But the hardest part is not in the setting of boundaries, it is in the holding of boundaries.
There is much written on the need to set boundaries with harmful people. There is indeed a learning curve in learning to set boundaries. We need to understand that a good boundary is not a rule I place on someone else, but it is a decision I’m going to make given someone else’s negative actions. We need to understand how to make them without becoming the controller. We also need to understand what is appropriate and what is not. But the hardest part is not in the setting of boundaries, it is in the holding of boundaries.
There are two kinds of boundary-breakers; the first is the person who just wants what they want and will fight to get it, and the second is the person who will cross a boundary just because it’s there. Both kinds of boundary-breakers create unhealthy, destructive relationships.
When we finally get strong enough to set a boundary, we believe that if someone really loved us they would adhere to our boundaries. The truth is, true love does respect another person’s boundaries. A boundary-breaker is generally not loving but is self-seeking.
Holding a boundary starts by not getting offended at not being loved. Now, don’t get me wrong…someone who is not respecting your boundaries IS being offensive. But reacting out of a place of offense isn’t going to help you. We need to step into a place of love for the offender and hold our boundaries in kindness, because that is what is good for them and for you. And yes…you can love a person by saying no their desire. This may be the hardest thing you ever have to do in life.
Now here is where the rubber meets the road: the boundary-breaker isn’t going to like it. It’s not going to produce warm fuzzy feelings in them for you. In fact, they may tell you that you are being selfish, controlling, or manipulative. They may use anger, stonewalling, guilt, or manipulation to get you to change your mind. They may change direction and reject or blame you. But, the most important thing to do right here (as long as you are physically safe), is to hold the boundary; don’t apologize, don’t explain, don’t get angry, don’t recant…and have a confidence you are doing the right thing. If you are not physically safe to be able to hold a boundary, it’s time to make a safety plan.
Even if you can only project a confidence, while shaking in your boots, that will be good enough. You see, when you hold a boundary in anger, they will then turn the accusation to you and say, ‘well, she’s just mad and will get over it’ or ‘he’s got such a problem with anger’, and they don’t look at themselves.
Holding a boundary in love is a powerful force. It leaves the responsibility of reconciliation with the offender (to respect your boundary), while leaving the one offended in a loving and healthy place. When we set a boundary with a boundary-breaker, we must realize that at some point they will make us hold the boundary. So, we need to be ready and do it well.
Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement. A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.
I received this honest question in a text from a wife in a destructive/abusive marriage. It’s far too broad and wide to answer in a text so I am writing some thoughts here:
“How is it that my husband is supposedly the blamer/abuser, when I have been the one for years believing he is someone he is not and pressuring him to be that man?”
First, you may or may not have responded to your husbands blame and abuse perfectly. I don’t know of a single person who has always responded to someone else’s destructive behaviors perfectly…except Jesus.
But, I would ask you a few questions:
Has he led you to believe he is someone he is not? Has he said one thing and then done another? Has he said he would protect and care for you, but then been the most destructive person in your life? OR has he said to you, ‘I am a lazy man and I don’t want to engage as a husband and a father’ and you are ‘pressuring’ him to be someone he doesn’t want to be?
Secondly, who does the behavior serve? Does your ‘pressuring him’ take away his voice and his choice? Or are you pressuring him to keep his word to you? Are your expectations higher than what he is capable of? Is your ‘control’ because you want the power over him or is it that you don’t want to live under his control?
I think we can have certain ‘common courtesy’ expectations, such as: calling when they will be late, keeping their agreements, taking everyone’s needs/desires into consideration when making decisions, personal hygiene, listening and working on issues and not stonewalling, and please and thank you. These are things that are ‘common’ in our culture. To require common courtesy is not being controlling. They may have to be learned, but they are not too high of an expectation.
We ALL have done destructive behaviors. Every. One. Of. Us. Humans can be manipulative, selfish, and controlling. We want what we want when we want it.
