My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off big-time, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. From Hebrews 12 (The Message)
Many years ago Henry Cloud and John Townsend wrote a book titled Boundaries. It became a best seller, mostly because it was a really good book! In it, they gave a number of principles about setting good boundaries in our life. The sub-title of the book, interestingly enough was How to say no without feeling guilty. Yeah, that kind of says it all right? How often do we feel guilty when we need to set limits on others for our own protection- of time, space, finances, etc.
One of the metaphors that they used was the distinction between “hurt” and “harm”. Sometimes, the limits we set on people may cause some hurt. The reason we do that however, is to save from harm. For example, we may set a limit on our availability to accept phone calls or texts after a certain time. This may cause some hurt feelings on those who receive the boundary, but it does them no harm. It also serves to give us the freedom to not get late night communications which are disruptive.
This is a somewhat innocuous example, but it gives an idea of the principle.
I recently had a client who has an adult child living in the home who seems to be ruling the home through manipulative behavior. This young person needs clear and direct boundaries, and I am gently moving the parents into a place to hear that setting better boundaries is good for both them and their adult child. Their boundaries will cause this young man no harm, but it may be hurtful to him. He may become upset and angry. I reassured them that he may be hurt (not physically, just inconvenienced) by those boundaries, but he will not be harmed.
We learn from being hurt, but harm causes damage. Sometimes allowing hurt can save people from being harmed.
There are a number of great principles in this book, and over the next several blogs, I will discuss some of them. I encourage you to get the book.
Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom to know good boundaries and to set them forth in love, Amen