Saturday, March 7, 2009

Boundaries Part 3

Apparently, I am compliant avoidant. As I delved into chapter 3 of Boundaries, I found much of interest in there, only two points of which I will discuss here: The compliant and avoidant persons.

Compliant people are ones who say “yes” to things. They “have fuzzy and indistinct boundaries; they ‘melt’ into the demands needs of other people. They can’t stand alone, distinct from people who want something from them….They minimize their differences with others so as not to rock the boat. Compliants are chameleons.”

The first thought I had about this is that I would love to do a case-study of TCKs and find out how many of them fall into this compliant category. After all, we are the masters of being chameleons. We flit from culture to culture, group to group, somehow needing to find a way to fit in…and being a chameleon is often the easiest and least painful way.

“Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid.”

Have you ever seen the movie “Mean Girls”? Lindsay Lohan is in it (when she was still cute and not slutty). That movie cracks me up and also makes me cringe simultaneously. If you’ve never seen it, the short synopsis is a TCK moves from being home schooled in Africa all her life to going to a public school in the US. The movie is about her struggles with finding a way to fit in and discovering the lengths to which she is willing to go to fit in, particularly with the popular crowd. It makes me laugh because there are lines in it and pieces of it that are just my life. Her confusion about pop culture references and such is very realistic. It makes me cringe because, although she goes to the extreme, her strong need to fit in and her chameleon act to do so are very familiar.

The second thought I had is that, on retrospect, while I do have tendencies towards compliancy, I think it’s also something I have fought against being for a long time now. Sadly, that fight often leaves me feeling uncomfortable because I then find myself standing away from the crowd, but I always feel more secure about myself when I’m not pretending things just to make other people like me. If I’m really being honest, I think the person I am most compliant to, at least at this point in my life, is myself—or at least my rather strict, overly critical conscience. I thank the Lord for a husband who has really helped me overcome this, but it is something I struggle with on a regular basis.

“People who have an over strict, critical conscience will condemn themselves for things God himself doesn’t condemn them for…Afraid to confront their unbiblical and critical internal parent, they tighten appropriate boundaries. When we give into guilty feelings, we are complying with a harsh conscience. The fear of disobeying the harsh conscience translates into an inability to confront others—a says yes to the bad—because it would cause more guilt.”

Now, those of you who have ever been on the receiving side of my temper know that there are times I have no problems with confronting people. But the truth of the matter is that I reign my temper in very sharply, and I think in some ways, that has actually hurt me. I’ve learned to (mostly!) control my temper, but I don’t think I ever learned (although this is changing of late) the balance of still being able to really confront others when necessary. I need to learn what the authors called “Biblical compliance.” Essentially, biblical compliance is to be compassionate (or compliant) from the inside out not compliant outwardly and resentful inwardly (sacrificial).

Hand in hand with the whole compliancy issue is that of those who are avoidants. People who are avoidants tend to struggle with asking for help, recognizing their own needs, and letting people in. “Avoidants withdraw when they are in need; they do not ask for the support of others.” I know that this is something that I do. It’s something I’ve tried to learn to fight against, but my first tendency when I’m struggling is to just internalize it and deal with it myself.

But, as the authors say, “God designed our personal boundaries to have gates. We should have the freedom to enjoy safe relationships and to avoid destructive ones. God event allows us the freedom to let him in or to close him off (Rev. 3:20).”

So, there you have it. An honest confession of where I think my boundary problems stem from. Now the question is what to do about them?

For those interested, the other two boundary problems described are those who are Controllers (manipulative and aggressive – they do not respect other people’s boundaries) and those who are nonresponsive to the needs of others.

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