Good boundaries, make good people…

by Rod Smith

dsc_0642Literal boundaries, like fences, walls, and lines on the road, surround us. Others are unseen, like the acknowledgment that a couple is a couple. People give couples “room” to be a couple even though there is no line or visual demarcation declaring them to be a couple. An internal boundary is “the line I draw” that will not allow me to steal, shoplift, or randomly hit people who annoy me.

Boundaries acknowledge necessary separateness. They assist with space and definition. They provide clarity, – all necessary components of individual growth, development, and the provision of wellness for the whole.

Boundaries keep us apart, and together, by keeping us healthily apart.

A very simple illustration: every time a vehicle is on the road a driver must obey (honor, acknowledge) many rules, and respect many boundaries or, of course, accidents occur, build up occurs, people are injured, and things are damaged. The same is true with people and within families, churches, businesses, and communities.

Even trees — and I know the analogy is not perfect! — if planted too close together, cannot grow to full height. If they are too far apart, their unified capacity to provide shade is limited. People who are too close, and people who are too far apart, cannot express their full potential.

People are unique (distinct, separate) and when that uniqueness is honored and respected, relationships flourish, people’s skills and talents come alive. Everyone’s enriched. When personal boundaries are ignored or violated, people suffer. Ways that people ignore the boundaries of others are through disrespect, through having false or unrealistic expectations of each other, and through assuming upon each other, or taking each other for granted.

Respecting an emotional, psychological, or physical boundary is the recognition of the simple truth that people (even married couples) remain unique individuals. Healthy relationships do not rob a person of his or her uniqueness, no matter how much love or “closeness” there is. Every person has his or her own body, his or her thoughts, his or her feelings, his or her dreams, desires, and separateness. When these distinctions are honored and respected, then the choice to be in a relationship and the choice to love is that much more profound.

Boundaries empower people to love with freedom. Unhealthy boundaries make (force, coerce) people to “love” from force, intimidation, domination, and manipulation.

Good boundaries help people to love each other, respect each other, to be closer to each other in ways that are helpful to everyone.

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2 Comments to “Good boundaries, make good people…”

  1. The American justice Dept. have recently approved the power of yoga and meditation vide a recent judgement in the American court.” Man Who Slapped Wife Sentenced to Yoga, It’s Anger Management, Says Judge.” First there was house arrest. Now there’s yoga. A judge ordered a man convicted of slapping his wife to take a yoga class as part of his one-year probation. “It’s part of anger management,” County Criminal Court at Law Judge Larry Standley said of the ancient Hindu philosophy of exercise and well-being. “For people who are into it, it really calms them down. ” Standley, a former prosecutor, said the case of James Lee Cross was unique. Cross, a 53-year-old car salesman from Tomball, explained that his wife was struggling with a substance abuse problem and that he struck her on New Year’s Eve during an argument about her drinking. “He was trying to get a hold of her because she has a problem,” Standley said after the court hearing. “I thought this would help him realize that he only has control over himself.” The sentence came as a surprise to Cross, who was told to enroll in a class and report back to Standley on his progress. “I’m not very familiar with it,” Cross said of yoga. “From what I understand, it may help in a couple ways, not only as far as mentally settling, but maybe a little weight loss.” Darla Magee, an instructor at Yoga Body Houston in River Oaks, said she would recommend that Cross take a basic yoga class emphasizing breathing and including a variety of postures — forward bends, back bends and twists. “Yoga can help us to get rid of many emotional issues we might have,” she said. “It’s a spiritual cleanse.” Prosecutor Lincoln Goodwin agreed to a sentence of probation without jail time because Cross had no significant criminal history http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/2365341.

  2. Well said.

    I’d just like to offer a suggestion on how to pragmatically apply the concept to the real world…

    I find applying good boundaries is best done as a conscious choice from a scale of escalating consequences from words, to action, isolation.

    Initially: Ask for what you want – don’t be silent if something upsets you.

    Explicit Encouragement (upon a single failure): Reiterate what you want and ask them to respect your words.

    Follow-Up (upon a pattern of failures): Reiterate what you want and include an immediate natural consequence if they do not adhere to your boundary.

    Implicit Encouragement (upon a single immediate further failure): State that you asked for what you wanted and asked them to respect your words and warned them about consequences of failure and so you don’t expect them to be upset now you impose the consequences on this occassion, but you look forward to them learning from the experience and modifying their behavior in the future; then impose the consequences without fail.

    Follow-Up (upon a continued pattern of failures): Reiterate what you want and include a consequence that involves isolating yourself from the risk if they do not adhere to your boundary.

    Implicit Encouragement (upon a single immediate further failure): State that you asked for what you wanted and asked them to respect your words and warned them about consequences of failure and warned them about the escalating consequences so you don’t expect them to be upset now you impose the consequences of isolation in the future; then impose the consequences without fail.

    If applied consistently in a kind, constructive, optimistic fashion, the degree of boundary enforcement should form the intuitive cornerstone process in your relationships, including that with yourself.

    Just remember, consistent failure drives you rapidly up the scale, consistent success drives you down the scale and fosters forgiveness for isolated incidences of failure.

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