A myth can be defined as fiction that looks like truth. These myths have grown up around our boundaries. Myths are part of everyone’s belief systems. These myths “sound-like-truth.” John Bradshaw, a noted psychologist, stated that each person has a “normal”, and that normal belief system states whatever “IS” (exists) must be right. These preconceived ideas, values, and beliefs are formed from our childhood and past experiences. The same is true of our belief system about personal boundaries. Our boundaries are protective by nature and are defensive not offensive. Boundaries define who you are and who you are not. As a person practices healthy boundaries, others may begin to exhibit character flaws in their attempts to manipulate or use the person for his own agenda. Our personal boundaries are formed by the 2nd year of life. As we grow from childhood to adult many boundary-violators will cross over our boundaries. As this occurs, our personal boundaries are defined. These boundary invaders do not always have bad intentions, some have good intentions but damage to our property lines still occurs. Cloud and Townsend record eight common myths associated with personal boundaries. We get our myths from our family, church, theological foundations or our own misunderstandings. Consider which of the following sounds-like-truth that you have accepted as fact.
Myth #1 “I am being selfish.”
In dealing with this myth, you must understand the difference between being selfish and self-centered. Selfish in this context is “self-care.” Our needs are our responsibility, as is caring for the body God has redeemed. God tells us in 1 Corinthians that a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that we are not your own; we have been bought with a price. There is a stewardship responsibility of self-care of our bodies because it is His Spirit’s temple. This stewardship requires practicing self-care through personal boundaries. When we say “no” to harmful people and activities we are protecting Gods investment (2Corinthians 5:10). Self-centeredness puts “I” on the throne where only God should reign. It embraces the “me-ism” of our culture and human nature. This is the frame of reference most boundary-violators exhibit. It is acceptable to be “selfish” but not acceptable to be “self-centered.”
Myth 2 “I’m being disobedient”
As a Christian, we must take responsibility for ourselves. Many Christians fear that setting and keeping limits signal that they are rebellious or disobedient. Because of this myth, many people stay trapped in endless activities of no genuine spiritual or emotional value. People with shaky limits are often compliant on the outside, but rebellious and resentful on the inside. They are afraid to say “no.”Can boundaries be a sign of disobedience? Yes, we can say “no” to good things for the wrong reasons. Using “no” to help clarify, to be honest, to tell the truth about our motives is important. God is more concerned about our hearts than He is with our outward compliance. Remember saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” is lying.
Myth 3 “I will lose the love of others or be hurt by others.”
This myth ties in with our abandonment fears. Many people believe in the need for boundaries but are fearful of their consequences. People could become angry at our boundary, and attack or even withdraw from us. God has never given us the power or right to control how others respond to our “no.” Boundaries are the litmus test of our relationships. Those that respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, and our separateness. Those that cannot respect our “nos” are telling us they do not really love our “no,” only our compliant “yes”. This is not friendship but bondage.
Myth #4 “I will hurt others.”
If you hold this myth as true, you view boundaries as an offensive not defensive tool. Healthy boundaries do not control, attack or harm anyone. This can happen when someone projects their fragile self on the world and sees others as victims. In addition, this myth is often played out with parents and children and can be related to the Law of Sowing and Reaping. There is a distinct difference between “hurting” and “harming” someone. A simple example would be, it probably will hurt a child’s feelings to say “no cookie before dinner,” but it may harm a child health to say yes to have cookies before meals regularly. Thus, avoiding saying “no” because of hurting their feelings could contribute to harming their health. As you develop boundaries, they allows others you encounter, to develop their own godly character. This also allows others to take responsibility for their burdens (Gal 6:5) and to look elsewhere to get their needs met.
Myth #5 “Boundaries mean I am angry.”
Boundaries do not cause anger; anger is a signal finally noticed when we start to set limits. Anger urges us to move forward whereas fear urges us to retreat or withdraw. Anger tells us our boundaries have been violated, we are in danger of being injured or controlled. It also gives us a sense of power to solve our problem. It will energize you to protect yourself, your principles and those you love. Anger is an emotion, as all emotions it is a process to work through resolution of the issues involved.
Myth #6 “When others set boundaries it injures me.”
Because being on the receiving end of boundaries can be hurtful, we may vow not to hurt someone with our boundaries. Why is it such a problem to accept others boundaries? First, having inappropriate boundaries set on us can injure us, especially in childhood. Second, we must not project our personal injures on others, being careful not to read our pain into others. Third, consider the inability to receive someone’s boundaries mean there is an idolatrous relationship. Are you putting that person on the throne that should be occupied by God? Finally, not accepting someone’s boundaries indicates a problem in taking responsibility for your own life. Do you need to be rescued? In Mathew 7:12 God shares the Golden Rule, in everything do to others what you would have them do to you. Do you want others to respect your boundaries? Then you must respect theirs.
Myth #7 “But they have done so much for me.”
This is a major roadblock to boundary setting. The feeling of obligation. What do we owe our parents, friends, and anyone else who has been loving toward us? Feelings of obligation. Many people solve this dilemma by avoiding setting boundaries. Sometimes moving on from a church, a friend, a job would be the mature move but feelings of obligation keep us from moving on. One reason for this faulty thinking is that I received something, and now I owe something. This is a nonexistent debt. Any love, money, or time we receive should be accepted as a gift not a debt. What is really needed as a response to a gift is gratitude not indebtedness. A true gift has no strings attached and gratitude will move us to love others.
Myth #8 Boundaries are permanent and I am afraid of burning bridges.”
You must realize that your “no” is always subject to you. You own your boundaries and they do not own you. If you set limits and someone responds maturely and lovingly, you can choose to renegotiable your boundaries. You can change your boundaries when you are in a safer place. The Bible tells us, in both the Old and New Testament that renegotiating boundaries is an important action. Mature people renegotiate boundaries. Boundaries are resilient.
As you prayerfully search the Scriptures, you will gain a confidence that God believes in good boundaries more than you do.
(Adapted from Boundaries --Cloud & Townsend)
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