Biblical Answers for Boundaries and Asseritveness

The Biblical Principles of boundaries, covenants, and assertiveness (from the book Principles for Life)

When chaos exists, it is either because there are no boundaries, laws, rules, or agreements; or because people have refused to follow those boundaries.  This problem is typified in the Bible in Judges 17:6 through Judges 21:25 where it states, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was  right in his own eyes.”  In this situation people try to control and manipulate each other in order to get their needs met.  Whoever is strongest wins.  When people feel controlled, they are offended and rebel, making more control necessary.  When these kinds of problems exist, the Bible resorts to a solution called a covenant.  God’s laws are the boundary lines of His covenants with Abraham, Noah, Israel, and with us.   If we obey them, we will be blessed.  If we violate them, we will suffer consequences.  Boundaries or covenants are a primary method for externally controlling our actions in life.  To be assertive is to respect others boundaries, set and defend your own healthy boundaries, and to do it in a way that causes the least offense.  This is the skill everyone of us must develop if we wish to have and maintain a peaceful life.

 

In relationships, the term personal boundary means a declaration or agreement about to what will and will not be allowed in that relationship.  It usually includes a clear line of what is allowed and the natural or agreed-upon consequences if the line is crossed.  Boundaries are not the same as control in that they respect the other person’s free will to cross the line as long as they are willing to suffer the consequences.  Boundaries attempt to ensure that the person making the decision is the one who gets the consequences of that decision.  Laws are good examples of boundaries in public life.  The covenant method for resolving disputes in the Bible uses boundaries in a very specific manner.  Covenants must be agreed upon by both parties, and some physical monument or act was usually built as a reminder of the covenant.  Furthermore,  positive as well as negative consequences were specified, and the agreement was sworn before God, calling on Him to bring vengeance if the agreement was violated.  In ancient times, the covenant was the strongest of all agreements and was usually commemorated with a feast of celebration.  Today, man’s covenant with God and marriage are the too primary examples of covenant agreements.

 

 1.  Laws or covenants are for our good.  The first law was for the good of Adam and Eve.

 

Ge 2:16   And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

De 10:13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? 

 

2.  Sometimes covenants are primarily a one-sided promise.  God promised Noah and all mankind that He would never again destroy the earth by water.  He placed a reminder of this covenant in the sky—the rainbow.

 

Genesis 9:11  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.  12  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:  13  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.


 3.  Many blessings can come as part of a covenant, and the loss of the blessing can serve as the consequence.  God promised Abram (later Abraham) that he would become the father of many nations, He would bless him, and give Him the land of Canaan to his children as an inheritance.  To receive this blessing, he would have to circumcise the flesh of each male.  If he did not, that male would be cut off from the blessings for violating the covenant.  Circumcision symbolizes cutting off the power of the flesh in our lives and living according to the Spirit.

 

Ge 17:2  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and

multiply thee exceedingly.  7  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.  10  This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.  14  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

 

 4.  Even disputes with a long history of abuse can be resolved through a covenant.

 

Ge 31:26  And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?  28  And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.  36  And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?41  Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.  42  Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.


5.  The first step is to agree to make a covenant and provide a witness of the agreement.  In counseling, this is many times done by recording it in the notes of the counseling session.  This is done so that any time in the future if there is any question as to what was agreed upon, the permanent record can be consulted.  If both are Christians, God can be called upon to be the witness of the agreement as is the case in the marriage vow.

 

Ge 31:44  Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.  45  And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.  48  And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;  49  And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

 

6.  The  provisions of the agreement must be spelled out in very exact and quantifiable terms.  If the line is not exactly specified, confusion and conflict can result from different interpretations of the agreement.  As an example, if a time is included, the source of the time, such as a specific clock or international atomic time needs to be specified so that it is clear to both parties exactly when a violation of that time has occurred. 

 

Ge 31:50  If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.  51  And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;  52  This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. 


