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Apr 12
Shirley Goodman

Is there a Course of Recovery for Poor Boundaries?

Posted by: Shirley Goodman

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As you prayerfully search the Scriptures, you will gain a confidence that God believes in good boundaries and expects us to exercise them. Boundary conflicts will happen in all areas of your life. These conflicts can occur with your spouse, children, extended family, friends, co-workers, yourself or God. To be proactive you must develop a course of action that leads to healthy boundaries.  It is said that a dream is a goal without an action plan. It is important to think and dream about better boundaries, then develop and implement a plan of action to improve your boundaries.

Cloud and Townsend share 10 basic steps to recovery that works in all boundary conflicts in our lives.

  1. Identify Sickness—as in all recovery programs there must be an acceptance that “I have a problem.” Denial of the truth only keeps the person stuck in the old habits and patterns that have led to anxiety and other unhealthy results. Are you tired of symptomatic relief that works only for a short time?  God wants us to go for the cure.  
  2. Make Connections—no one can heal in a vacuum. God designed relationships and there is little healing outside of connection with others. We must have a relationship with God and His people. First, connect or re-connect with God and find a safe group of Christian that will listen and hold you accountable.
  3. Identify your Need—what are the issues (needs) beneath your boundary issues. Why do you need others to approve of you? Why is it so hard to say “no”? Or feel as if  you always have to say ‘yes’ to certain people? Why are you a fixer? Pleaser? Rescuer? Is it a critical parent or person from your past you are trying to please? You must identify the underlying needs reflected in your poor boundaries.
  4. Receive the Good from Others—Accept the grace of God from His people. To move forward you must receive from safe people both understanding and love. Reach out and embrace the love and friendship extended from God’s family. Taking a risk by being  open and honest (exposing the hurtful secrets) to safe people will help you realize you are accepted and loved in spite of your secrets. Isolating oneself only deepens the unhealthy aspects of our lives.
  5. Acknowledge Roots Issues and Grieve the loss— as we identify the underlying cause of our poor boundaries (many times rooted in our childhood) typically someone has injured us in some way. It can be a well-meaning parent, relative or care giver. It could be a teacher, friend, neighbor or a bully. Injuries do happen and affect us when we are most vulnerable in our formative years. We must grieve the losses in order to progress on. I had to acknowledge that my mother because of her mental illness would never be capable of loving me. I had to grieve the loss of never experiencing my mother’s love. I spent much of my life of trying to please others so they would love me. Trying harder and being ‘better’ was never enough. We must acknowledge our loss, exposing it to the light of relationship with others, grieve it (death of a dream) and then you will have the God given healing and freedom to progress on with your life.
  6. We must Forgive—an unforgiving heart causes bondage and slavery to ones soul. We must forgive those people past and present that injured us in some way. We must come to grips with forgiving others and ourselves for the past. Your painful past will be unique to you, nevertheless everyone must acknowledge the injury, forgive the perpetrator, grieve the loss and allow God to heal and you will progress on.  Forgiveness is letting go of destructive people in your past.
  7.  Take Ownership of the Problem—as children we learn how to play, the “Blame Game” it’s not my fault, someone else made me do it. Denying our part in the issues facing us. There comes a time in every person’s life you must take responsibility for the condition you find yourself. We take responsibility for the things we caused and things that were part of our legacy from our past.  The parents cause the divorce issues but the child reaps the consequences of their behaviors. As a child becomes an adult, he must own the problems associated with his parents divorce if he hopes to heal. Abuse, divorce, death, etc., all create boundary injuries and issues that play out in our lives today because  no one has a perfect childhood. This is part of belonging to the human race in our fallen state.  It may not be your fault but it is your problem now. Each individual needs to own the good and bad fruit produced in our lives.
  8. Begin Saying “NO” to the Bad—for boundaries to work it must have a loving environment to grow. As you start to practice your ‘no muscle’ always begin with safe people. Do not confront the most toxic person in your life. Work at making more connections with safe supportive people. Remember God tells us to make are yes’ yes and our no’s no. When you say ‘yes’ and want to say ‘no’ you are a liar. Begin with safe people, as you gain strength and freedom you will start to develop boundaries in all areas of your life.
  9.  Expect Failure—accept failure as a sign you are finally in recovery.  It takes time to mature through practice. Don’t look back as Lots wife did, keep your eyes on the prize of healing and health.
  10. Return to Step 1-- Don’t let failure discourage you; let it propel you to work harder. Remember as in all recoveries, healing and health is a process not an event. Start the steps over again.

For an in-depth study and understanding of boundaries, and how to develop and maintain them, I highly recommend reading or participating in a group that studies  Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book BOUNDARIES, When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life.

Our goal as Christians should be to establish appropriate and biblical boundaries to glorify God with our lives. God admonishes us in Proverbs to 'guard our hearts, for everything you do flows from it (4:23)'. These spiritual boundaries help to define, guard, and maintain our soul. Setting boundaries and maintaining them is hard work, and you will  find it is well worth the work as you experience true freedom.

(Adapted from Boundaries --Cloud & Townsend)

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Comments (1)

Thank you so much for this article.
by adam on Sun, 03 Jun 2012 - 13:31