First, let's make a distinction between selfishness and stewardship. Selfishness has to do with a fixation on our own wishes and desires, to the exclusion of our responsibility to love others. Though having wishes and desires is a God-given trait (Prov. 13:4), we are to keep them in line with healthy goals and responsibility.
Even with God's help, however, it is crucial to understand that meeting our own needs is basically our job. We can't wait passively for others to take care of us. Jesus told us to "Ask...seek...knock."...Even knowing that "it is God who works in [us]" (Phil. 2:13), we are our own responsibility.
This is a very different picture than many of us are used to. Some individuals see their needs as bad, selfish, and at best, a luxury. Others seem them as something that God or others should do for them. But the biblical picture is clear: our lives are our responsibilities.
God will match our effort, but he will never do our work for us. That would be an invasion of our boundaries...The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try...Passive "shrinking back" is intolerable to God, and when we understand how destructive it is to the soul, we can see why God does not tolerate it. God wants us to "preserve our souls". That is the role of boundaries; they define and preserve our property, our soul.
I have been told that when a baby bird is ready to hatch, if you break the egg for the bird, it will die. The bird must peck its own way out of the egg into the world. This aggressive "workout" strengthens the bird, allowing it to function in the outside world. Robbed of its responsibility, it will die...The best boundaries are formed when a child is pushing against the world naturally, and the outside world sets its limits on the child. In this way, the aggressive child has learned limits without losing his or her spirit. Our spiritual and emotional well-being depends on our having this spirit.
Overidentification with the other's loss. Many times people have not dealt with all their own disappointments and losses, so whenever they deprive someone else with a no, they "feel" the other person's sadness to the nth degree.
The serenity prayer is probably the best boundary prayer ever written...It says basically, "God, clarify my boundaries!"
When parents greet their children's disagreement or disobedience with simple hostility, the children are denied the benefit of being trained. They don't learn that delaying gratification and being responsible have benefits. They only learn how to avoid someone's wrath. Ever wonder why some Christians fear an angry God, no matter how much they read about his love? God's discipline teaches, not punishes. "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." (Heb. 12:10)
The child's newfound fondness for "mine" does have roots in our innate self-centeredness - part of the sinful depravity in all of us that wants to, as did Satain, 'make myself like the Most High' (Isa. 14:14). However, this simplistic understanding of our character doesn't take into consideration the full picture of what being in the image of God truly is.
Anger is a friend. It was created by God for a purpose: to tell us that there's a problem that needs to be confronted...It's an early warning system; unresolved anger leads to depression and anxiety.
Being created in God's image also means having ownership, or stewardship. As Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earth to subdue and rule it, we are also given stewardship over our time, energy, talents, values, feelings, behavior, money...Without a "mine," we have no sense of responsibility to develop, nurture, and protect these resources. Without a "mine," we have no self to give to God and his kingdom...With correct parenting, they'll learn sacrifice and a giving, loving heart, but not until they have a personality that has been loved enough to give love away: "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
October 31, 2009
Some excerpts from Townsend & Cloud's Boundaries: