It’s Narcissist Friday!
Far too many people have suffered abuse from others who claim to belong to Jesus. The church seems to offer both a feeding ground and a supportive environment for those who want to control others for their own purposes.
One of the tools used against people is the subtle idea that boundaries are somehow wrong, inconsistent with Biblical teaching. Christians are supposed to be submissive, forgiving, welcoming, and tolerant. All of that opens the door for abuse by narcissists and users. In fact, those believers in narcissistic relationships have heard this idea thrown at them when they dare to resist or even question the abuse.
I believe this is a perversion of the call to believers and must be addressed. No one should be manipulated into accepting abuse by twisted Scripture or corrupted teaching of the faith.
Are boundaries biblical? Of course. If you begin by looking at boundaries outside of personal relationships, you quickly realize that property definitions were an important part of Jewish life. The people owned their land by inheritance, and the boundaries of that inheritance were well-defined. Boundaries were an extension of identity.
I understand that some people might say that property boundaries are different from relationship boundaries. I would disagree. The point is both order and protection. Interlopers were identified by their breech of these boundaries. The Scriptures never suggest that just anyone should have the right to begin farming your land or cutting your trees or even allowing their cattle to graze on your property. No, your property is your own, and Scripture supports the right to defend your identity by enforcing boundaries.
Beyond the principle established by property rights in Scripture, Jesus gave us His own example. He often withdrew from the crowds and even His own followers to spend time alone. There is every indication that He expected them to honor this private time with the Father. He chose not to heal all those who were sick, but all those to whom the Father led Him. He chose not to fulfill the expectations others tried to put on Him. His life is an example of orderly and purposeful progression made possible partly by enforced personal and relationship boundaries.
Why do we even have a question about this? Where does the idea that boundaries are not biblical come from? Well, apart from the twisting by the abusers, we do have some rather unnatural or “unfleshly” expectations placed on believers. We are called to be submissive and generous and unselfish. We are called to help others even when it might present an inconvenience to ourselves. In other words, we are to live above the natural and self-centered life of the world.
But self-care is not selfishness. Stewardship of the resources the Master has given you is not lack of generosity. Allowing yourself to be manipulated out of your money or your time is not being kind. When the abusers use these good admonitions for their own gain, we have both the right and the responsibility to deny them.
Boundaries are part of the protection God has allowed in our lives. Next week I will look at some of those difficult expectations and how they are still consistent with good boundaries.