Pages 48-60 (Chapter 3 – Boundary Problems)

  • people who don’t respect others’ limits also have boundary problems
  • boundary problems are by no means limited to those who “can’t say no”

Compliant: Saying “Yes” to the Bad

  • this type of boundary conflict is called compliance
  • Compliants are chameleons
  • 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.
  • 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 total dependent on another
    • Fear of someone else’s anger*
    • Fear of punishment
    • Fear of being shames*
    • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish*
    • Fear of being unspiritual
    • Fear of one’s overstrict, critical conscience*
  • 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. (1 Cor. 8:7)
  • When we give in to guilty feelings, we are complying with a harsh conscience.
  • God wants us to be compliant from the inside (compassionate), not compliant on the outside and resentful on the inside (sacrificial).
  • Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid.

Avoidants: Saying “No” to the Good

  • It’s the inability to ask for help, to recognize one’s own needs, to let others in.
  • Avoidants withdraw when they are in need; they do not ask for the support of others.
  • The impermeable boundaries of avoidants cause a rigidity toward their God-given needs. They experience their problems and legitimate wants as something bad, destructive, or shameful.
  • Compliant avoidants suffer from what is called “reversed boundaries.” They have no boundaries where they need them, and they have boundaries where they shouldn’t have them.

Controllers: Not Respecting Others’ Boundaries

  • Caring for someone so that they’ll care back for us is simply an indirect means of controlling someone else.
  • Controllers are also limited in their ability to take responsibility for owning their lives. Having relied on bullying or indirectness, they can’t function on their own in the world. The only remedy is to let controllers experience the consequences of their irresponsibility.
  • Controllers are isolated. People stay with them out of fear, guilt, or dependency. If they’re honest, controllers rarely feel loved. Why? Because in their heart of hearts, they know that the only reason people spend time with them is because they are pulling the strings.

Nonresponsives: Not Hearing the Needs of Others

  • While we shouldn’t take on the responsibility of others’ feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, we do have certain responsibilities to each other.
  • He isn’t responsible for her emotional well-being. But he is responsible to her. His inability to respond to her needs is a neglect of his responsibility.
  • “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (that last phrase “in your power” has to do with our resources and availability)
  • “so far as it depends on you”: we can’t bring peace to someone who doesn’t accept it!
  • we are responsible to care about and help, within certain limits, others whom God places in our lives. To refuse to do so when we have the appropriate resources can be a boundary conflict.
  • Those with a critical spirit towards other’s needs (a projection of our own hatred of our needs onto others)
  • Those who are so absorbed in their own desires and needs they exclude others (a form of narcissism)
  • God wants us to take care of ourselves so that we can help others without moving into a crisis ourselves.
  • Functional boundaries refers to a person’s ability to complete a task, project, or job. It has to do with performance, discipline, initiative, and planning.
  • Relational boundaries refers to the ability to speak truth to others with whom we are in relationship.
  • Many people have good functional boundaries, but poor relational ones; that is, they can perform tasks at quite high levels of competence, but they many not be able to tell a friend they don’t like their chronic lateness. They reverse can also be true. Some people can be absolutely honest with others about their complaints and dislikes but be unable to get up for work in the morning!

*Yup. I recognize these! This is why whenever someone tells me I’m “nice,” I have mixed feelings of being pleased and sadness! I like being nice, often it does come compassion and care but I have also often said yes to plenty of things out of these feelings instead. I think I’ve gotten better at this, but I also see a long way to go.

I definite identify with the compliant/avoidant descriptions. Also, the distinction drawn between functional and relational boundaries was really helpful to see. My brief self-assessment is that I have much better developed relational boundaries than functional, although I feel I can still improve much in both areas! I think the biggest hurdle for me right now might be to recognize and sort out what in my thoughts is legitimate and what is coming from a harsh conscience.