Just like a good counterfeit specialist, we have learned the truth, and that will benefit our ability to see things false. This week we complete chapter 6 of Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, titled “Common Boundary Myths”. What a powerful chapter title that is. The myths outlined in this chapter seem so fresh and real. They seem to be used daily in many of our social circles; if not at us, definitely around us.
Myths are lies that look like truths. Many truths have grown up around boundaries. Whatever the source of the myths – our family backgrounds, our church or theological foundations, our own misunderstandings – let us prayerfully review some of the most common myths that follow.
1. Setting Boundaries means I am selfish (107)
The difficult myth to dispel is the accusation that having boundaries actually makes us selfish. That we turn from the loving others and focus on ourselves. The ability to have healthy boundaries actually increases our ability to care about others.
What is the difference between needs and wants?
When have you not wanted what you’ve needed?
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:12-13 ESV
How does Paul’s needs get met in the above scriptures? What is Paul’s response?
2. Setting Boundaries is sign of disobedience (109)
This myth causes countless individuals to remain trapped in endless activities of no genuine spiritual and emotional value. We need to realize that actually the lack of boundaries is often a sign of disobedience. People who have shaky limits are often compliant on the outside, but rebellious and resentful on the inside. They would like to be able to say no, but are afraid. So they cover their fear with a half-hearted yes.
People fear losing people’s relationships if the say no. That if they disappoint someone they are the bad person. What if the other person had unreasonable expectations, who is to blame for their disappointment? How would the person with unreasonable expectations learn from their mistakes and adapt if everyone around them is compliant with their expectations.
An internal “no” nullifies an external “yes”
God is more concerned with our hearts than he is with our outward compliance. If we say yes to God or anyone else when we really mean no, we move into a position of “compliance”, and that is the same as lying. Our lips say yes, but our hearts (and often our half-hearted actions) say no.
Have you ever been in a situation like the example of Barry and the Sunday school teacher? What was the result? What was the challenge? What would have been a better approach?
We need to always monitor our motives to obey, to love and to be responsible. We must always say yes out of a heart of love. When our motive is fear, it is not love.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18 ESV
God has no interest in our obeying out of fear.
3. If I set boundaries I will be hurt by others (111)
Many of us truly believe in boundaries, but we are terrified of their consequences. It is a fact that others may become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us. God never gave us the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it, some will hate it.
Do you have an example of how setting some boundary in your life as caused someone to be angry with you, attack or withdraw?
We cannot manipulate people into accepting our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Those people in our lives that can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who cannot respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our no. They only love our yes, our compliance.
If everything you say is loved by everyone, the odds are good that you’re bending the truth.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. – Luke 6:26 NASB
4. If I set boundaries I will hurt others (114)
If this is a belief you have, it may be that you see boundaries as an offensive weapon. Nothing can be further than the truth. Boundaries are a defensive tool. Appropriate boundaries don’t control, attack, or hurt anyone. They simply prevent your treasures from being taken at the wrong time. Saying no to adults, who are responsible for getting there own needs met, may cause some discomfort. They may have to look elsewhere. But it doesn’t cause injury. Even when someone has a valid problem, there are times when we can’t sacrifice for some reason or another.
The bible has a variety of examples of defining and protecting boundaries:
22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. – Matthew 14:22-23 ESV
For we are each responsible for our own conduct. – Galatians 6:5 NLT
Clarification & Justification for Community
We all need more than God and a best friend. We need a group of supportive relationships. The reason is simple: having more than one person in our lives allows our friends to be human. To be busy. To be sick. To be unavailable at times. To hurt and have problems of their own. To have time alone.
Then, when one person can’t be there for us, there’s another phone number to call. Another person who may have something to offer. And we aren’t enslaved to the schedule conflicts of one person.
Do you find yourself sometimes relying too much on one person for your discipleship? Can you see now how that is unhealthy for you as well as that one person?
5. If I set boundaries it will mean I am angry (115)
When people begin to tell the truth, setting limits, and taking responsibility, an “angry cloud” follows them around for a while. They become touchy, and easily offended, and they discover a hair-trigger temper that frightens them.
Emotions and feelings have a function. They tell us something; they are a signal.
FEAR – tells us to move away from danger
SADNESS – tells us that we’ve lost something
ANGER – opposite of fear, tells us to confront danger
Anger tells us that our boundaries have been violated. Anger also provides us a sense of power to solve a problem.
Anger does not understand time. Anger doesn’t dissipate automatically if the danger occurred two minutes ago – or twenty years ago. It has to be worked through appropriately.
Confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. – James 5:16 NLT
Otherwise anger simply lives inside the heart. It is often years of no that that were never voiced, never respected, and never listened to.
Years of constant boundary violations generate great anger.
As we develop a sense of biblical boundaries, we develop more safety in the present. We develop more confidence. We are less enslaved to the fear of other people. As we develop better boundaries, we have less need for anger. This is because in many cases, anger was the only boundary we had.
The more biblical our boundaries are, the less anger we experience! Individuals with mature boundaries are the least angry people in the world.
Does this shed more light on the emotions of anger? The impact of violated boundaries and how we can have empathy and compassion for angry people?
6. If others set boundaries it injures me (119)
Having someone say no to our request for support leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It feels hurtful, rejecting, or cold. It becomes difficult to conceive of seeing limits as being helpful or good.
Having inappropriate boundaries set on us can injure us, especially in childhood.
When having conflict with one significant person can bring us to despair, it is possible that we are putting that person on the throne that should only be occupied by God. We should never see one other person as the only source of good in the world. It hurts our spiritual and emotional freedom, and our development.
It is crucial to develop several deep, significant relationships. This allows those in our lives to feel free to say no to us without guilt because we have somewhere else to go. When we have someone we can’t take no from, we have, in effect handed over the control of our lives to them.
An inability to accept others’ boundaries can indicate a problem in taking responsibility. Some people become so accustomed to others rescuing them that they begin to believe that their well-being is someone else’s problem. They feel let down and unloved when they aren’t bailed out. They fail to accept responsibility for their own lives.
7. Boundaries cause feelings of guilt(122)
One of the major obstacles to setting boundaries with others in our lives is our feelings of obligation. Many individuals solve this dilemma by avoiding boundary setting with those to whom they feel an obligation. In this way, they can avoid the guilty feelings that occur when they say no to someone who has been kind to them.
Have you held back setting boundaries with certain individuals out of a feeling of obligation? Like you owe them the right to not have boundaries with you?
8. Boundaries are permanent & I will burn bridges (124)
It’s important to understand that our no is always subject to us. We own our boundaries. They don’t own us. If we set limits with someone, and she responds maturely and lovingly, we can renegotiate the boundary. In addition, we can change the boundary if we are in a safer place.
Which one of the myths seems to be your biggest challenge? How will you be facing these challenges in a different way?
In your quiet times this week mediate on healthy boundaries; ask God to give you a sense of confidence that he believes in good boundaries more than we do.