The simple question remains, “Why do we choose to remain in these patterns of boundaryless behavior?” Perhaps, it’s because there have always been boundary problems and they’re just now being “unearthed”. Maybe it’s because we’re not quite fully matured into adulthood and are struggling in the transition. Whatever it is, there’s no better time than now to start addressing boundary issues.
The first place to look has deep roots and long-stretching limbs. It’s the old Family Tree. Even if you have been able to identify behavior that needs to be adjusted to have healthy boundaries, simply being around the family who raised you can send you “back in time” to how things were then. We automatically act out of our memories and previous routines/habits rather than the growth we’ve worked for to change and turn away from those unhealthy habits. Some of these behaviors that are unhealthy for boundaries include a “lack of consequences for irresponsible behavior, lack of confrontation, lack of limits, taking responsibility for others instead of yourself, giving out of compulsion and resentment, envy, passivity, and secrecy.”
The second area that we need to look at is the condition of our heart in that when we become adults, we separate from the family who raised us and are adopted into God’s family. What this means is that we’re to obey our heavenly Father over our human family here on Earth. We’re not to become tied up in old traditions and sinful ways that lead us away from God. This doesn’t mean that we’re to cut all ties with everyone but God and those who are serving him. However, our first priority is to serve him and obey the rules of His family. This family’s rules are found all throughout scripture. If we’re not living by the rules of God’s family, we’re going to have more problems in this life than we would have we been living by said rules.
Now, the next step is being able to resolve boundary problems with family members. Just as a person who is getting sick will notice the symptoms of their sickness, we’re to take notice of the symptoms we’re experiencing. We need to ask ourselves, “Where have you lost control of your property?” This will get us started.
After identifying the symptoms, we need to think about Jesus’ question in Matthew 7:3 which says “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” At this point, using the symptoms we’ve been feeling go through the Laws of Boundaries (Chapter 5) and see which are being broken. We’ve established the problem.
With the problem in mind, we need to then identify the unmet need that is the root cause of the boundary issue. Just as a starving animal would not normally be vicious, an unmet need will cause a lot of problems. We must realize that an unmet need from our family growing up can now be met in God’s family.
An unmet need must be met otherwise it’s a “want”. It good to have the unmet need identified, but action must take place following this. Whatever the need is in your life, reach out to God’s family to find the fulfillment of it. This is what was being talked about in Chapter 2 (“Good In, Bad Out”) regarding letting the good things for you in through the gate of your boundaries. This will likely be the 1st step physically being acted upon as the steps before this are only thought about.
The importance of having a support group who is also in God’s family really shines at this point. It’s now time to practice saying “no” and exercising your boundaries with them. These are people in your life that you know will love and respect you when you say “no”. Avoid those with whom you have had boundary problems in the past (abusive, neglectful, controlling, manipulating, etc…). If and when the time comes to try to rebuild a relationship with those who have hurt you, don’t go alone. Bring along someone in your support group who can help pull you out if you’re being drawn back into a controlling or abusive relationship.
As hard as it is, it’s now time to forgive those who have hurt you. If you choose not to forgive those who hurt you, it only truly harms you. It’s far better to receive grace and love from God and let it fill your heart rather than waiting for a family member who hurt you fill it with an admission of guilt or an apology. Think of holding onto the desire for revenge or a need for a confession from them as a treasure chest attached to your boat and the boat of whoever hurt you. You’re both tied together because of it. That desire wants to see them haul that chest to the surface, open it and give you the gold they owe you. That treasure chest sure looks great from the surface. However, the chest is filled with rocks and sand… cut it loose and move on, let them be tied to that anchor.
The next thing to look at is the difference in how we respond to boundary violations. There is a HUGE difference between responding and reacting. When we react to someone pushing against our boundaries, someone else is in control of us. If you’ve ever heard the old saying “you really know how to push my buttons”, this is a fairly accurate depiction of this response. On the other hand, when we respond to someone pushing against our boundaries, we maintain control of the situation. When we react and fly off the handle, we lose. When we respond and keep options and choices available for what’s best for us, we win.
Finally, we must take the time to love properly. Two of the best words in the English language make an appearance here: love & freedom. When we’re first starting to build up our boundaries, we may go into a protective mode where we’re afraid to do things for others. However, as with most things in life, it’s not what you do, but rather why you do it that counts. When we do something for someone else, it needs to be out of love, without a sense of guilt or resentment and because we chose to do so. This is the freedom to love that will nourish and strengthen our boundaries over time.