of others.
But no matter how much I pretend to cheerfully comply, I’ve realized this: hidden resentment testifies that my unspoken boundaries have been crossed.
My instinctive solution: hide it
I’m insecure about admitting that I have boundaries.
When people come to me with a favor to ask, I don’t want them to know that I wish I could say no. I see people who decline an appeal and I judge them for being unfeeling. Then I judge myself for being unfeeling in the theoretical situation that I might decline. So I say ‘yes.’ But I’m hiding a ‘no’ in my heart.
This isn’t good. The lack of honesty breeds resentment. It puts a barrier between me and the one to whom I said ‘yes.’ I tried to avoid being unfeeling, but my alternative is no better!
God’s redeeming solution: vulnerability
I want to speak humbly whenever I suggest something about God. What He does and how He is are His alone to declare. Let’s look at a passage from His Word (one that was key during my vulnerability sprint).
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
-1 John 1:5-10
With that context in mind, let me isolate some individual statements:
- If we claim to have fellowship with [God], yet walk in darkness [ie. methodically hide aspects of ourselves or our attitude], we lie and do not live out the truth.
- If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves.
- If we confess our sins [ie. if we’re honest and vulnerable about ourselves and our attittudes], he will purify us from all unrighteousness.
- If we walk in the light [ie. if we’re vulnerable], we have fellowship with one another.
- If we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
Someone asks me for a favor. If I pretend to cheerfully say yes, while harboring resentment in my heart, I’m heaping sin upon sin. I have feelings of hatred and disunity… and I’m walking in darkness, lying, and not living out the truth.
But I have this hope…
…that the Lord will make me into someone who is willing to own my reluctance to help. Not in a proud way. In an honest way.
Sometimes, by laying things bare between me and the other person, God might deal with any invalid reasons for not wanting to comply. At other times, I might realize that it was never my place to help in that particular situation. God might work through some other means. I’m not the savior of the world, after all!
Thanks for sticking with me through an unusually long post. Do you have your own thoughts to share?
- Are you more likely to be clear about your boundaries or to suppress them?
- Do you think that boundaries are a good thing? Or are they always and inevitably selfish?
- When you need to say ‘no,’ how do you do it?