Our family has a camp on a river, but to get to it you have to drive through some mountains and down some steep mountainsides. It’s always a bit unnerving when you’re at the top of the mountain and look down hundreds of feet into the valley. We’re never quite as aware of guard rails as when there are no guard rails to stop a vehicle when it’s most needed. It helps to have guard rails and signs to keep you on the road and going in the right direction. Chapter 5, Ten Laws of Boundaries, is all about setting up a group of “laws” to abide by to have healthy boundaries. Cloud and Townsend relate an individual who grew up with no boundaries to an alien who lands on Earth and can’t understand society’s laws. Everything that is normal and correct for the alien just isn’t correct on Earth and he has problems everywhere he goes. By adopting these laws, you can make a big difference in the relationships with those around you.
Law 1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping
The first law mentioned in the chapter is one of the most basic laws found in nature, only applied to our lives and interactions with others. Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” While Newton was talking about how objects in the physical world interact, this law applies in many of life’s other areas. The choices we make, the actions we take, the people we choose (and sometimes don’t choose) to associate with and the words we speak all tend to obey this principle. When you change the world around you, the world will react in accordance. Sometimes though, when the world is reacting, someone or something else gets in the way and interrupts the consequences (good or bad) of your actions. Establishing healthy boundaries helps ensure that everyone involved receives the proper and intended consequences of their actions.
Law 2: The Law of Responsibility
The second law given by the authors relates to responsibility and often the lack thereof. In short, we’re not supposed to be responsible for each other. Rather, we’re to be responsible for ourselves in what we say, what we do, how we feel and how we think. When we try to be responsible for someone else or someone else “must” be responsible for us life will not be good for both parties involved. In loving others, we’re certainly supposed to treat others how we want to be treated (loving our neighbors as ourselves as it were). We’re to be responsible for ourselves and our growth to continue to live a life that’s pleasing to God. However, we’re not supposed to take the responsibility of others’ for themselves away from them. This will certainly hinder their growth.
Law 3: The Law of Power
At the root of responsibility lies a concept that many take for granted. It’s an assumption that you are a free moral agent, and you have the power to change your life for the good or otherwise. The third law that the authors bring to our attention concerns power. At the heart of it, there are many people who are not aware that they’re intended to have power over areas of their life. Although you may not have power over your problem, you have the power to realize and admit your problems (as confession). You have the power to turn your problems and lack of control over to God. Additionally, you have the power to ask God and others to help show what is either inside or outside of your control and boundaries. As you move deeper into understanding of these problems, you find the power to turn away from the problems (as repentance). Finally, you have the power to make amends for wrongs that you’ve done and you have the power to ask God and others help you overcome boundary injuries you’ve been dealt.
By understanding what is within your power (that’s everything inside of your boundaries), you realize what you don’t have power over (that’s everything outside of your boundaries). Closely related to law #2 (the Law of Responsibility), we can’t change others since they fall outside of our boundaries.
Law 4: The Law of Respect
Have you ever heard the old saying “respect is a two-way street”? Well, it is the embodiment of the fourth law here as well as most places that respect is needed. In regard to boundaries, it is really simple: We must respect other’s boundaries if we expect them to respect our boundaries. Just as it’s a big “no-no” to have someone try to set our boundaries and what we’re comfortable with, we shouldn’t expect to set others’. As much as we hate when other people tell us “no”, it’s even worse when other’s won’t accept our “no” without an argument. To abide by this law, you must be able to travel both sides of the street regularly.
Law 5: The Law of Motivation
The fifth law has much to do with the “why” behind our interactions with others. We must genuinely be motivated by an overflowing of freedom, love, gratitude and respect. Otherwise, we’re going to burn out no matter what we’re doing. There are many motivations that we need to search out, understand and replace if we want to fully enjoy life. Fear is one of the primary factors that unstable and even volatile relationships are built upon. If we fear losing others, losing their love, their anger, ourselves being lonely, or even fearing that others will love us less if we say no; we rob ourselves of the freedom we’d have if we could set those boundaries. Additionally, there are other motives that need to be uprooted. If we’re dealing with guilt (internally seeking to feel good or externally from others), seeking approval from others around us we can all too easily give up our freedom in exchange for the feelings of others. By allowing God to help you remove the fears and worries of others, you can establish proper boundaries to ensure that other people “don’t drink your well dry”.