Written by therapist Roslyn Jordan
In their classic book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Henry Cloud and John Townsend outline ten laws of boundaries that are helpful for us all. These laws outline principles that when applied, help us learn how to set and maintain boundaries and cultivate healthier relationships in life with ourselves and others. In my previous blog, “The Laws of Boundaries, Part I”, we looked at the laws of sowing and reaping, responsibility, power, respect and motivation. In this blog, we will look at the remaining laws which are the laws of evaluation, proactivity, envy, activity and exposure.
The Law of Evaluation
Setting boundaries at times may be very difficult to do because we are concerned about hurting someone’s feelings or making someone mad. Cloud and Townsend asserts that we should not avoid setting boundaries for this reason but rather, take into consideration the impact the boundaries have on the other person(s) and take responsibility for our choices. Additionally, we can engage the person regarding their response to the boundaries we have set and acknowledge any adverse reaction or pain they might be feeling. The authors also encourage us to consider the difference between pain and harm and to acknowledge that all pain is not bad. What might be painful or cause someone to bristle with anger in the moment as a result of setting a boundary can result in a positive outcome in the long run such as a healthier relationship and personal growth. Setting boundaries is necessary for purposeful and intentional living and part of doing this well is to risk conflict with others, including loved ones.
The Law of Proactivity
In looking at the law of proactivity, Cloud and Townsend highlight the difference between those who set boundaries from a reactive stance versus a proactive stance. They point out that boundaries established in response to rage and anger by those who have been victimized and rendered powerless can be viewed as good as these individuals seek to regain control of their lives. However, constantly showing up and enforcing boundaries in this way is not healthy in the long run, and those who stay caught up in this cycle are “against” this or that and often in a demanding rights mode. Learning to establish boundaries in a proactive manner is the goal. Rather than putting boundaries in place out of a negative reactive state, those with a proactive stance put boundaries in place that promote love and mutual respect and help others to know various aspects about them such as who they are and what they are about.
The Law of Envy
Envy will cause us to look at and desire what someone else has while overlooking what we have. Cloud and Townsend state, “the problem with envy is that it focuses outside our boundaries, onto others,” and they go on to point out that focusing on other people’s accomplishments or treasures means that we are not owning our responsibilities and will ultimately end up empty and unfulfilled. Being intentional, taking responsibility and using time to cultivate what we have within our own boundaries can help break the self-perpetuating cycle of envy and move us toward personal growth and our own personal accomplishments and success.
The Law of Activity
Cloud and Townsend state that by nature, we have been made to initiate and respond and that oftentimes, boundary problems arise due to a lack of initiative on the part of an individual. They assert that those who are passive are not living in alignment with how God has created us to be. Rather than sitting back and waiting for life to happen or for someone to live our lives for us, we are to participate in life and assert ourselves. For God or someone else to do our work for us where we are capable would be an “invasion of our boundaries”. Actively pushing forward and responding to life strengthens us and helps create the boundaries that define us, our responsibilities in this life and the accountability we have to others.
The Law of Exposure
The law of exposure highlights the importance of making sure that our boundaries, which define who we are and are not along with other features, are evident and clearly communicated to those with whom we are in relationship. Cloud and Townsend state that when we do not address relational fears, secret boundaries are born which when left unexpressed, cause our relationships to suffer. That whether we let them be known or not, they are there adversely impacting us when we do not acknowledge them and moving us towards healing and wholeness when we openly communicate them with others.
Learning to establish and maintain healthy boundaries is an ongoing growth place for us all. As you consider these laws of boundaries which resonated most for you? Do you need to work on evaluating the responses of others in a more positive light while setting boundaries? Or, learn to set boundaries from a proactive stance rather than from a reactive explosive one? Do you need to stop allowing envy to rob you of fulfillment and start focusing on what is inside your boundaries? Are you living passively, leaving the door open waiting for someone else to invade your boundaries and do the work of your life? Are you allowing relational fears and unaddressed boundaries to keep you from moving towards healing and wholeness and enjoying healthy relationships?
If knowing when to say yes and how to say no is an ongoing struggle for you, give us a call today and let us help you gain clarity and take more control of your life.