Monday, October 17, 2011

Stuffers by Lesa TerKeurst

Have you ever tried to keep the peace by avoiding confrontation and just stuffing down the issue? I have. And it hurts. It hurts me. It hurts them. And it certainly hurts relationships. Instead of keeping the peace, it actually slowly erodes the relationship.

I stuff because:
· I don’t feel safe enough to confront this person.
· I don’t have the energy or the time to get into a conflict right now.
· I don’t know how to address it
· I don’t want to seem hypersensitive
· I don’t want to get rejected
· I don’t want to lose control
· I don’t want to make things worse so I convince myself I can just let it go

But if I’m completely honest, as a Christian woman, I sometimes stuff because it feelsmore godly to stuff.
I read verses like Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise,” and I decide to hold back my words. And I plant in my brain, “It’s godly to hold back your words.” And then I reinforce this thinking with other verses like, “Proverbs 15:19, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

I want to keep the peace. I want to speak the truth in love. I want to be gentle not confrontational.
And these are good things. If I can do this without bitterness forming than great! That’s called healthy processing. But there’s a big difference between healthy processing and stuffing.

Healthy processing is where I think through the issue and diffuse the hurt. Maybe I do this through prayer and studying my Bible. Maybe I do it by talking to a counselor or mentor in my life. Maybe I just give it enough time where I decide it’s not that big of a deal after all. But here’s the key: the end result is the hard feelings dissipate. If they don’t dissipate, they get stuffed.

And that’s where trouble is found.

That’s where barriers are built.

Barriers shut communication down. You determine another person isn’t safe and label them with words like, “Demanding. Irresponsible. Volatile. Selfish. Defensive.” No matter what they do or don’t do, this label is a barrier filter through which everything they do will be processed.

You know the label you’ve placed on them but they don’t.

You just mentally stick it across this person’s name in your brain. The problem is they don’t know it’s there. So every interaction you have with them going forward is confusing.

They know something is wrong but have no clue what it is. Eventually, this relationship will shrivel up and die because it’s been deprived of the life giving necessity of open communication.

Boundaries, as opposed to barriers, provide safe passage ways for communication to flow. It may be tough for some to stay within the boundaries you’ve set but at least there is clarity on what works and what doesn’t.

Some examples of healthy boundaries are:
If you continue being thirty minutes late to events, I will take a separate car.
I need a better work ethic from you in the office, or we’ll have to make some changes.
If you keep spending over our budget, I will cut up the credit cards.
I can’t lend you anymore money until I see you making serious efforts to find a job.
I want to bring the grandkids to see you, but if you just surf the web while we’re there, it’s not worth it to come.

If you won’t stop drinking too much or using drugs, I will take the kids and move out.
The difference between the two is honesty. When we build a barrier with a person it’s either because we’re afraid to be honest, tired of being honest and getting hurt, or feeling like the relationship isn’t worth the hard work honesty sometimes takes.

When we build boundaries we are being brave enough to be honest but wrapping it in a love that keeps the relationship safe for both.

Barriers set relationships in a regressive pattern that leads to destructive isolation.
Boundaries set relationships in a progressive pattern that leads to effective communication.

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