Fearless Friday: Boundaries: Why are they healthy?

Jul 23, 2010 by

Life has a unique share of struggles.  When I was registering to move into this apartment back in March, I told the lady helping me, “My life pretty much sucks right now.” Her answer, without hesitation was, “Whose doesn’t?

But as part of my development as a person out of my previous way of living, I’ve found the most important thing I’ve been able to do for myself is to set some new boundaries and enforce them to no end.  And I’m getting healthier by the day because of it.

Boundaries, the book

You see, I finally came to better understand, largely through reading Dr’s Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s 1995 book, Boundaries, that in many ways previously in my life, I didn’t have good, solid boundaries.

Over the past few months and more so the past few weeks, I’ve really begun to see this more and more and as a result, I’m putting them into palce.

One of the healthiest realizations is that I don’t have to put up with hurtful comments or tormenting.  My counselor of many years has been trying to teach me to “not engage,” when verbal or written sucker punches have been thrown.  That’s such a hard thing to learn.  But it works and for a long time I’ve needed to do it more.

Where you end and I begin

I’ve not read this book, Where you end and I begin, by Anne Katherine, MA, on boundaries yet, but the title message seems much more definable than just Boundaries–though in fairness, the word BOUNDARIES is all over her cover, too.

In short, I need to help better define this because I get run over when I do not, and my life gets sadly out of control, making me feel helpless in the end.

Reading Boundaries, by Cloud/Townsend has me contemplating all sorts of scenarios.  “Ew.  Do I allow that?  Ew.  Why do I put up with that?  Hey, I don’t have to.  I can put an end to this baloney right now.”

You can and NEED to have boundaries in your life, whether we’re talking about work, marriage, friends, parenting, phone usage, alcohol, drugs, your home, car usage by teens, computer surfing, looking at porn, eating, dieting, direct sunlight and on and on and on.  Because when you don’t put up limits, when you encounter those who do not observe boundaries, they come bounding through what your brain/heart is telling you is too much and then you find yourself retreating, suffering, abused, scared, threatened, harassed, over burdened, resentful, fat, anorexic, with skin cancer, acting like a Congressman with an out of control spending problem, an alcoholic, a drug abuser, addicted to porn, alcohol, sex, etc.  None of those sound like real swell ways to live.

Safe People

Just as important as having these boundaries, you need to enforce them and recognize people who won’t recognize your boundaries.  In Cloud/Townsend’s book, Safe People, there’s a whole discussion on this.  The primary point is, if others won’t respect your initial boundaries, you put up more to keep them from coming in.  If they still won’t respect them, you lock them out. Period. This can range from getting a new place to live, to keeping yourself isolated from the one who overruns your boundaries, to cutting off or limiting contact, and even contacting the authorities and seeking legal protections.

The more I delve into thought about the book Boundaries, (and hey, there’s a workbook that goes along with it,) the deeper I think about this.  I’ve started to analyze relationships in my life that have gone astray.  Were they because of my/our lack of personal boundaries, solely because of my own issues, solely because of the other party’s boundary issues, or something completely beyond, and instead, those not observed by third parties?

The way many of us have been brought up, it’s easy to say it’s all someone else’s fault.  But in my own personal circumspection, I’m truly seeking to identify my personal contributions and short comings so that I can use this time to also do the fixing I might need.

The Law of Sowing and Reaping

For those of you who consider yourself a Christian, it’s pretty clear in the Bible that God lays out the laws of cause and effect in his own words in Galations  6: 7-9  where it’s said, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

It’s clear and simple:  For every action, there is a reaction and if you’re out doing bad and evil, in the end, the Devil is going to get you, the life you lead will all come to ruin and rot.

We’ve all heard the Biblical quote from where Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. (2 Thess. 3:10)” That’s a hard thing to enforce some times.  But it’s such an important boundary, too.  It is not God’s intention that a capable person be sitting around waiting for the world to provide them with everything, just because they’re there.

To me this seems like it’s become an epidemic problem of many in today’s American society.  Too many people have the expectation that they are entitled, that they need not try to find work, that they should just be provided for not matter what.  And this creates a huge divide between the productive in our society and the slough.  And sadly, society more than not these days, protects the sloth, in the form of our big government, that grows at such an astronomical rate that we are almost certain to continue to suffer the consequences of our social society.

The future

I do not know what tomorrow holds for me, but I know that with the passage of time, I grow closer to the understanding of a need for greater boundaries in my life.  From my place on the hill looking out over our nation, it seems like many/most of us need to reassess what proper boundaries we need in our lives to make them more healthy.   There’s so much pain and suffering out there that could be avoided if we’d just erect some boundaries and keep that which doesn’t belong in our lives, out.

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3 Comments

  1. Donny this is a great post and I imagine it was therapeutic as well. I wanted to add a thought as a Christian that many may also know and think about. The Lord’s prayer discusses this same issues “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” Boundaries.

    Make sure you ask for forgiveness for crossing boundaries of others as they also cross your boundaries. A good message to go with these thoughts.

    Throw away the shovel and keep climbing my man.

    • Donny Claxton

      Thanks so much for the additional perspective, Jim. You’re spot on in what you said. It’s not a one way interaction and I need to also be seeking forgiveness as well. Great point.

  2. Cindy

    Donny,
    Great information! I need to get Safe People and dig out my Boundaries book. Gave me something to think about.

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