In Chapter 7 - Boundaries and Your Family - I found this chapter to be fascinating (especially given the recent history of my husband and his parents).
The first tidbit that really made me stop and start questioning my life was the following: “…boundaries define someone’s property…[People who make outside choices but not inside emotionally free choices do not really ‘own themselves’]. People who own their lives do not feel guilty when they make choices about where they are going. They take other people into consideration, but when they make choices for the wishes of others, they are choosing out of love, not guilt; to advance a good, not to avoid a bad.”
The first thing I started questioning of course (since this chapter is about family) was how I felt this applies in my life. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again…I feel like my parents did a pretty good job in allowing me to set boundaries in my own life. The reason I feel that way is because the few times where I feel that they did push my boundaries, really stand out to me in my memories. Most of the time, I remember feeling comfortable and that I had a good degree of personal freedom. Obviously that was within reason, and they did help shape my boundaries, but they also let me establish them for myself. (Thanks for that, btw, APs of mine!).
So, my parents, not a problem. Now, having said that though, that feeling of not “owning” my own life, is one that I have experienced. And so that really made me kind of sit and pay attention as I have been trying to pinpoint with whom I feel that my boundaries need some work.
In Chapter 9, which deals with Boundaries and the Spouse, I found this statement to be very powerful: "...a boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person. You are not demanding that your spouse [or friend, co-worker, family member, etc] do something--even respect your boundaries. You are setting boundaries to say what you will do or will not do. Only these kinds of boundaries are enforceable, for you do have control over yourself. Do not confuse boundaries with a new way to control a spouse [or other person]. It is the opposite. It is giving up control and beginning to love. You are giving up trying to control your spouse and allowing him to take responsibility for his own behavior."
I know I've talked about this a little bit in earlier posts on this book, but I still think this concept is the most pivotal one of the book. Boundaries can't control other people. Boundaries allow you to "own" yourself - control yourself. You set your limits, you make your own decisions, and you deal with the resulting consequences hence forth.
While I am not going to say that I have a perfect marriage, my husband and I have worked very hard together to try to set boundaries with one another. I don't think we ever termed them boundaries before, but we have always worked towards trying to be honest with one another, communicating clearly and fairly with each other, not expecting the other person to fulfill the unspoken need. Now, as I shared with a friend a few days ago, I don't always succeed at that! But we do work towards that end. He cannot fulfill me. He also cannot read my mind and know what I need. And it is unfair of me, unloving of me, to punish him (be angry with, sulk over, etc) for that.
Chapter 10 is a chapter that I think I will be revisiting quite a bit once we start our own family as that is the one dealing with boundaries and children. While I've known a lot of this before, I don't think I've ever had anyone really connect some of the dots for me as clearly as this book has. It's more like I've known a number of somewhat unrelated yet very important points in various relationships that are finally becoming clearly related for me. They all deal with boundaries.
In Chapter 12 which deals with Boundaries and Self, there was another idea that I just have to throw out there. The authors' are talking about how, since the Fall, man's instinct is to withdraw from relationship to deal with things ourselves when something goes wrong. The authors' challenge this idea because our relationship with God is also just that, a relationship. In withdrawing from relationships, we withdraw from Him. And at that point we're depending on ourselves - not the greatest of ideas!
A second idea that really stood out to me in this chapter was this notion of just telling yourself "no" when dealing with personal out-of-control boundary problems. "Just say, 'no', Choose to Stop", "Make a Commitment to Never do it Again." These phrases aren't that helpful. "The problem with this approach is that it makes an idol out of the will, something God never intended. Just as our hearts and minds are distorted by the Fall, so is our power to make right decisions. Will is only strengthened by relationship; we can't make commitments alone...If we depend on willpower alone, we are guaranteed to fail. We are denying the power of the relationship promised in the cross. If all we need is our will to overcome evil, we certainly don't need a Savior."
Once again, can I say, "Ouch!" Self-reliance is definitely an approach to living that is pushed by our society. But I can't, if I call myself a Christian, be truly self-reliant. Because my "self" is flawed, fallible, and broken. And it is only with a relationship that I can succeed. No wonder we're all falling apart.
The last chapter in this section, Boundaries and God, also deals with this concept of being dependent on God. In one of my earlier posts, I addressed this a little bit, but here in this chapter, it comes back even more. God sets boundaries. God respects our boundaries. It is up to us to open up our boundaries to include Him. But in doing so, we also have to respect His boundaries.
"Boundaries are inherent in any relationship God has created, for they define the two parties who are loving each other...boundaries between us and God are very important. They are not to do away with the fundamental oneness or unity that we have with him, but they are to define the two parties in unity. There is no unity without distinct identities, and boundaries define the distinct identities involved.
"We need to know these boundaries between us and Him. Boundaries help us to be the best we can be--in God's image. They let us see God as he really is. They enable us to negotiate life, fulfilling out responsibilities and requirements. If we are trying to do His work for Him, we will fail. If we are wishing for Him to do our work for us, He will refuse. But if we do our work, and God does His, we will find strength in a real relationship with our Creator."
And that is one of the most powerful concept of being in a relationship with God.