Boundaries Are Difficult

Boundaries Are Difficult

If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Matthew 9:14

When life fell apart due to my addiction, it needed to fall apart. Addicts are rarely capable of just deciding to change. Transformation usually requires painful consequences. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter those who tried to gently turn me to sobriety. My employer needed me gone. The state made me leave the practice of medicine until I got help. My wife said we were done if I continued down my destructive path. She, nor anyone else, was going to travel the road of addiction with me, coaxing and begging me to turn around. If I wanted my life back, I had to change immediately.

As Christians, we sometimes think that we’re supposed to be all soft and kind. We imagine that being Christlike means we can only use words of support and sympathy. When someone fails to repent or recover, we attempt to turn him around with love. If only I can be supportive enough, maybe he’ll change. So, we pursue and we coddle, deceiving ourselves into thinking we’re being like Jesus.

In today’s passage though, Jesus taught almost the exact opposite when he sent his disciples out to spread his message. He knew the gospel wouldn’t be popular with everyone. In fact, he knew that most would spurn the kingdom of heaven. When the majority rejected him, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to pursue, coddle, and beg. Jesus told them to simply move on.

Shake the dust off your feet. Walk away. Continue down your own path, whether anyone goes with you or not. You’re not responsible for the choices of others. You’re only responsible for loving them, telling them the truth, and letting them make a choice (My paraphrase).

Boundaries are hard though, and they get harder the closer we are to the lost addict. When it’s a parent, child, or spouse, it can be awful. For our own sake though, and for the sake of those we love, we must strive to maintain necessary boundaries. The route of hand-holding and accommodation may be easy, but that’s enabling, and it rarely helps anyone. If we desire to live rightly and help those in need, then sometimes we just need to share the truth and walk away.

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  1. J says:

    I have a mentally ill brother and now deceased mother. My mother drug me around the US but brother with grandparents. No drugs just stinking thinking and now my daughter has addiction to any drug she can get her hands on and will not settle down due to Her hatred of the labels and stigma of DMH and is again refusing to take Rx she is stating she is closer to God. I had 3 miscarriages before I had her and when she such a fun loving child until 11 and tried to kill herself. What do I do she was on the streets for two weeks and now wants to go back. She had a nursing degree when she feel apart at 24. She is now 35 and completely off the rails. She wants to go back to Bham or try Atlanta and live in their shelter. I don’t know what to do. I understand boundaries and the fact Alabama is the worst for help. Please forgive my rambling but I read your blog daily and I am blessed by it. I keep wanting to put her on a bus to Minnesota where maybe that state could reach her. I am so lost and love Kristen so much.

    • Scott says:

      What do I do with the addict in my life?
      That’s one of the hardest and most common questions. I only know addiction from my own point of view. I’ve not yet had close family members struggle with it yet, so I hope my answer is not insincere.
      Your daughter’s struggle is with her addiction and it’s her struggle. You cannot recover for her and you cannot fix her. That will likely be your daily struggle: to daily give that burden to God, allowing him to carry it for you. As much as you love her, you can’t make her do anything. Daily, you can pray, give your burden to God, tell your daughter you love her and that she needs help, and you can maintain boundaries for your own spiritual, emotional, and physical health. If she will get help, then you do whatever you can to facilitate that.
      I will pray for you!

  2. J says:

    Thank you Scott

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