Abuse = power and control in taking away someone’s choice and voice. Abuse is damaging to the human soul, psyche, mind, and body. We can even be abusive/destructive to ourselves and may need to learn healthy choices.
The follow up question she had was telling:
“I don’t understand his inability to do the simplest things. Like why should his hygiene even be something I have to bring up? I am fed up with him not even showering or shaving. When I finally get fed up and ask him to shower, he just ignores me. I feel like the only option I have left is to make him a spot in the basement to sleep. It feels like I am the controller.”
Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement. A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him. Give him options. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ statements. Rather than “you smell and need to take a shower”, say, “I don’t appreciate it when I smell you all night long. I understand that sometimes you don’t feel like taking a shower. When that’s the case would you please sleep downstairs?” He can always say no, and then you need to make a decision…you sleep downstairs with a space heater, go to a motel, buy a cot and sleep in one of the kid’s rooms, etc.
Remember, boundaries must be implemented kindly or they come across as you are the one with the problem. When you hold a boundary in outrage, they will discount your boundary because they think you are just acting impulsively instead of acting decisively. It can take a long time to learn to hold boundaries firm, confident, and kind, but when you are able to, it makes them far more effective. And yes…you can have boundaries! They rock! If when you hold boundaries it is met with further abuse, it is time to consider getting support and creating a safety plan.
Your original question is worthy to think through. It is possible to attempt to pressure someone to be what we want them to be rather than who they want to be. There may be desired expectations that need to be let go. But if your expectations have been communicated and agreed to or if your expectations are ‘common courtesy’, then finding your voice and implementing boundaries is not being a controlling person. It’s living in a normal relationship.
We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”. There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.
OK…In all honesty, the title is misleading. The truth is, you can’t make your spouse change. But I didn’t think you’d open this post if you saw the title as “Changing Your Spouse Is Hopeless.” That’s not what you want to hear. But wait…don’t close this post just yet…it get’s better I promise.
A place where relationships often get messy is in the concept of responsibility. We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”. There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.
I know of no place in Scripture that it declares that I am responsible FOR any other person. Even Adam and Eve each were held responsible for their own choices. It does say in scripture several times “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”, but that’s not saying that the children are responsible for the father’s sins, merely that there is an affect on the children. Overwhelmingly, Scripture is clear to “one another” each other with love, truth, service, peace, not judging, acceptance, burden bearing, etc. But the instruction is to ME, not for me to make sure you do it. As the saying goes, the only person I can change is me.
To focus on changing me requires having healthy boundaries, which is not creating walls or punishments for someone else. It’s also not putting a rule on your spouse that doesn’t “allow” them to do something. A healthy boundary is a decision I’m going to make for myself when someone sins against me.
I am only responsible for my thoughts, my opinions, my actions, and my emotions. But in marriage we sometimes feel responsible for our spouse. Where our responsibility lies is TO others in caring for and/or providing for them.
In Her Journey, a class helping women in domestic abuse situations, we learn a mantra of “I am responsible for me and you are responsible for you.” It really is that simple, but oh so hard to live out.
I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s emotions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to be considerate.
I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s actions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to act uprightly.
I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s habits that cause damage.
I am responsible TO my spouse to set healthy boundaries for myself.
I am not responsible FOR someone else breaking promises.
I am responsible TO myself to set healthy boundaries.
I am not responsible FOR my teenager’s demand for the latest thing.
I am responsible TO my teenager to provide necessities.
I am not responsible FOR my 2-year old’s temper tantrum.
I am responsible TO my 2-year old to not provoke him to anger through
coercion and threatening, but help them with his emotions through
discipline and instruction.
I am not responsible FOR my friend believing lies.
I am responsible TO my friend to speak the truth.
A husband is not responsible FOR his wife
A wife is not responsible FOR her husband.
They are each responsible FOR themselves TO one another.
God will not hold us responsible for our spouse’s behavior, but he will hold us responsible for ours (Gal. 6). And I don’t think it’s going to go too well for you if you point the finger and say, “but she’s (he’s) the one YOU gave me.”
Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no. Stay on your own side of the street. Be responsible for you. And THAT changes everything.
Whatever it looks like, we know it does not look like the Gentiles that ‘lord it over’ others, but serves (Matthew 20:25).
I think ‘authority’ has gotten a bad rap. The Bible speaks to both the purpose of authority and the abuse of authority. We tend to want to throw out the whole thing when authority has been abused. But that will only lead to anarchy.
The Gospel affirms that God’s plan for humans is not to keep them under His control, but to give them authority to write their own stories within God’s story. We also see that all authority has its purpose and its limits. Even God limited himself when he gave man choice in the garden. Whatever it looks like, we know it does not look like the Gentiles that ‘lord it over’ others, but serves (Matthew 20:25).
So, I did a little word search on the term ‘authority’ in the New Testament and tried to categorize the essence of the purpose of authority. Now I am aware that we can not have a full understanding of a topic simply by doing a word search, but rather we need to look deeper into the context and such. Still, I found this interesting…I think I’ll just leave this here for you.
Authority of Jesus
To Teach: Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22,27, Luke 4:32, 1 Thess. 4:2, Titus 2:15
To Heal: Matthew 8:9, 10:1, Luke 7:8, Luke 9:1,
To forgive sins: Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24
Over demons: Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15, Mark 6:7, Luke 4:36, Luke 9:1, 10:19
To serve: Matthew 20:24-28, Mark 10:43, Luke 22:26
To Be raised in 3 days: John 2:18, John 10:18
To give life: Luke 5:21, John 17:2, 1 Cor. 15:22,
To Judge (him alone): John 5:22, 27
To lay down his life: John 10:18
To show the Father to the world: John 14:5-14
Over all dominion, authority & power: 1 Cor. 15:24, Col. 2:10, Jude 1:25
Jesus has over the church: Eph. 1:21-22
Authority of the Father:
To set times and dates: Acts 1:7
To throw you into hell after death: Luke 12:5
Authority of husband/wife:
Mutual Authority 1 Cor. 7:4
Wife is not over a husband 1 Tim. 2:12
Authority as Christians:
To make disciples: Matt 28:17-19
To build up: 2 Cor. 10:8, 2 Cor. 13:10
Authority of Elders:
To speak and exhort and reprove these things* with all [i]authority. Titus 2:15
*instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age
To preach the gospel not in domination but appeal like a child: 1 Thess: 2:1-7
Keep watch over flock so as to give an account: Heb. 13.17
To command sanctification and love: 1 Thess. 4:2
Authority of humans:
To earn money from work: 1 Cor. 9:1-11
Authority of the Devil:
World’s Kingdom of Authority & Splendor: Luke 4:6
Authority of the Government:
To tax: Luke 20:26, Rom 13:6
God’s servant for good: Rom 13:4
To arrest: Acts 9:14
To govern: Rom. 13:1
To provide a quiet & tranquil life for citizens: 1 Tim. 2:1-3
To bring punishment on a wrong doer: Rom. 13: 4, 1 Peter 2:14
Authority of the Chief Priests:
To arrest & persecute: Acts 26:10,12 (this was reprimanded by Jesus)
The Psalms are full of examples to us of being honest in our emotions with a faithful God who cares for us. There also is an entire book named for one particular emotion to example to us how it’s done: Lamentations.
Emotions are a vital part of our humanness. Yet we tend to either justify our over-reacting to our emotions or we shut them off. But understanding and being honest about our emotions is imperative to our relationship with God, others, and even ourselves
For those who become overwhelmed by an emotional experience, it’s good to quiet the body, mind and soul and ask, ‘what is this emotion really about?’ While we shouldn’t excuse our behavior because of our emotions, neither should we tell our emotions to simply ‘shut up’. Our emotions are telling us something very important. They are telling us I desire, I hurt, I’m tired, I am afraid, etc.
