Since the May/June newsletter, we have received a lot of comments about the article called “What a Gift-Responsibility.” The article highlights the gift of our children or loved ones and the responsibility we have to raise them. But as addiction comes in, there is the danger of “enabling” a person in their addiction, sometimes even with good intentions to help. So, we pointed out ways to identify and to break the habit. (If you would like to read that article you can go to bethelcolony.org/counseling-corner-archives/) The main comments about the article are; “Ok, I recognize that I have been enabling. What do I do now that I see it? And, I am ready to quit enabling, but I want to help my loved one.
One put it this way “I am going to lay down the law!” If we are honest, we have probably done that more than once. We need to set boundaries and we need to understand what they are and the importance of them. If you think about it, there are boundaries in every area of our lives and they are there to help us. If you own property you have to know where your property begins and ends so you know what belongs to you and what belongs to your neighbor. If not, it could start a serious problem. In sports every court or field has defined boundaries of play area. When you’re driving you need to know your lane boundaries. When our children are small we teach them not to just go and touch or hit people. These are boundaries we live by every day. Boundaries are also very biblical. In the Old Testament only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. The Ten Commandments are laws or boundaries. But maybe, with more understanding of the word Torah; it doesn’t just mean Law but teaching. The idea is that the Law or teaching that a loving God has given is so that we may know His outline for a better life. 2 Cor. 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” There are many boundaries expressed in the Scriptures.
We need to set them and see their importance, but we have to, as a family united, stand by them. Many have set boundaries but end up in a vicious cycle that turns out to be enabling and that may show that you have problems with co-dependency. This is what it looks like: You attempted to ‘lay down the law’. And when they cross the boundary you start to make threats to leave or make him leave, if he doesn’t change his ways – and he would make empty promises that helped you feel better in the moment. Every time you let them pass a boundary rather than standing your ground, you end up allowing your boundary to get pushed further out. So you get stuck in a cycle of making threats even when you know you don’t have the courage to follow through. They quickly learn that the boundaries don’t really exist and, as a result, you start feeling terrible about yourself and your relationship is not a healthy relationship. This is probably reminding you of when you were raising an adolescent and they were always pushing back against the boundaries. I mentioned that the family is going to need to be in agreement on these boundaries, because men coming out of addiction not only have a hard time with the boundaries but they will pit you against one another like a teenager does. 1 Cor. 13:11; “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” You can attempt to set many boundaries, but you have to take action when those boundaries are crossed. Until you find the courage needed to stand by your words, you will continue to have others take advantage of you and disrespect your boundaries.
Now I know you are looking for me to give you a list of boundaries you should set, but here is the problem with that. There are so many variables at your home: schedules, children, work, commitments, that you’re going to need to consider. So I can give you some guidelines and areas that you need to discuss to put boundaries on them. First, you’ve got to identify the need to set a boundary. When you see it, do it when you’re clear- minded; not while you’re angry or emotional. You will probably make boundaries that will have to change and will get pushed against. Then, clearly communicate your expectation. In other words, define it. Make sure there are consequences that are related to the action and that they understand them. Do not make apologies for them. For these to be effective you will need to be consistent. And when it comes down to it, there needs to be some boundaries that are non-negotiable.
When you look at the areas that boundaries need to be placed they will usually fit under two umbrellas – Freedom and Opportunity. Freedom is where there tends to be less accountability. Like when they have a vehicle. The enemy has tempted many while they were roaming around in their independence. Opportunity is times like when they get paid. Or when they see an old friend. If you take that freedom of a vehicle and the opportunity of a pay-check together, you have freedom and opportunity and it can be a disaster. Accountability and boundaries are aimed to keep true freedom in Christ and not bondage back to an addiction. So, as you look to see where they need to be set at your home, please consider what boundaries need to be set with freedom of time, access to money, doctor appointments, etc. Also the people, places or things that give potential opportunity; like old friends’ prescriptions that are not needed or a doctor that is too loose in his practice. I would strongly advise discussing this with your spouse so you are on the same page, and with the loved one’s counselor (if they have one). Then, have a meeting all together so everyone is clear and on the same page.
I pray this is helps because we so desire to see your family blessed by the Lord and your loved one living in the Victory of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Paul and Stacy Pruitt