Monday, June 4, 2012

The Need For Boundaries.

Today, we'll be discussing the importance of being able to separate from others--this ability to find our own identities is what Dr. Cloud calls boundaries.

We're created as individuals, remember Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." God also knows each of us as individuals, Jesus says to His follower in Matthew 10:30 that even the very hairs of our head are numbered.

One of the dysfunctions that I saw while doing social work was the Enmeshed family--these families are characterized by an extreme sense of closeness, so much so that almost any expression of independence or separateness is seen as disloyalty to the family.

Remember the movie the Godfather? Where the aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. Michael, the reluctant son has just come home from the war, but does not intend to become part of his father's business. Through Michael's life the nature of the family business becomes clear. The business of the family is just like the head of the family, kind and benevolent to those who give respect, but given to ruthless violence whenever anything stands against the good of the family.

Michael  initially wants nothing to do with the "family business," but in the end loses his identity and becomes everything that his father ( Marlon Brando-The Don), was, and even worse.

How many people set no limits on others' control of themselves, they have no sense of personal boundaries and space, and they posses very little of what the Bible calls "will."

I've listened to many people, particularly as they get older, say, "I've finally learned the importance of saying no to people  in my life." By saying no we set boundaries in our lives, we keep our sense of who we are.

Dr. Cloud gives his definition of boundaries as: 

 lines or things that mark a limit, bound, or border. In a psychological sense boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we don not want. Boundaries, in short define us. In the same way that a physical boundary defines where a property line begins and ends, a psychological and spiritual boundary defines who we are and who we are not.

Dr. Cloud does a good job at presenting a biblical basis for boundaries. As we have mentioned in an earlier post about God being a bonded person. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always connected; they live in eternal oneness. However, God also in that unity has diversity--The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, separate persons. All three persons in the Godhead have different wills, ministries, and responsibilities, but at the same time maintain relationship and connectedness.

Another important Biblical basis for boundaries or separateness is seen in the fact that God is separate from his creation. Christianity does not teach the eastern worldview of pantheism. Pantheism is the worldview that says God is in the trees, waters, and in all of creation. Christianity does note teach that God is infused with his creation, God is not us and we are not God, God is separate and distinct from all his creation.

As Dr. Cloud notes, " [God] can have relationship with us, but is not us, and we are not him. Boundaries exist between our identities, wills, and responsibilities, He knows where he ends and we begin."

Keep this in mind, it is one of the benefits of understanding and establishing boundaries in your life--you are not responsible for others' feelings, attitudes or behaviors. When you develop a healthy sense of identity, and when boundaries are understood you become free and liberated--you realize that you are only responsible for your own backyard, you know not to jump over your neighbors fence and start raking up his leaves, even if it is unsightly and an eyesore.

We Set Boundaries With Our:

Attitudes: One aspect of our personhood is our attitudes. Dr. Cloud tells us that our attitudes are our opinions about or mental positions toward something. He continues and tells us " we are responsible for our own attitudes, for they exist inside of our property line."

I have to share Chuck Swindoll's axiom on attitude:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.

Behavior: Another aspect of our personhood is our behavior. God requires us to take responsibility for our own behavior. We must take ownership for what we do. When we take responsibility we begin to understand the law of "cause" and "effect." The Bible uses the words "reaping" and "sowing." When we realize when we behave in a certain way, certain things will inevitably happen, it gives a person a sense of control. 

Think of those in our society that are being raised without the law of cause and effect--they are constantly blaming "others" for their own ill-behaviors and life choices. They never come to the cross-roads where they take ownership for their behaviors.

Negative Assertions: We certainly know that we are defined by what we like, we say things like ," I like gardening" or "I like being a mother, father", or "grandparent," or "I like my pets." So, we assert who we are by saying what we like.

But we also fix our identity by asserting what we do not like, such as, " I hate it when someone acts phony" or " I hate math," or " I hate all the injustice in the world," by these negative statements we are defining ourselves by what we are against. 

Cloud notes, " Many people are not in touch with their "not-me" experiences. By being in touch with our "not-me" experiences, we further define ourselves to others and the world." 

Throughout the Bible we're presented a picture of God as what he is against and what he is for.  Let me provide one snapshot of the life of Christ. Jesus was for "worship that came form the heart." We see over and over that Jesus wanted his followers to worship him in "spirit" and "truth." Jesus wanted followers who honored him first from their hearts. 

Jesus was against those who spoke about honoring God, but their hearts were far from God--Jesus was against hypocrisy. Jesus was against those who were religious, but had no relationship with God. Jesus was against "putting on religious airs," Jesus was defined by being against those who were mere pretenders.

Our next post will deal with "learning how to set boundaries."

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