7.  The punishment or consequences of any transgression must be specified in advance. In this case, any violation could be appealed to Jacob’s father Isaac, who was still alive. 

 

Ge 31:53  The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.

 

8.  It is good to mark the agreement with a celebration as a sign of reconciliation.  Although, in this case, we are not told that all the issues from the past were forgiven, the fact that they ate together, strongly implies that they were completely reconciled.  It is much easier to forgive the past when provisions have been made to avoid future repetition of the problems.

 

Ge 31:54  Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.  55  And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place. 

 

9.  Jesus, Himself, demonstrated the use of good boundaries when He dealt with Judas’ betrayal. 

 

a.  He identified the boundary line that was not to be violated.   A disciple to whom Jesus had given three years of his life, friendship, and training should not betray Him to His enemies. 

 

 Lu 22:21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.  22  And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

 

b.  Jesus let Judas know the consequences of betraying him would be catastrophic

 

Mt 26:24  The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

 

c.  Jesus tried one last time to reach out to Judas in love.  As a sign of love and honor Jesus gave Judas a piece of meat on a stick called a sop.           

Jo 13:25  He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?  26  Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

 

d.  Then Jesus challenged Judas to make up his mind and repent, or go ahead and violate the boundary that Jesus had set, and receive the dire consequences.  Unfortunately, Judas chose to violate the boundary.  He later hanged himself.

 

Matthew 27:5  And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

 

10.  Covenants imply a personal relationship and union with the other party.  Therefore, we are not to make covenants with God’s enemies or those involving false gods or religions.

 

Ex 23:32  Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.

Ex 34:12  Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:

2Co 6:14  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

 

 11.  Covenants can be the basis of great blessing if they are followed or they can make it abundantly clear that intentional violations have occurred. 

 

De 8:18  But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

1 Ki 11:11  Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. 

 

12.  Covenants can be used to cement powerful friendships.  When we make a personal covenant with another person, all that we have is made available to them if they need it and all that they have is available to us.  What a wonderful revelation it is to realize that because of our covenant with God, all that He owns (everything) is ours if we need it.  Of course, in return we are expected to be willing to sacrifice all that we have for Him.

 

1 Sa 23:18  And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.

2 Ki 13:23  And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet. 

 

13.  We can also make self-covenants or self-boundaries.  These are agreements with ourselves to do or refrain from specific things.  These are critical for having peace in our lives. 

Job 31:1  I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

 

14.  We need to be fully committed with all our heart to fulfilling our covenants, especially our covenant with God


2 Ki 23:3  And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.

2 Chr 15:12  And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 

 

15.  Covenants are forever, so they are not to be taken lightly.

 

1 Chr 16:15  Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; 16  Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; 17  And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,

Jer 33:20  Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; 21  Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.

Ps 89:34  My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. 

 

16.  Because we humans failed to keep the old covenant, God replaced it with the new covenant (or testament) in which He, through the Spirit, placed the laws of the covenant into our hearts through His Spirit and forgave all of our sins

 

Heb 8:10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

Ro 11:27  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

 

 17.  Jesus, Himself, established the New Testament covenant with His disciples prior to His crucifixion.  The “last supper” was the celebration of the new covenant meal.  When we accept Him we become one of His disciples. 

 

Lu 22:17  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:  18  For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.  19  And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.  20  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament (or covenant) in my blood, which is shed for you.

 

18.  Jesus is the mediator and guarantor of the new covenant.  In the ancient world, it was the job of the witness of the covenant to enforce and punish any violations of the covenant. (Kenyon, 1969) 

Hebrews 8:6  But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.  

