How do you love well when it hurts like hell? How do you love well when your heart is hanging out of your chest, broken and bleeding? How do you love well when your family has been attacked and slandered? How do you love well when the bullies in the church are making your life absolutely miserable?
How can you love well when you don’t know who to trust; when it feels unsafe for you to be at church? When you can’t worship because the tension in the air is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
While we are on the subject, what the heck does loving well really mean? I hear it a lot in Christian circles. It’s funny how they have their own language. I digress…
What does Jesus have to say about loving well? There are so many scriptures that talk about love. How we need to love our neighbor as ourself. Does that mean loving the bullies in the church? Whaaatt? bullies in church leadership? Yep they are there!
The legalists, the rule followers, the people who are more interested in being right than anything else in the world. The people who can make our lives a living hell? Does that mean we have to love them?
Bah! As much as I don’t want to say it, I have to say yes, yes it does. God doesn’t ask us to only do the easy stuff. If we are going to grow with Him in this journey called life and experience His freedom we have to learn how to love well, to heal and to move forward.
Thank God there is more to loving well than just rolling over and exposing our chest so that our heart can be cut out. All the while saying, “I am loving you well therefore you can do anything to me.” Am I being a bit too dramatic for you?
The thing is, I believe that we can not love well without boundaries. Dr. Henry Cloud Ph.D is the guru of boundaries. If you haven’t read the book Boundaries by Dr Cloud and Dr. John Townsend get up right now and go order it!
Dr. Cloud states in his article The Simple Scoop on Boundaries,”It is all about love. As Jesus has told us, the two greatest commandments hang on the ultimate reality of Love. And this is the biggest misunderstanding that we find when talking about Boundaries.
Many people think that boundaries are about selfishness and are at their root, self-serving. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Boundaries are about freedom, and freedom is always meant to have as it’s ultimate fruit, love.
As Paul says, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:13,14)
Boundaries are about God’s restoring freedom to you and me so that we could take control of our lives to be able to love Him and others. Ultimately, that is the fruit of boundaries, to love out of freedom, and with purpose.”
Dr. Cloud also states in his article - Blocks to Love: “The last block to love that we will consider is the lack of boundaries. What this means is someone’s inability to take a stance of self-control and to have a proper relation to the word “no.”
Boundary problems are usually seen in someone’s inability to either say “no,” or hear “no” from others. When we have these kinds of disturbances, we either allow people to walk all over us in a way that destroys respect, or we walk all over them and “trespass” against them, destroying love in the process. True love respects each other’s boundaries, saying “no” when we need to, and respecting it when we hear it.
Another aspect of boundaries has to do with requiring responsible behavior from each other in a relationship and taking a stance against evil when it occurs. True love cannot grow when evil is allowed to triumph. When we have the boundaries to “abhor what is evil,” and take a stance against it, we preserve the good in a relationship and help it to grow by solving problems.”
Honestly, in all the years I’ve been in church I’ve never heard this kind of teaching. Christianity and religion can be a breeding ground for co-dependence and all sorts of other disfunction because they are either choosing not to teach or they don’t have a clue how to teach what it means to love well with healthy boundaries!
Loving others well is a gigantic topic and requires a lot of work. I hold true to what I’ve written and talked with you about in chapters 1,2,& 3. If anything is going to change in our lives, it has to start with us working on it first.
So for just today, in this moment, can we break this ominous subject down into bite sized pieces? How about a new concept and learning to retrain our thinking and a few tangible challenges to retrain our behavior.
It will help us when we are faced with the choice to love well or resort to our historical knee-jerk reaction of freaking out or shutting down and going into our hole of self preservation.
Bite sized boundary #1: New Concept/Perspective: “People are doing the best the can with the knowledge and awareness they have at the time.” Okay before you go into hysteria let me explain why this concept is so important to consider.
If you are willing to see the other side of the coin, this concept will allow you to see a little bit into their lives and mental state. Often timesthey have zero self-awareness, empathy or knowledge of what kind of pain they are causing you. Honestly sometimes it’s not even on their radar for them to care in this way. When they are in the bully, legalism zone, t’s all about them.
However, this concept does not justify their behavior nor does it give them an excuse.
What it does, is gives you a little insight into their inner battles. It can, if you are willing to let it, allow you to show a tiny bit of empathy and yes forgiveness, towards their mental and emotional state. That one ounce of empathy means that you are the path of loving well.
Bite Sized Boundary #2: You know the Proverb 29:18 - “Without vision the people perish?” Well I will go out on a limb and say, “without boundaries the people perish.” And perish you will my friend. Your soul and spirit will die if you continue to allow this legalism poison infiltrate your life.
Tangible Challenge #1 - It’s okay to guard your heart with un-safe people. First you have to know who is safe and who is not safe. For instance, when you are asked, "how you are doing," from an unsafe person, it is okay to show up full authentic and respond by saying, “I’m having a crappy day and I don’t want to talk about it, but thank you for asking.” Instead of grabbing your “christian church mask” and saying I’m so happy and fine and life is so wonderful, thank you Jesus. The latter just adheres the mask to your face even more.
Tangible Challenge #2 - It’s okay to say no and not participate in church functions or meetings that leave you feeling emotionally slaughtered and depressed.
Tangible Challenge #3 - The other side of the coin is you must not continue to stay in a victim mindset. It will destroy your life and make it miserable for those who love you.
In order to heal and move forward you must begin to do your own training and inner work so that you can step into who you authentically are created to be and take off the flippin’ mask. To do the inner work so you can stop the people pleasing and own what’s yours and let the other person own what is theirs.
Of course all this takes time and can be a challenging process. We didn’t get this way overnight, so we can not expect to change old behaviors and thought patterns overnight.
Here’s my challenge to you my friend and know that I continue to do these alongside you because it is my life's work.
Try on one or both of these bite sized boundaries/challenges this week and see what comes up for you.
Put fear behind you and take the first step into God’s healing and freedom.
Share your progress or thoughts below. It encourages and gives us all something to ponder.