I think it’s safe to say that my brother and I are pretty close. We’re only two years apart in age, so we did basically everything together growing up. We have a lot of things in common, and we still spend a lot of time together. We pick on each other constantly. Both of us know that when worse comes to worse, we’re always going to have each other’s back. I remember a family friend once saying to me about his oldest son and his only daughter, “I see the relationship you and Derek have, and I hope they have a relationship like that one day.”
I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. Most people see the good in our relationship, but they don’t see the unsavory moments. We fight, which isn’t uncommon for siblings, but we fight a lot and over the stupidest things (and I’m not even kidding about that). I know I’ve gone to bed angry at him before, and I’ve gone a day or more without talking to him unless I absolutely had to at times. I feel pretty safe saying the following because I’m sure he feels the same about me: I love the guy, but half the time, he frustrates me so much that I could slap him. (But trust that no one else is allowed to say that about him without having to deal with me.)
I know my brother loves me, but honestly, that kid knows how to get under my skin better than anyone else. He’s spent almost 23 years perfecting his technique and skills in that area. And I don’t think I’m that good at intentionally bugging him, but I’m an expert at making fun of him. Of course, every member of my family can bother me at times, but I don’t think they’re as aware of it or as proud of it as my dear brother is.
Family, oftentimes, is both the best and the worst. Because of that, those relationships are arguably the most fragile.
I think to some extent that we’ve all set up some boundaries within our family before. For example, do your mom and dad know everything, and I mean everything, that you did in high school or college? For most, the answer is probably no, and if you’re like me, you’d probably like to keep it that way.
Boundaries are made to keep out bad vibes, whether they originate in you or other people.
Like that friend you don’t want to talk to about your problems because instead of you venting about your problems, it quickly becomes all about them. You love them, you really do, but there’s only so many times you can be one-upped without going off on someone, right? It doesn’t make you very happy, and if you let them know you’re angry about it, they probably aren’t going to enjoy your critique of their character.
Or that person that you really want to open up to, but you know that they’ll just worry about you. You tell them one little thing and they’re asking all of these other questions before you can take your next breath. Their voice changes with their tone. Their whole countenance changes. You just wanted to tell them something, whether it was to let them in or to get advice. Now you feel awful because you seem to have added so much stress to their life. Nobody wins.
And there’s that person that it feels like it is their mission just to upset you. Call it natural talent or hard work put into practice, but no matter what the topic is or even whether or not you ask them, they say something that bothers you. Sometimes it’s no big deal, and sometimes it upsets you to your core. Regardless, when their around, you’re pretty sure that you’re not going to have a great time.
Please know that I’m not telling you to stop loving them. That’s not what I’m saying at all. From what I can tell, spiritual vampires are the ones who need love the most. Not just our love, but Christ’s love, an unconditional love that’s already proven itself. And we may be the only way that love is demonstrated.
I know that sounds like a lot of pressure. And I know that the idea of boundaries seems to contrast that plan and purpose. But without boundaries, feelings get hurt, bitterness sets in, and hearts are hardened. If I let you into an area of my life that you really shouldn’t be in, it’ll be very easy for what we have going on to turn sour. Then I’m going to resent you and maybe even hate you. It’s going to be hard to reach me for any reason or in any way at that point.
“But Carrie, if I love someone, I have to love all of them. What they do, who they are. I mean, isn’t that what Jesus does?”
No. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to love everything about them or everything that they do. While Jesus loves and accepts us for exactly who we are, that doesn’t mean He approves of our actions. Jesus loves every man on death row, but that I’m sure He doesn’t approve of the actions that landed them there.
As Alan spoke Sunday, I had a realization that one of my favorite things about Jesus is that He always kept it real. He always said what He meant, and He told everyone exactly like it was. Look at Luke 18:18-27. The rich, young ruler comes to Jesus asking how he can gain eternal life.
“You know the commandments?” Jesus asked.
“Oh yeah,” the ruler responded. “I’ve kept them all.” (A faulty thing to say to the Son of God, but whatever.)
“Ok. All that’s left to do is sell all your stuff and give the money to the poor, and then you can join the group,” Jesus said.
Then the ruler walks off, his head hung low and his heart sad. He’d wanted eternal life, but believe it or not, the price was a bit too steep for him. The people murmur, and Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them a lesson. Sure, He could’ve welcomed the ruler into His group. It’s not like the disciples were all perfect men. The ruler’s wealth and prestige could’ve helped them out, fewer enemies and comfier beds to lay in at night. But Jesus wasn’t going to be bought or lied to. He knew the ruler’s heart and intentions weren’t genuine. He knew that the cost of eternal life would displease the man, but it was what it was. He wasn’t going to lie to the guy or sugarcoat it. He just gave him the ultimate test, which he didn’t pass.
“Aren’t the boundaries I set up with those I love going to make them mad?”
Probably. I doubt anyone’s going to be pumped up to hear that you’re denying them access to a part of your life. But I can tell you that the anger they feel now is much better than the bitterness they would feel towards you later. It’s much more temporary and much less substantial.
“So what do I do?”
The only thing I know to tell you is to pray about it. Honestly. Before you do anything – make a move, pick up a phone, say or type a single word to anyone – talk to God about it. It should be our first action in doing anything, but especially in our dealings and doings with other people. If we seek God’s help and wisdom before doing anything, there’s not going to be a mess for Him to have to clean up afterward. Will it hurt? Yes, but it’ll be something everyone can recover from.
By Carrie Prevette