 

19.  Because God established the new covenant through the death of Jesus and has made greater provision for us, if we chose to violate or ignore it, the punishment will be greater

 

Hebrews 10:29  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

 

The Boundaries Model of Rebuilding Jerusalem, the City of Peace (From the book Transformation)

When people grow up attempting to cope with alcoholic, dysfunctional, abusive, or emotionally distant families, they usually develop low self-image and fail to establish healthy personal boundaries.  This lack of boundaries results in a chaotic lifestyle.  This is easy to understand when you consider what would happen in a city if no one knew who owned any of the property or the location of any of the property boundaries.  The name Perizzite means, “belonging to a village.”  In Bible times, villages were small, not very important, and lacked the walls necessary for their defense.  Therefore, this biblical type implies that where the person lives is small or not very important (low self-image) and that the place has no walls and adequate defenses (lack of personal boundaries).

 

Establishing Boundaries  

One of the universal results of dysfunctional or abusive relationships is the violation of personal boundaries.  Personal boundaries are critical in the development and maintenance of healthy relationships.  Personal boundaries are similar to physical boundaries.  They tell us who owns the land, who is responsible for it, and where the property begins and ends.  Personal boundaries tell us what is mine and what is not mine, what I am responsible for, and what I am not responsible for, what choices are mine, and what I am free to control.  They help a person to keep the good in and the bad out.  Compliants or codependent dependents allow the bad in.  Avoidants or codependent avoidants keep the good out.  Controllers or codependent independents disrespect other's boundaries and rarely maintain healthy boundaries themselves. (Cloud, 1992) 

Laws are clear examples of boundaries.  There are three specific steps in setting boundaries:  1. Agree on exactly what or where the boundary line will be.  As an example, the law states that everyone must drive at or below the posted speed limit.  2.  Agree on the consequences for violating the boundary.  Again, in this example, the consequence for violating the law or boundary would be to pay a specific fine if they are caught.  3.  Make it clear that each person may drive above the speed limit if they are willing to pay the fine if they are caught.  Of course, the idea of having a boundary is that it not be violated.  In order for this to occur, the consequence must be significant enough to deter the violation of the boundary.  The more important the boundary violation, the greater the required consequence.  The true objective in setting boundaries is to ensure that the person who violates the boundary receives the consequences of his choice so that he can learn from it.  

 

When boundaries do not exist or when they are confused, a person's life becomes unmanageable.  In Bible times, this problem was like a city where the walls had been destroyed and the gates burned.  Such a town was utterly defenseless.  The city of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah, following its destruction by the Babylonians, was without walls or gates.  It symbolically represents the state of the person scarred by sin and abuse.  After the temple (of the spirit) was restored in 458 BC (a type of our initial salvation experience and the development or rebuilding of our spiritual life), it was now time for the walls of the city (the soul) to be rebuilt in 444 BC.  Without the walls and gates of effective personal boundaries, the person’s spirit will continually be affected by outside influences, which will try to control the soul (the city of Jerusalem).  Jerusalem means “city of Peace.” Symbolically, without effective boundaries we can never have peace in our soul.  


            1.  The restoration of personal boundaries requires the establishment of an identity and good personal choices.  The identity is represented by the fixed boundaries of the walls, and our personal choices (which are based on values and principles) are represented by the gates.  The doors stand for our will, and it is our choice whether we will open or shut the gate to particular influences or events.  It should be noted that a codependent lacks an identity and consistently makes poor choices.  He is such a people-pleaser that he changes his identity to fit in wherever he goes.  What color is a chameleon?  It has no color identity, just as a codependent has no personal identity.  He tries to obtain an identity from those he associates with.  He constantly wants others to make choices for him, so that he does not have to take responsibility for those choices and face rejection or failure.  Because of this, sometimes he seems almost passive except when action is required to insure that his selfish needs are met. 

