In life we go through day to day interactions with a variety of people. Depending on the day of the week and our commitments, we have many dialogs and conversations. In the midst of conversations and interactions we get put into positions to either ask or be asked to do things. It is just part of life. We listen and we talk. We attempt to encourage, support and assist.

One of the biggest challenges many people have is when they are asked to do something. It most likely impacts us all. When we are asked to do something we really would not just volunteer to do, or want to do, but because we are asked, we oblige.  In the business world it is referred to as “complying” or “compliance”.

Compliance: the action or fact of complying with a wish or command.  A tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way. Cooperation and obedience.

The opening question lays it on the table…
Do you think you are compliant in nature? Do you cooperate well with others? Do you think you might have some challenges when to comply and when not to comply?

This type of challenge with boundary conflict is called “compliance”. Compliant have fuzzy and indistinct boundaries; they “melt” into the demands and needs of other people.  We might have significant compliant boundary issues with certain people. Our parents, our children, boss or spouse.

Compliant people tend to like the same restaurants and movies their friends do “just to get along”. They minimize their differences with others so as not to rock the boat. Compliant people are like chameleons. After a while it’s hard to distinguish them from their environment.

The inability to say no to the bad is pervasive. Not only does it keep us from refusing evil in our lives, it often keeps us from recognizing evil. Many compliant people realize too late that they’re in a dangerous or abusive relationship. Their spiritual and emotional “radar” is broken; they have no ability to guard their hearts.

This type of boundary problem paralyzes peoples’s “no muscles”. Whenever they need to protect themselves by saying no, the word catches in their throats. This happens for a number of different reasons:

  • Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
  • Fear of abandonment and separateness
  • A wish to be totally dependent on another
  • Fear of some else’s anger
  • Fear of punishment
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
  • Fear of being unspiritual
  • Fear of one’s overstrict, critical conscience

What are some of your reasons for being compliant? Is there certain people that you are compliant with more than others?

The last fear is actually experienced as guilt. People who have an overstrict critical conscience will condemn themselves for things God himself doesn’t condemn them for.  As Paul describes it: when a conscious is weak, it is susceptible to being violated. Afraid to confront their unbiblical and critical internal parent, they tighten appropriate boundaries.

When we give in to guilty feelings, we are complying with a harsh conscience. This fear of disobeying the harsh conscience translates into an inability to confront others — a saying yes to the bad — because it would cause more guilt.

Biblical compliance needs to be distinguished from this kind of compliance.  In Matthew 9:13 God clarifies that he desires “compassion, and not sacrifices”. In other words, God wants us to be compliant form the inside out (compassionate), not compliant on the outside and resentful on the inside (sacrificial). Compliant people take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid.

What are you afraid of when it comes to setting healthy boundaries in your life?