“You can’t control behaviour,
but you can control consequences.”
This quotes comes from the authors of the awesome book “Boundaries” by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.
Boundaries are an interesting topic. Loved by some, hated by others, boundaries are – in the very least – a good litmus test of the health of a relationship (or a person in it). If I put up boundary A with someone I love, and they respond with malice and spite, and are offended by my boundary, I now know that there are some issues of power and control at the heart of that relationship. If I am being loved, valued, protected, and respected in a relationship, then a boundary should be something that I am encouraged to put up. If it’s not understood, a healthy person will ask genuine questions to gain understanding.
I read a great analogy on the “Boundaries” Facebook page a few weeks ago that has been rolling around in my head since. It was talking about how a boundary is like a fence that we put up around our property. What is inside that fence belongs to us, and as such, we have a say as to what happens there. As a silly example, I’d prefer if you didn’t pee on my lawn. You can pee on the lawn outside of my fence – I have no say as to what happens there – but if you choose to pee on the inside, I will no longer allow you inside my fence.
The interesting thing, is that a healthy person will realize that they are the one who has caused themselves to not be allowed inside the fence anymore. An unhealthy person will blame the person who put up the boundary, and say it is their fault they are no longer allowed. Now, if you’re not wearing a shirt, and the store requires you to wear one, is it the store’s fault you have to remain on the street? Or is it *your* choice not to adhere to the standards set by the owners of the property that you want to enter into? The funny things is, a simple change of behaviour would allow that person back into the property (ie: not peeing on the lawn, or putting on a shirt).
An unhealthy person will not only make you responsible for their choice to continue in the disrespect that put them outside your fence, they might even go so far as to make you feel guilty and put a lot of negative pressure on you due to the boundary you’ve set out. A lot of people in this situation take the bait, and to avoid the discomfort that has been created, will change their boundary and allow the person to come on in and pee on their lawn again. Never mind, you’re right. I was the problem. Come on in and do whatever you’d like.
Now, the other person knows they have won, and can continue in the disrespectful behaviour on your property. They thought you were the problem all along, and now you’ve just finally seen the light.
The question is: How many yards has this person been peeing on? Maybe dozens. And you may be the only person in his or her life who has put up a fence and set out a clear consequence should the standards you have for your property be breached. So clearly, you are now the problem. “Bob doesn’t care if I pee on his lawn!” Well, that’s fine. Go to Bob’s house to do that, it’s not okay here.
Now obviously, most of us don’t have people clamouring around our yards wanting to pee on our lawns. But we all have people in our lives who expect to treat us however they’d like, and we just keep the fence open. “Come on in and treat me like crap!” I’ve even heard people say, “well, Jesus was walked on. So we should be too”. Jesus died for the sins of humanity as a fulfillment of prophesy and to save us. It wasn’t an issue of relational disrespect. Jesus DOES however, tell us to be holy. And part of being holy is being loving and truthful. Allowing continual, unrepentant disrespect to keep happening without saying anything is neither of those things. It’s not loving to enable someone to continue hurting you – or others – without saying something.
Everyone has an example of their life of someone who comes in and pees on their lawn. I want to encourage you to be okay to put up a fence and protect your emotional property. It’s okay to have a say as to what happens to your heart. “You can’t control behaviour, but you can control consequences.” You might lose family, you might lose friends. But you will have peace inside that fence, and people in your yard who truly love and respect you unconditionally. You will have truth, and honesty, and love, and respect. And that fence is always open for people who are willing to come in and be nice.
I know that I want to be the kind of person who is welcome and safe to be inside other peoples’ yards. And I also know that I want to model to my children not only the putting up of boundaries, but also the respecting of boundaries. And the only way to do that is to walk it out as best I can, armed with His love and grace.