 

            2.  Each person will have problems with particular boundaries depending on his life experiences.  In Nehemiah, the gates help us identify the most usual problem areas.  The gates define the selective or complex boundaries, which determine what we will allow into or prohibit from our souls.  (For a more detailed explanation of these gates, see my book Revelations That Set You Free.)  Here is the symbology as I best understand it:           

  Valley gate                  Low experiences of life and failures

            Fountain gate          Spiritual experiences of life

            Sheep gate             Relationships with people

            Fish gate                Worldly physical and psychological nourishment

            Old gate                 Experiences, traditions, ways of doing things                     

            Dung gate              Guilt and shameful experiences

            Water gate             Physical and spiritual experiences

            Horse gate             Capabilities we rely on to accomplish things

            East gate               Expectations for future, dreams, visions, hopes

            Miphkad gate          Influence of other people in our lives

            Ephraim gate          Fruitfulness and productivity in life

            Prison gate            Bondages, habits, lusts, and addictions

 

            3.  It is the Holy Spirit's job, with the help of God's grace, to bring restoration.  Nehemiah means "Jehovah comforts" or the comforter, which is another name for the Holy Spirit.  His father's name, Hachaliah means, "whom Jehovah enlightens" which is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit.  The news that Jerusalem's walls and gates were broken down was brought to Nehemiah by his brother, Hanani, which means "gracious," one of the main characteristics of the Holy Spirit. 

 

            4.  Sin is the root cause of a lack of boundaries which brings great affliction.  Hanani describes the situation in Nehemiah 1:3 as "The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province [are] in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also [is] broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire."  In his prayer, Nehemiah makes it clear that the destruction of Jerusalem, the captivity of the Israelites, and their affliction were the direct result of sin.  Sometimes the sin or dysfunction involved can go back several generations. 

 

            5.  The Holy Spirit is greatly distressed by the chaotic life of the abused person.  Nehemiah (the Holy Spirit) says in Nehemiah 1:4,  "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned [certain] days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven..." 

 

            6.  The first step is confessing the sins which resulted in the lack of personal boundaries.  The first thing Nehemiah did was to pray and confess the sins of the people. (Nehemiah 1:6-7)  

 

            7.  Rebuilding of the boundaries begins with faith.  Hanani came to Nehemiah in the month Chisleu which means "His confidence" or faith.  Nehemiah also expressed his faith in the promise of God that if the children of Israel would return to God, He would bring them back to Jerusalem (the city of peace) and restore the city.  We must believe that God is willing and able to restore our personalities and personal boundaries.

 

             8.  We need God's help to rebuild our personalities.  Even Nehemiah (the Holy Spirit) had to go to the king (God) and ask assistance to rebuild Jerusalem.  In the same way, without God the Father's help, we will not succeed because if we do not trust Him, our flesh will prevail.  It was our flesh that allowed the boundaries (or walls) to be pulled down in the first place.

 

             9.  Rebuilding boundaries will be resisted and sometimes mocked.  Sanballat (strong or satan), the Horonite (Moabite or lust) and Tobiah the Ammonite (selfish desires) were exceedingly grieved and did everything they could to resist the rebuilding of the walls. Initially they even laughed at the idea that the city could be rebuilt. (Nehemiah 4:2,3)

 

            10.  It takes many people working together to restore the numerous boundary deficits.  A very large number of people from all walks of life are named as working on the wall.  It takes a lot of people—pastors, friends, relatives, co-workers, counselors, and support groups—to eventually help establish healthy boundaries.

            11.  The abused person usually feels overwhelmed by emotions at the immensity of the task, and how long it will take.  Sanballat was joined by the Arabians (mixed emotions), the Ammonites (selfish desires), and the Ashdodotes (self-destructive feelings) in the resistance.   

 

             12.  The first requirement in establishing boundaries is that the abuse must be stopped.  Watchfulness and strong initial boundaries in the weakest areas are important to insure that the abuse does not continue.  It is easy for the client to fall into the old way of doing things.  The abused person must have a plan on how to handle the expected attacks.  This usually takes assertiveness training.  Trust must be maintained in the Lord.  The abused person must be ever alert to lust and selfish desires that have tempted him in the past to forfeit his boundaries.  Under Nehemiah, half of the people stood guard in preparation for an attack while the other half worked.

 

            13.  One of the most important tools for establishing boundaries and developing an identity is preaching.  Nehemiah constantly kept the trumpet by him in order to sound the warning.  I believe the trumpet stands for preaching which challenges the person lacking boundaries to set and maintain appropriate boundary values.  This provides the material for developing a Christian identity. 

 

            14.  Identifying and joining with a solid, biblically-based local church is important.  Nehemiah asked everyone to lodge within Jerusalem day and night.  A close, intimate relationship with other Christians is critical to out spiritual growth.  They were so involved in building the city and defending themselves that they did not even take off their clothes except to wash.  In the same way the abused person must learn to always wear and not take off Christ’s character or the armor of God. 

 

            15.  When establishing boundaries, respect for the boundaries of others is equally important.  Some of those building the walls had taken advantage of the other builders.  Nehemiah immediately put a stop to this.  Unfortunately, boundaries can be used selfishly.  The Christian must be as careful not to violate other people's boundaries as he is in defending his own.  When clients learn about boundaries, many initially use them excessively as a method of control.  A respect for all boundaries is the basis of what is today called assertiveness. 

 

            16.  The flesh will try to divert us into doing something else before the task is done.  As the abused person begins to recover, he many times is tempted to get involved in other activities, since his life has become less chaotic.  Over-extending oneself is a self-boundary violation.  Sanballat asked for a meeting.  Nehemiah refused and said, "I [am] doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?"  (Nehemiah 6:2) 

 

            17.  Sometimes people are afraid that setting boundaries is selfish and prideful.  Sanballat sent a letter saying that Nehemiah was going to rebel against the King and had made himself king.  This and many other boundary myths are just diversions.  Although some people believe that boundaries are means of controlling others, they are not control because they do not take away the person's free choice.  Even Christians sometimes question if boundary setting is biblical.  Jesus used good boundaries and much of the Sermon on the Mount deals with this.  Possibly the best example in the Bible is Jesus' attempt to restore Judas at the Last Supper.  He clearly stated that this betrayal by a disciple was wrong, that the consequences if a man chose to do this would be so bad that "it would be better if that man had not been born," and then directed Judas to do whatever he chose to do quickly. (Matthew 26, John 13)

 

            18.  Emotional withdrawal due to fear must be overcome.  There is a temptation to withdraw from relationships rather than face our boundary problems.  Shemaiah suggested that Nehemiah would be slain, and that he should hide in the temple for protection.  This represents emotional withdrawal.  Nehemiah 8:13 even suggested that it would be a sin to withdraw from the work out of fear.  When a person attempts to avoid what is feared, the fear increases. 

 

            19.  It takes a long time to finish the task.  It took Nehemiah 12 years!  He charged nothing for his work.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit gives to us freely. 

 

            20.  When a Christian has a true personality transformation and maintains healthy boundaries, it gives glory to God.  When the walls were finished, everyone realized that it had been done by God. 

 

            21.  Once boundaries are established, the new personality must rely on God's favor to meet all of its needs and yield control to the grace of God through faith.  Hanani (grace) and Hananiah (Jehovah has favored) were appointed rulers.  

 

            22.  When established, the new boundaries must be exercised to keep the good in and the bad out.  The gates were only opened in broad daylight and guarded when they were open.  Some of the most important self-boundary areas to be controlled are mentioned in the final verses of this book:  1. Sin must be put out of our lives through confession and fasting.  2.   Lust (Moabites) and selfish desires (Ammonites) must be excluded forever.  3.  Violators of God's Sabbath law (the flesh) must be excluded.  4. Friends and marriage partners should be believers.  5.  God’s Word was to be brought into the city (our souls).  6.  We must maintain our joy because "the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:1)  7.  God’s blessings must be remembered (they celebrated the Feast of Booths).  8.  Our covenant with God must be re-established. 

 

            Recovery involves a day-to-day practical working out of boundary problems in the client’s life.  In order to teach boundaries, I use Boundaries (Cloud and Townsend) and the associated workbook.  I also sometimes use these books as resources in our Codependency and Abuse Recovery Support Groups.  

