Posts Tagged ‘Boundary’


Mark 7:14–23 – “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’”

Jesus’ explanation reveals how boundaries help us define who we are and are not. Through them we can take ownership of all of who we are, both good and bad. It is only by taking full ownership of what is on our property and within our own boundaries that we can grow.

Mark¬ 7:14-¬23 is a great description of some of the “not so good” stuff that hangs out in our hearts. All property needs to be cleaned up every once in a while, and our hearts are no different. Jesus tells us that our hearts are in need of this kind of responsible “cleaning up.”

Every kind of growth system that works, from counseling to spiritual direction to recovery, involves looking past our outer behavior to the root causes that lie within our hearts. Sometimes, pain and hurt are to blame and sometimes, as this passage indicates, sinful attitudes and desires are the root causes. Whatever the case, God has forgiven us and that forgiveness gives us the freedom to take a real, hard look at what lies within our hearts. The reward for doing this is that we get healthy and life gets better.

That’s why we like to say that boundaries make life better!

This devotional is drawn from Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.


Matthew 7:16-20 –“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

George sat in my (Dr. Cloud’s) office, despondent. His wife, Janet, whom he loved deeply, had just moved out because he had lost another job. A very talented person, George seemed to have everything he needed for success. But he had lost several good jobs because of his irresponsibility and inability to follow through. Bosses loved the talent but hated the performance. And after several family disruptions because of his failures, Janet had had enough.

“I love her so much,” George said to me. “Doesn’t she see that?”

“I believe that you love her,” I said. “But in reality, I don’t think that she does see your love. All she sees is the effect your behavior has had on her and the children, and she asks herself, ‘How can he love us and treat us this way?’ You cannot just say you love someone and not deliver. Love without the fruits of love is really not love in the end. She feels very unloved because of what you have put her through.”

If George was to have a chance of winning Janet back, it would not come through one more empty promise. He needed to develop boundaries to gain the self-control that would make him a responsible person. Janet was only going to believe in action, not just talk about love.

George had never been required to deliver the fruits of love when growing up. His parents were fine, hardworking people. But having gone through the Depression and a lifetime of hard work, they did not want George to have to struggle as they had. As a result, they indulged him and required very little work from him. When they did give him chores and responsibilities and he did not deliver, they would not discipline him, thinking that they wanted him to have “positive self-esteem” rather than the “guilt” with which they grew up. Consequently, he did not see any negative effect on his loved ones when he did not perform.

But marriage was different. He was now in a relationship in which the one he loved also had requirements for him, and things were falling apart. For George to become a truly loving person, one whose love actually made a difference in the lives of others, he was going to have to become a responsible person. In the end, love is as love does.

Moreover, loving people respect the boundaries of others. Have you ever been in a relationship with a person who could not hear the word no? How did you feel? Typically one feels controlled, manipulated, and resentful instead of respected and loved. A controlling person steps over the line and tries to possess the other. This does not feel very loving, no matter how much the offender says he cares.

Loving people are able to control their impulses. Many alcoholics, for example, have great love for their families. Their drinking greatly troubles them, and they feel horrendous guilt. But still they drink, and although, like George, they love, the effects of their lack of ability to say no to alcohol ends up destroying the relationships they care about. Many other impulse problems— such as sexual acting out, overspending, food or drug abuse, and rage attacks—end up destroying love as well. A lack of boundaries keeps these behaviors going.

A loving person recognizes that the world does not revolve around him or her. They consider the consequences of their behavior on people around them before they act. In psychological terms, they are not “egocentric”—thinking that they are all that matters and that people around them exist only to meet their demands and needs.

George’s irresponsibility was costing him his marriage and had cost him financial losses, chaos, a lack of stability, and unrealized dreams. But what is this thing we call responsibility? Many things come to mind, such as duty or obligations, reliability and dependability, or just “getting the job done.”

Responsibility is actually broader than this. We think of responsibility in terms of ownership. To take ownership of your life is ultimately to take control. Ownership is to truly possess your life and to know that you are accountable for your life— to God and others. When you take ownership, you realize that all aspects of your life are truly yours and only yours, and that no one is going to live your life for you.

People who are accountable see life as something that has been entrusted to them, and they know that they and they only will be responsible for what they do with it. To take ownership of these is to be a truly responsible person, the kind of person with whom everyone wants to have a relationship. A responsible person says, “My feelings are my problem,” or “My attitude is my problem.” In addition, the truly responsible adult realizes, “I made me do it, and I am responsible.” With that, there is hope for self-control to develop.

Today’s content is drawn from Beyond Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Copyright 2014 by Zondervan; all rights reserved. Visit BoundariesBooks.com for more information.


Galatians 6:5-7 – “For each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

The parents of a twenty-five-year-old man came to see me with a common request: they wanted me to “fix” their son, Bill. When I asked where Bill was, they answered, “Oh, he didn’t want to come.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, he doesn’t think he has a problem,” they replied.

“Maybe he’s right,” I said, to their surprise. “Tell me about it.”

They recited a history of problems that had begun at a very young age. Bill had never been “quite up to snuff” in their eyes. In recent years he had exhibited problems with drugs and an inability to stay in school and find a career.

It was apparent that they loved their son very much and were heartbroken over the way he was living. They had tried everything they knew to get him to change and live a responsible life, but all had failed. He was still using drugs, avoiding responsibility, and keeping questionable company.

They told me that they had always given him everything he needed. He had plenty of money at school so “he wouldn’t have to work and he would have plenty of time for study and a social life.” When he flunked out of one school, or stopped going to classes, they were more than happy to do everything they could to get him into another school, “where it might be better for him.”

After they had talked for a while, I responded: “I think your son is right. He doesn’t have a problem.” You could have mistaken their expression for a snapshot; they stared at me in disbelief for a full minute. Finally the father said, “Did I hear you right? You don’t think he has a problem?”

“That’s correct,” I said. “He doesn’t have a problem. You do. He can do pretty much whatever he wants, no problem. You pay, you fret, you worry, you plan, you exert energy to keep him going. He doesn’t have a problem because you have taken it from him. Those things should be his problem, but as it now stands, they are yours. Would you like for me to help you help him to have some problems?”

They looked at me like I was crazy, but some lights were beginning to go on in their heads. “What do you mean, ‘help him to have some problems’?” his mother asked.

“Well,” I explained, “I think that the solution to this problem would be to clarify some boundaries so that his actions cause him problems and not you.”

“What do you mean, ‘boundaries’?” the father asked.

“Look at it this way. It is as if he’s your neighbor, who never waters his lawn. But, whenever you turn on your sprinkler system, the water falls on his lawn. Your grass is turning brown and dying, but Bill looks down at his green grass and thinks to himself, ‘My yard is doing fine.’ That is how your son’s life is. He doesn’t study, or plan, or work, yet he has a nice place to live, plenty of money, and all the rights of a family member who is doing his part.

“If you would define the property lines a little better, if you would fix the sprinkler system so that the water would fall on your lawn, and if he didn’t water his own lawn, he would have to live in dirt. He might not like that after a while. As it stands now, he is irresponsible and happy, and you are responsible and miserable. A little boundary clarification would do the trick. You need some fences to keep his problems out of your yard and in his, where they belong.”

“Isn’t that a bit cruel, just to stop helping like that?” the father asked.

“Has helping him helped?” I asked.

His look told me that he was beginning to understand.

Today’s content is drawn from Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Copyright 2014 by Zondervan; all rights reserved. Visit BoundariesBooks.com for more information.