Feb 9, 2016
Like a good neighbor
There are days when I like my neighbor's dog, but I cannot remember having a day when I wanted that dog to defecate on my lawn. I'm not one of those guys who strives to have the perfect grass, and extra fertilizer often helps, but it sure is irritating when I come in the house and smell THAT smell and locate it on my shoe. So the fence helps.
Property lines are nice, but fences are great. They help me realize quite plainly where my yard begins and ends and it keeps a lot of fights from ever happening. There is a safety in fences that just does not occur in relationships. I cannot carry around a personal fence everywhere I go...others might look at me a little strangely. But there are days.
I sat with a client the other day who was describing the essential problem with our lack of interpersonal fences (boundaries in the parlance of Henry Cloud and John Townsend). She talked about not knowing how to handle a problem at length, describing the pain, confusion and irritation she was experiencing. This problem was overwhelming to her, taking up far too much mental space and even creating some physical symptoms of distress. And then I asked her this question: “Is this really your problem?” She stopped and stared at me for some time. Silence can be awkward. I asked again, for fear maybe she didn't hear me, “Is this situation really your problem, or is it his?” Again, silence. You see, what she was struggling with was a problem of boundaries; she did not know the property lines and had no visible fences. She was feeling responsible for something that was outside of her control, but her desire to control it was creating extreme anxiety. And this is the way of poor boundaries. When we begin to feel responsible for things that are not ours to own, anxiety creeps in and steals our ability to move.
Stay tuned for the next post, which will outline the 4 essential arenas of control that we have. And then after that, sit back, relax, grab a drink and watch your neighbor's dog fertilize his own lawn with gratitude.