 

Steps for Overcoming a Chaotic Lifestyle 

  1. The root problem of a chaotic lifestyle is lack of effective personal boundaries due to codependency, abuse, a dysfunctional past, or lack in childhood training. 
  2. The client must realize that control, manipulation, and returning evil for evil does not work, and choose to learn to use boundaries effectively. 
  3. Past patterns of abuse, dysfunction, or codependency must be faced and dealt with so that the client will be strong enough to set boundaries and consistently carry out the consequences when boundaries are violated in his life. 
  4. The client must learn to assertively respond to boundary violations from others.  He must avoid passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive reactions to these violations. 
  5. The client must learn to communicate what he expects in his relationships with other people and help them to understand the natural consequences of violating each boundary. 
  6. He must begin setting boundaries and consistently carry out the consequences in his relationships without going overboard and using boundaries to try to control others. 
  7. He must set others free to make their own choices and learn from their own consequences, trusting God to meet his own needs. 
  8. The client must respect other’s boundaries, communicate boundaries in a loving manner, and develop an assertive lifestyle.

 

Counseling Methods and Techniques (from the Principles for Life)

1.  We can teach boundaries using the illustration of a neighbor’s dog chewing up our client’s newspaper.  After describing a situation in which the neighbor’s dog chewed up their newspaper, I ask the client what boundaries were violated.  The answer is that the dog is in his yard and it was eating the newspaper that he had paid for.  Secondly, I ask what he would do about it?  His answer shows whether he is passive, passive aggressive, assertive, or aggressive.  I use the client’s answer to discuss what would be the likely outcome of his actions.  I then explain the steps for establishing boundary agreements.  The first step would be to let the neighbor know that the client does not want the neighbor’s dog in his yard, eating his paper.  It might even be necessary to establish where the physical boundary line is between their yards.  I continue the illustration, asking what they would do if the next day the dog chews on the his paper again?  The answer is that he would have to let the neighbor know what consequences would occur if the problem continued.  Possibly, the neighbor should either pay for the client’s newspaper or exchange his good newspaper for the chewed up one.  If he is not willing to agree to this, the client might warn his neighbor that if he refuses to restrain his dog, he will have to call animal control when he sees the dog loose and the neighbor will then have to pay a fine to get their dog back after it has is taken to the pound.  I then explain that boundaries attempt to align the one who makes the decision with the one who gets the consequences.  In this case, he is offended because the neighbor has made the decision to not adequately confine his dog and the client is getting the consequences.  If our neighbor robs a bank (decides to do something), we should not have to go to jail (get his consequences) for his crime.

 

2.  Mutual boundaries are the heart of a relationship recovery process.  Marital conflict and codependency are good examples of the application of boundaries as being very helpful.  The heart of any relationship recovery process is the establishment of mutually acceptable boundaries.  When a marriage is based on win-win boundary agreements, most of the conflicts are easily resolved.  When a family, including the older children, set family rules, the children can only blame themselves if they get the agreed-upon consequences.  In codependent relationships, it is the boundary agreements that help the people involved  find the balance between being too dependent or too independent.

 

3.  Tripwires are needed in cases of extreme abuse.  The concept of tripwires suggests

that we can have multiple sets of boundaries against angry behavior so that the behavior can be stopped at the earliest opportunity.  As an example, in a domestically violent family, if one person raises their voice, they may be required to leave the room for thirty minutes;  if they cuss or verbally attack someone, they have to leave for a day; and if they throw, break, or threaten someone, they must leave for a week.  The idea is to stop even the lower level behaviors before they escalate into violence. 

 

Books on Boundaries

Watch the Videos on Boundaries on the Screens Below: Watch the Principles of Covenants and Boundaries from the Course Principles for Life starting at 37:40:

Watch the Video on the Rebuilding of Jerusalem Below (from the Book and Course Transformation)

Watch the Video on Boundaries and the Family Below (From the Book and Course Transformation)

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