It’s perhaps one of the most difficult complete sentences for many people to use.
Over the years I have walked with over 50 women through an eight-week course on living with healthy boundaries. Each time I learn something new or a concept sinks deeper in creating greater understanding and awareness. I am particularly thankful for the material Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have developed.
Last Sunday I spoke on this topic in church and, once again, my preparations resulted in further clarity. I conveyed this story to the congregation.
Our first-born son sat on the living room floor angry-crying. He was about six months old, surrounded by toys and an attentive mother. He sported a clean diaper, a full stomach and wasn’t sick. Nothing I could think of cheered him up so I sat on the carpet and cried too.
I could not make my son happy.
The depth of this insight shaped my future as I recognized my inability to control my child. I grieved the loss of control and asked God to show me how to proceed. If I can’t make him do things, how do I parent? This motivated my quest for answers and began an earnest journey toward applying healthy boundaries.
As I reflect on that 26-years-ago situation, I am grateful I didn’t find a way to easily placate my baby that day. I now know that his internal angst precipitated each significant developmental stage. He grew exasperated with immobility just before he crawled; he became aggravated with the slow pace of all-fours right before walking; impatience preceded clear speech.
In other words, dissatisfaction with his current state – whatever it was – became the very motivation he needed to push himself toward change. And my distress over lack of power to make him happy also precipitated my work on having healthy boundaries.
So I find myself asking afresh what the areas are in my life that I feel dissatisfied with, and then asking God to show me how He desires to change me. Am I thwarting someone else’s opportunity to grow by alleviating their discomfort when they should be the ones addressing it?
As Cloud and Townsend so aptly put it, we are responsible for our own feelings, actions and behaviors. When we take responsibility for someone else’s, we keep them in an immature state.
More on this topic next week.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst