Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Been thinking a lot about boundaries lately. As the Colts proved twice during the Super Bowl (this is a contest between two sports teams; perhaps you've heard of it?), it can be a tough call to make, even after the flag is thrown, as to whether someone has crossed a line. This is true for relationships as well as football (and now we've hooked the men AND the women in our introduction; that's good writin', y'all! Now if I could just find a picture of Kelvin Hayden's foot nearly touching that white line....).

So think: have you found yourself on the wrong side of someone's boundaries recently? Or found them crossing yours?

I'll share my answer to the 2nd question here; the 1st one may require more probing on your part (possibly over dinner, on your tab).

I participate in a Yahoo group that came about when a message board was being shut down by the Christian magazine that hosted it, and one of the regulars started this "lifeboat" so those interested could continue the discussion. We're kind of like the survivors on "Lost," only we have easier access to shower facilities.

Anyway, one very eager participant in the message board who followed the faithful few to Yahoo has now been shut out of our small "club." His offense was that he tended to use any statement as a takeoff point to hammer his favorite one-point cautionary sermon on a very personal subject (you guessed it--sex; specifically sex outside of marriage). No matter how many times he was rebuked by the other participants for his inappropriate finger-wagging to people who already agreed with his stance (many of whom probably knew more than him about the subject), he never seemed to understand how he was not only preaching to the choir, he was interrupting choir practice to do so. His behavior seemed to go beyond being socially clumsy to being downright nuts at times. Plus his spelling and grammar were atrocious, which makes a bigger difference if writing is the basis of your interaction with someone.

Since he insisted on bringing his ranting into the Yahoo group even after being warned, the person who had started the group--a very sensitive woman--finally did the unpleasant task of ejecting him from the discussion. Most of us were supportive though some were less so, with some cyber-drama ensuing.

This "recent unpleasantness" (as the genteel diehard Confederate sympathizer referred to the Civil War) made me think of a book called "Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life" by Dr. Henry Cloud.

Here's an article by the same name by the author and his business partner that covers the basic points of the topic.

The article's authors make some very insightful comparisons between proper and improper behavior regarding various lines of demarcation between an individual and other people. "Boundaries give us a sense of what is part of us and what is not part of us, what we will allow and what we won’t, what we will choose to do and what we will choose not to do."

I heard from either these guys or elsewhere that people who were spoiled are aware when they're being selfish or rude, while people who were deprived or mistreated are not aware, because they haven't been taught (by the way they were treated) proper boundaries. This helps me understand when others offend me, and to keep my own feet on the right side of the chalk lines.

There could be a very humanistic application of the principles in this article--"don't let anyone treat you as if you're anything less than #1!" This would preclude voluntary self-sacrifice, including that of Jesus. But self-sacrifice is not spiritual if we are unable to do anything else (that's codependency), so it's a worthy topic.

Also, I think a couple of statements in the article could use some clarification, such as under "Thoughts" when they say "We need to give people the right to their own thoughts and interpretations and not try to change them." I think it's safe to assume they are referring to a situation where you refuse to accept that someone disagrees with you even after you've presented your views and discussed it. Otherwise this would have to rule out pretty much all communication, since it is made up of attempting to impart knowledge (every bit of which "changes" our view of the world if only in a small way) or persuade opinion, including everything from sermons to friendly arguments (and including this blog). So I'm sure that's not what they meant. Similarly, a songwriting hero of mine, Pierce Pettis ("You Move Me") says emphatically we shouldn' t "preach" in a song, but rather affirm the truths people are already aware of; but this would make Bob Dylan a bad writer, as well as Pierce himself, and that's definitely not true in either case.

The other point that might need to be clarified is under "Body." The authors do not bother to mention that there are certain times when "crossing over boundaries" in that arena is voluntary and quite welcome (sometimes darn exciting) and therefore a good and blessed thing. I'll trust I don't need to be any more specific on this.

So, again, how's YOUR game? Seen any yellow hankies at your feet lately? Or been the cause of any? Either way, thank God for grace when it's your offenses under the scrutiny of the instant replay. Penalties can be hell. (Guess that's 5 yards for roughing the metaphor).

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