Choices + Boundaries

Letting go of controlling others freed me to be responsible to others, but for myself.

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// The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. -Psalm 16:5-9 //

When I was in undergrad, I did what many undergrads do - quickly read a book to write a paper, not synthesizing the information, because when will I need it?

Except, somewhat shamefully in my flesh but not in Christ, I was a Bible college student, so you'd think I'd somehow be better than that.  I wasn't.  And that's ok.  I've matured from that place now.

Two books I read in undergrad were Boundaries and Boundaries for Kids for my biblical counseling courses.  And I got an A on that paper, but I didn't synthesize the information.

So now that I'm a bit older, somewhat wiser, and wise enough (at least) to have mentors pouring into me (because discipleship matters), one recommended I bust out that old copy of Boundaries and re-read it.

It's been pivotal for me in my own walk these past few weeks, and I wanted to share one way it has been.

As a self-professed Type-A controller (in my flesh), I'm good for telling others what to do and then getting mad when they don't.  The 'noble' thing is I really do push others in what seems best for them, and usually they aren't moving in the right direction (to me) anyway, so what I'm doing is trying to be a good friend/husband/father/brother/son/grandson/etc.

Only it isn't impactful in a positive way - it only pushes people away the vast majority of the time.

So here I am, in the middle of reading Boundaries, and one principle really stood out to me:

We are responsible to others, but for ourself.

I am not responsible for the outcome of other's lives.  Yes, I care, and I want what I see as best for them, but I must respect their decisions, even if horrible in my site, because I want them to respect mine, even if horrible in their site.

I am responsible to others to speak truth in love, and best when they ask for my advice instead of unsolicited.  Who loves a telemarketer, anyway?

Others are not responsible for my life, and I am 100% okay with this.  I want to be independent and follow Jesus alone for the direction of my life.

Others are responsible to me to speak into my life as I invite them in for discipleship.

Really, this can be summed up as discipleship requires invitation.

Even Jesus doesn't force Himself on us.  We have to invite Him into our lives and our hearts.

So who am I to be more forceful than Jesus?

One way I've implemented this is by giving others choices so they do not overstep my boundaries.  I'll say something to the effect of:

You can choose to do A, or you can choose to do B.  I'm uncomfortable with C.

This let's them know that no matter how badly they want Option C, I'm not okay with it, and if they love me they will let that be.  It also isn't telling them what to do - they can choose A or B, and if they step outside of that, they understand that I am uncomfortable and will limit my interaction.

Other's will judge.  They do.  They think you should let C be an option, or D-Z.

And hey, sometimes C might be what's best for you.  But if you aren't mature or ready to handle that, then you aren't.

And how am I dealing with people who I want to pick C for?  I'm praying for them.

When it comes down to it, I won't force myself beyond their comfort for the sake of losing our relationship but being 'right.'  Nope.  Instead, I'll respect their boundaries but pray that God can do what only He can do as they invite Him in.

And likewise, I pray that I'm following Him so that I don't become stubborn in being right and miss what is His best for me from someone He may be using to speak into my life.

But in it all, I now respect other's boundaries and set an expectation to respect mine, as well.

Michael Tatonetti