For those who have suppressed emotions, it’s good to practice quieting the body, mind, and soul and ask, “what am I really feeling right now?” We can often get caught up in suppressing our emotions because we don’t know what to do with them. The result is dying to our emotional/spiritual side altogether. Unfortunately, when we suppress our emotions it tends to come out sideways whether we want it to or not, in the form of anxiety, depression, control, and addiction.
We need to be able to feel the feels in honesty. Bringing our emotions to our minds allows us to own our decisions and take responsibility for our lives. It enables us to accept the things we cannot change and have the courage to change the things we can.
The Psalms are full of examples to us of being honest in our emotions with a faithful God who cares for us. There also is an entire book named for one particular emotion to example to us how it’s done: Lamentations.
It is good to acknowledge our feelings for what they are. But feelings can also lie to us, telling us we are guilty when we are not, telling us we are a lost cause when we are not, or telling us life is hopeless when it is not. So, asking ourselves honestly, ‘what is this feeling about?’ and living out courage to change the things we can, is the only way we can live authentically before God and with others.
What can our feelings tell us?
I am wrong: Really thinking through this is important. There is a difference between ‘I am wrong’ and ‘I did something wrong’. The truth is you might have done something wrong, in which case God has provided ways to clean up the mess through accepting responsibility, confession, and making amends. If the thought is ‘I am wrong’, then understanding your true purpose and identity in life is taking steps to freedom.
I grieve: Grief is one of the worst feelings because there is absolutely nothing that can be done with the loss. But loss is supposed to hurt. There is no way to heal from grief unless you go through it. If you try going under it, over it, or around it, you will get stuck in it.
I desire: Desire can be good or bad, depending on what you are desiring. It will help to know if it’s a good desire by asking, what need is it fulfilling in me? What will be the fruit of obtaining it? Desiring peace is a good thing unless you are giving a tyrant what they want.
I’m tired: Am I tired because I’m running from my emotions? Am I over-achieving? Being self-reliant? Is there a change I can make in order to rest?
I fear: Fear is good if you are standing near the edge of a cliff. But fear is not good if you have to be in control of everyone around you in an attempt to have the perfect life. Ask what is this fear about? What evidence is there that this will become a reality? Is this mine to control?
I’m sad: Sadness is not the same as depression. It’s a missing of something vital to our lives. It means we are still alive and have desire. It often means we have the capacity to love and care still. Acknowledging our sadness allows us the ability to grieve the loss.
I’m angry: There are some things that we should be angry about. Naming the anger is the first step. But we can’t excuse destructive behavior even when our anger is justified. So, finding out how to move toward a solution is a healthy response to our anger.
I’m not safe: It’s good to listen to your gut if you don’t feel safe. By acknowledging this emotion you can then make a safety plan. But, believing that there is no one who is or no place that is safe means there’s some healing work to be done.
Brene Brown has written that when you refuse to acknowledge negative feelings you shut down all of your feelings. You cannot be selective in shutting down only some of your emotions.
Burying these emotions (and many others) will only produce destructive elements in your life. Acknowledging them, asking what the emotion is about, and having the courage to make any necessary changes will lead to emotionally healthy spirituality.
When my focus isn’t about me, as much as loving the world around me, it somehow comes back to give me a healthy self-esteem.
I have opportunity to speak with many people about the struggles of life. Often, at the very root of it, is a false belief of “I have no value”, “I am worthless”, or “I have nothing to offer”. Women, particularly beautiful, gifted and kind women, struggle to see their beauty because it feels prideful to see it. This belief causes depression, ruins relationships, and stops them before they get to the starting line.
