Monday, October 11, 2010

Boundaries - by Cloud and Townsend

I've been reading through this new book - and I'm very intrigued. But, I'm not finished with it yet - only about 1/3 of the way through - so, I'll have to hold off final judgment for now. I'll send out a "part 2" review of the rest of the book at a later date.

The sub-title of the book is: Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life. And while the idea of looking into "when to say yes, when to say no" is very interesting to me, (a person who says "yes" too often) the "take control of your life" makes me cynical : uh-oh. here-comes-a-counselor-with-a-bunch-of-fluff. And, I have to say - so far this book does need to be taken with a grain of salt (doesn't everything?). He has really got on a soapbox preaching about "reaping what you sow" - which I think he misinterprets and mis-applies. And sometimes the authors sound like an after-school special. But some of the ideas here are very interesting, and my curiosity is peaked.

The authors start off with an example of a working mom who gets bullied by her boss, manipulated her mom, neglected by her husband, even taken for granted by her kids. She will go along with what they want, but then silent resentment and alienation will grow over time.

Then the authors attempt to define boundaries and discuss the reasons why people may struggle to be healthy in this area. Limiting time is a type of boundary. As the authors say, "What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can't change them or make them behave right." p.43 Telling someone that we won't spend a lot of time with them is an example of setting a boundary; whereas if we let that person manipulate us into spending a lot of time together, we would be guilty of poor boundaries.

They give another example for a person who may struggle with saying "no" too often. They write, "Many people do not take ownership for how they resist love. They have love around them, but do not realize that their loneliness is a result of their own lack of responsiveness. Often they will say 'Others' love can not 'get in'. This statement negates their responsibility to respond." p.48

They discuss parental boundaries too. For example: "Good parents have fun with their toddlers who jump on the bed. Poor parents either quench their children's desire by not allowing any jumping, or they set no limits and allow them to jump all over Mom and Dad's orange juice and coffee." p.69 That is a great short example of what the authors are talking about - the poor parents in this sentence either say "No" too much, or "Yes" too much.

The main point being made so far in this book is that we should not be passive and go with the flow that
is set by someone else. Instead we should take responsibility for our own actions (or lack thereof). As Christians we are called to follow God's will and love others; but we are not called to be passive pawn-pieces - God wants us to have some responsibility and take some action. It's important to have a good grasp on the doctrine of human agency for this book - without grace and dependence on God, we are a branch without a Vine. But, understood properly, human agency is biblical and within God's plan for us. Someday, we will be accountable for our own actions and we won't be able to blame others for what we did or did not do. As Christians, this is not about self-enpowerment - but something deeper; an active walk with God. As the authors write:
 "Consider the parable of the talents. The ones who succeeded were active and assertive. They initiated and pushed. The one who lost out was passive and inactive. The sad thing is that many people who are passive are not evil. But evil is an active force, and passivity can become an ally of evil by not pushing against it. Passivity never pays off. God wants us to be active, seeking and knocking. We know that God is not mean to people who are afraid; the Scripture is full of examples of His compassion. But He will not enable passivity. The "wicked and lazy" servant was passive. He did not try. God's grace covers failure, but it cannot make up for passivity. We have to do our part. The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good result; evil will triumph." pp.99-100

Something that helped me recently on this topic is this passage: " 22Blessed are you when men hate you,
      when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. 26Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." from Luke 6. It sucks when we have to do the right thing and have people hate us for it; but it is our fear of other people's opinions that will cause us to have poor boundaries - which is way more messy and painful in the long run.

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