Boundaries: Home For The Holidays Part 3
When I was fifteen I worked at Hillside Stables cleaning stalls, feeding horses, and whatever else needed done. Shortly after I started working there P.K., the owner of the stables and my boss, warned me about a horse named Blizzard. Every six weeks the horses needed de-worming paste squirted into their mouths to prevent, you guessed it, intestinal worms. Animal husbandry is glorious.
Most horses don’t enjoy this, and Blizzard was one who would toss his head up so you couldn’t reach his mouth to get the paste in. Blizzard was also a larger-than-average horse; not a draft horse like the Budweiser Clydesdales, but still big. When he tossed his head there was a chance he could toss me, and that was the nature of P.K.’s warning.
“Don’t worry” I assured her, “I’ll make him behave.”
She raised one eyebrow which meant I’d said something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I’d been told all my horse-life to “show ‘em who’s boss”. How could this be any different?
“How much do you weigh?” P.K. asked.
“Uhhhhhhh, ‘bout a hundred and fifty pounds… I think?” The answer squeaked out of me very slowly because I had no idea what she wanted or what my weight had to do with anything.
“How much does Blizzard weigh?”
Well that was easier. I had to know all the horses’ weights to give them the right dose of de-worming paste, so I answered with more confidence, “Twelve-hundred and fifty pounds.”
“Are you really going to MAKE him do anything?” P.K. waited with both eyebrows raised for my brain to process this new idea.
And that’s how I learned you can’t force an animal eight times your size to do what you want.
It doesn’t work with humans either.
Here’s the point: we just weren’t created to be in control of anyone but ourselves, and we can’t be led by the Spirit if we are allowing someone else to control us. (John 5:44 AMP)
You can’t make anyone do anything.
No no one can make you do anything.
“But Sara, what if someone has a gun to your head?” – you still have the ability to choose. You might not want either of the options, but the choice is still yours to make. Isn’t that freeing? You do not have to live at the mercy of anyone unless you choose to.
(Side note – the fact that you retain the ability to choose does not make it acceptable for someone to put you in such a situation.)
Even God doesn’t force us to believe in him, love him, or obey him. He gives us the choice. How can we hold onto the belief that we could be in control of another human in light of God’s respect for us?
“But Sara, I’m supposed to control my kids right?” – leading, teaching, and holding a child accountable is not the same as controlling them. Toddlers can be just as defiant about taking their medicine as a 1250lb horse. Don’t be fooled into believing you’re in control because you’re bigger and smarter (for now).
There are two categories of unhealthy boundaries and both of them are about control. I mentioned them in Part 1 of this series:
a. trying to take responsibility for someone else’s “stuff” or
b. trying to give responsibility for your “stuff” away to someone else
When we try to take responsibility for someone else’s beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions we are trying to control them. It is an attempt to force someone to give us what we want/need and is based on this lie: “I should be in control of everyone and everything (except myself).” A life built on that false belief results in uncontrolled intimidation, manipulation, and anger to secure compliance/obedience.
Do you ever think or say things like, “I have to make him understand” or “I’ll just make her run to the store later”. Do you have people in your life who never ask they only demand, order, manipulate, and give ultimatums? Have you ever “not been allowed” to be angry, hurt, or sad? Do you do things you don’t want to do just to avoid making a specific person angry? Those are all characteristic of this type of boundary problem.
Trying to give responsibility for our stuff away to others is most obvious in blaming. Some familiar examples of this are when the disciples blamed Jesus for their fear, and the sick man by the pool of Bethesda who blamed everyone around him and then blamed Jesus. Even in the beginning when Adam and Eve first sinned they tried to pass the buck and avoid responsibility. Living like this leads to feeling powerless and wasting our lives waiting for other people to change so we can be happy.
Have you ever said something like, “He just made me so angry, I couldn’t help it!” or “I was having a great day until she ruined it.” Has anyone ever blamed you for their actions and feelings? Have you ever seen a relationship end because someone “just didn’t make them happy anymore”. Do you really want anyone to have that kind of power over you? Do you really want your peace to be at the mercy of another human? Are you going to allow someone to saddle you with the burden of making (and keeping) them happy?
As I promised last week – Here’s how to buck the illusion of “make”: The next time you hear yourself or someone else use the word “make” (in reference to control, not creativity), challenge it in your mind. Is there a boundary which needs to be addressed? How can you take responsibility for your “stuff”, and only your “stuff”, in this situation?
Practice changing your vocabulary. Instead of saying, “She makes me so angry”, try, “I feel angry when she yells at me, so if she yells at me I will take responsibility for myself by leaving.”
Keep practicing until your new way of thinking is a habit.
In Part 4 we will go over some of the most common examples of holiday family drama which I have heard from the people I mentor and teach, and the principles for choosing healthy boundaries in each situation. Thanks for reading! As always, leave me a comment or send me a message with any questions, and subscribe so you don’t miss the final post of this series!