I’d like to offer a word picture that is a mentally beneficial place to stay in terms of a healthy self-esteem. Picture yourself as one ray coming off the sun and God as the ball of fire. When we can see ourselves this way, we can acknowledge the uniqueness of our ray, while recognizing the beauty of it is coming from the ball of fire. The ray’s purpose is to bring light and heat to the world. Each ray is a unique expression of the ball of fire and therefore one ray cannot compare itself to any other ray. Every ray is vital, because if there were only one ray of light and heat to the world, it would be a very cold, dark and colorless world. It also allows us to celebrate every ray.
I developed a certain mantra in my later teens, which I believe has served me well for many years; do what I can, with what I got, and move on. It has helped me to not take myself so seriously. It’s not good to hide my ray underneath a shroud of worthlessness waiting for the world to discover it. But it is good to take whatever natural qualities I have been created with and develop them. I am to study well, foster hobbies, mature character, nurture health, and dress for success. And then shine my ray (which stems from the ball of fire) to light and heat the world around me. It therefore, becomes less about me, and more about seeing how God shows up and does amazing things. When my focus isn’t about me, as much as loving the world around me, it somehow comes back to give me a healthy self-esteem.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, if you are looking to others to find acceptance and validation, you open yourself to an insatiable vortex that can never be filled. You also open yourself up to be manipulated and coerced by those who also have an insatiable vortex within them. There will always be some who don’t want what you have to offer. There will be others who ridicule and demean what you have developed. Your self-esteem takes care of itself as you use your gifts and talents to light and heat the world, but not if you become someone else in order to find approval. Remember, Jesus WAS perfect and there were those who hated him, so you have to figure you won’t be able to please everyone.
Psalm 139 is a beautiful psalm which speaks to how God is intimately acquainted with you, having formed you in your mother’s womb. And in Eph. 2:10 that God created you for good works. It was the intention of God to create you specifically.
1 Cor. 12 shows that we are individually members of a body, with unique gifts. We are not individuals apart from others, but we are individuals in concert with others. But, when you try to find your identity through effort to appease others in relationships, work, appearance, possessions, or reputation, you are not offering your identity but you are allowing your identity to be stolen.
You also don’t have to be the most talented, the smartest, or the most dynamic person on a given subject to be able to offer it to others. You can’t compare, because you have been placed in a particular time, in a particular place, in a particular setting to heat and light your world. Accept the fact there will be others who are more attractive, wiser, have more talents, and have insanely dynamic personalities. Be inspired by them. Then, move on…to love the world around you.
If you know someone (or ten someones) who might struggle with feeling worthless or just a lack of purpose, would you consider sharing this with them to encourage them. The world needs their ray. The world needs your ray.
What this means is we can’t judge a heart by the trial.
Recently, I saw a tweet from Diane Langberg which said this:
“You can do right and still have everything turn out wrong. I am not certain where we got the idea** that was not so, given that the One we follow and call God did do everything right and ended up treated with gross injustice.”
**She is addressing the belief that if I am doing the right things, then I should have a blessed life and if I am suffering then I have done something wrong. We want to believe we can control our fate by being good.
This is a powerful statement, which deserves some thought. Her point here is very valid…Christ was always perfect, and He was treated with gross injustice. However, I think there are three main reasons why we wantto believe that the blessings in our life indicate we are righteous, and the curses in our life indicate we are in sin.
First, the Bible indicates it. Deuteronomy is called The Book of the Law. It tells us about how God set up the spiritual laws of the universe. It tells us what to do and how to do it. In chapter 28:2 it says, “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God.” And then it lists for the next twelve verses the many blessings we will received if we obey. Then in 28:15 it says, “If you will not obey the Lord your God, all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” And it goes on for the next twenty-nine verses the many curses we will endure if we live in sin. This is indeed a general principle that is true.
So, it goes to follow that if I am experiencing negative consequences in my life, it is at least worth the question to myself, “is there something I am doing that could be inviting this curse upon me?”
But let’s remember there is more than one chapter in the Bible to base our understanding on.
