Henry Cloud and John Townsend presented their research based work in the book titled Boundaries , published by Zondervan in 2008. In the years following the release of that now classic work, they have gone on to publish a series of books that drill down into specific types of boundary issues, including teens, marriage, leadership, kids, and face to face conflict management.
Physical boundaries can define where my yard ends and yours begins, or where one country ends and another begins. Personal boundaries are much more intangible. They can be easily breached because we oftentimes haven’t defined them, not even for ourselves. Personal boundaries help me to identify and clarify what IS mine to own and take responsibility for and what is NOT, where I end, and where someone else begins. Prov. 4:23 instructs us to
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Cloud and Townsend presented 10 basic principles as tools to help each of us establish and maintain healthy personal boundaries. We will begin with their first Principle, and I will try to apply it in everyday, very practical, biblical ways. Above all, I hope that these applications will spur each of us to think, to reflect, and to pray asking The Lord our God for His help:
#1: The Principle of Sowing and Reaping
The New Living Translation of Galatians 6:7 tells us “Don’t be misled– you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant,” or as the King James says “You will always reap what you sow.”
So let’s get practical with this principle. If I plant roses, I expect to get roses, if I plant tomatoes I expect to get tomatoes. But in our relationships there can be a real disconnect for us. It may not be easy for me to see or to admit that what I am reaping in this relationship is directly tied to what I myself am sowing into it. When I look at I Cor 13, I see God’s formula there for loving others. One sure thing about the Word of God is that when I actually obey it, it works! My vision becomes clearer, my perspectives change, and my relationships smooth out in ways I never thought possible while I was attempting it in my own strength.
So–Let’s apply the principle and see what happens:
- Sowing ~ I insist on my own way
- Reaping ~ I get resentment and push back from you—mmmmm
- Sowing ~I treat you rudely or with unkindness
- Reaping ~ I get rude and unkind responses, [ouch!! that hurts]
- Sowing ~I tend to keep a record of your wrongs (I just cannot help myself) and maybe worse, I bring them up whenever we are in conflict
- Reaping ~ You keep your own list as ammunition and self-protection and throw it back at me
Ok, so what are the outcomes here? Relationships that are fraught with frustration, discouragement, resentment, or regrets; one or both feel misunderstood, invisible, or worse, used and abused.
God’s Word is so clear that there is an absolute and direct correlation — what I sow I will reap. We can see it in our marriages, in parenting our children, in our professional relationships, and in our social relationships. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to “put off the old man and to put on the new man, in Christ likeness.”
In the eyes of the world, this principle can diminish to narcissistic nonsensical thinking—“this will make life nicer, this will give me what I want, what you get is what you give–so be kind so they will be kind and it will make life nicer for you.” But God’s ways are never superficial. They are complex layer upon layer of meaning and value. He always has our good and His glory in mind. So, we do not obey to see what I can get out of it for ME. Instead, let’s close out by looking at what GOD has in mind for His people when we apply His sowing and reaping principle into each of our relationships:
- Sowing ~ I do not rudely insist on my own way
- Reaping ~ You feel seen and heard, you feel included in the process, and you feel that you have something to offer to the relationship
- Sowing ~I treat you with patience and kindness
- Reaping ~ You feel loved, valued, and understood, affirmed in how God has made you
- Sowing ~I keep NO record of your wrongs. I tear up your IOU to me, I give to you forgiveness with no strings attached as Christ did for me. This means I never bring it back up again.
- Reaping ~ You do not live in fear around me, wondering what am I going to throw at you. You feel understood in your failings, included in the community of us who fail regularly and run to Him for grace. This allows you to live freely and unreservedly give yourself to your relationships.
I am sure you saw the switchover. We went from “I” to “you” in every application. When I believe God about ‘one anothering” I see myself beginning to walk in newness of a life that soars with joy, passion and peace with both God and others.