It [God’s grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. -Titus 2:12 (NIV)
If you’re a nice person who’s tired of being taken advantage of and treated like a doormat, I want to share with you the Reese’s peanut butter cups of truth Jesus laid on me.
Reese’s peanut butter cups?!?
Let me explain. In the ’80S, there was a television ad where a man was walking down the sidewalk enjoying a chocolate bar, and a woman walking on an intersecting sidewalk was enjoying their jar of peanut butter. (Who does that?)
The two end up colliding with each other, and the man’s chocolate bar ends up in the woman’s peanut butter jar…and they discover that the unexpected combination is an amazing synthesis!
And so it is with two separate lessons Jesus, the light of truth on the lies in our lives, showed to me that I needed to put boundaries and truth, not niceness together to make a better…stronger…healthier me than ever before.
Boundaries: The chocolate part of the mix
As I wrote in Build fences, not walls, boundaries are our explicit expression of where others end and we begin. It’s a friendly demarcation, like a boundary line of a piece of land. It’s like a fence, not a wall. For example, we can healthily express when we don’t have time or resources to help someone else. We can tell someone that if they continue to act poorly to us, we will not stay in their presence and needlessly bear the brunt of it.
Without boundaries, we have no fence for others to clearly understand who we are. And for those who don’t understand boundaries and possibly are used to getting their way, they will gladly overrun you. It’s the perfect storm for codependency.
By setting boundaries, you’re no longer a prisoner in the cell of your own making.
Niceness: The peanut butter part of the mix
Niceness is the other culprit. Also mentioned in Doormat no more, niceness is passive aggressively living a boundary-less life, constantly giving and taking on unnecessary work and personal burdens. Resentment builds and builds, until your dam finally bursts and no one knows why. The cure for such lack of disingenuousness is honesty, not spoken bluntly or barked, but firmly and calmly. No, I won’t be doing your _______ for you any more. I’ve been taking on too much for myself, and shortchanging you of doing it for yourself.
What is revealed when you trust in God as you take such stands is this: the people in your life who understand and respect you and your boundaries will have no issue with it. They will thank you for expressing yourself honestly…and respecting them enough to do just that. The people who don’t understand or respect boundaries will not take well to it at all. And you can thank Jesus for helping you shed light on those two groups!
So why doesn’t God just make my life better for me?
Want healthier interpersonal relationships, rather than asking God why were you cast your lot in life, and why doesn’t He fix it for you? The revelation He gave me was that He does want to fix those things…through you! He wants us to take responsibility for our actions and boundaries, which not only affect our emotional and spiritual health and growth, but that of others around us.
Yes, that will likely mean you will face hostility from those who weren’t used to having boundaries to respect. Yes, you may feel very uncomfortable with the displeasure of others when you’re not doing things for them that they could do for themselves. But God wants you to live in the freedom of emotional healthiness, not the bondage of twisted relationship dynamics. And, the more you stand up and live boldly and freely and righteously in emotional and spiritual truth, the less that the takers in your life will be around, because you’re no longer fueling their tendencies. They’ll have to look elsewhere, or possibly change their perspective as well.
It took over 40 years till Jesus decided it was time to open my eyes to Him, and the amazing journey of emotional and spiritual growth ahead. If you battle with niceness, resentment, and boundary issues, I pray the lessons Jesus sparked in me will do the same for you!