We Love Justice
The second reason we believe our actions produce a specific result is we love justice. We love justice because this is a character of God. We want to know what the rules are so we can get what we want. If I do the right thing and suffer it’s not fair.. Nobody loves a story where the weak gets assaulted, robbed, and defamed and that’s the end of the story. We forget there is an enemy in this world that brings sickness, strife, and temptation. We forget we have been given choice and we choose things that God would not choose. And while God IS a just God and He will make right every wrong, there is nothing to indicate He treats everyone the same.
We Want To Be In Control
To protect ourselves from the thought that we could be innocently assaulted with a curse, we construe blame on victims and think they must have done something to deserve this. This gives us a feeling of safety and control. The cancer victim must have eaten poorly, or the poor must not know how to work, or the rape victim must have been scantily dressed. Our minds race to find some cause so that we can avoid this fate for our own lives. But the story of Job indicates that even the righteous endure hardship at the hand of Satan.
So, how are we to look at it when we experience deep sorrow and hardship?
Keep our eyes focused on our own stories
First, the story of Job reminds us that we can’t really know what is going on in someone else’s story, we so need to keep our focus on our own stories. Job’s friends were shown to be fools, because they opened their mouths to try and figure out why Job was going through tremendous anguish.
God doesn’t stop trials
In the story of Job, God is the one who points out Job’s righteousness to Satan (Job 1:8, 2:3). God also repaid Job ten times what was taken from him. God does not protect him from experiencing the pain. If the Spirit does not convict us, then we can have a confidence our suffering is a not a result of our actions. We can then also be assured that God will restore blessing to us many times over.
Deut. 23:5 “The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.”
1 Peter 2:19 “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.”
Trusting Has Three Elements
#1 Trusting doesn’t mean we are stuck in suffering
It is a kingdom agenda to relieve suffering! We look for cures to cancer, we flee danger, and we comfort the afflicted. If we can do something about our situation, then by all means we move toward relieving the suffering. It is not ‘more holy’ to suffer.
#2 Trusting doesn’t mean we will not suffer
It is a kingdom agenda to grow through suffering. There are many things we can’t change and Scripture speaks to the suffering God’s people will endure. I have often heard people say, “I will trust that God loves me so this bad thing won’t happen.” But that’s ultimately trusting in the outcome not in God. We need to learn to say, “no matter what happens, I trust God loves me and whatever suffering I endure God will bring good from it.”
It is good to ask the question, “am I doing something that would bring this negative consequence into my life?” If the answer is yes, then by all means we need to repent and change our ways. But a valid answer could be, ‘no, to my knowledge I have not brought this on myself.’ Or, another equally valid answer is, “I am suffering this fate because I have done the right thing.”
#3 Trusting through the trial
The thing is, God doesn’t stop hardship or sin in this world; rejection, sin, catastrophes, trials, sickness, and death still happen. He is faithful to us in the middle of those hardships, but not in taking them away. He is faithful to give us His peace, perspective, patience, hope, and joy as we move through them.
He brings good out of the troubles of this world as we trust Him. And if we don’t trust Him through those trials, (we hold onto control, fear, anger, blame, etc.) I’m not sure He does bring good out of those troubles. And personally, if I’m going to go through a trial, I’d rather have good come from it than dung.
What this ultimately means is we can’t judge a heart by the trial. A person could go to jail (a negative consequence) because they have exposed and stood against evil (a righteous deed). A person could have an accident (a negative consequence) because they are serving their neighbor (a righteous deed). Or a person could be sick (a negative consequence) because we are in a spiritual battle (a righteous deed).
So, my hope is to judge myself (only) by doing what I believe God is calling me to do, according to Scripture. If my conscious affirms me and I am yet experiencing a negative consequence or a curse, then I trust God knowing that my suffering will one day become gold.
Diane Langberg’s quote is spot on. The cross our proof.