The next few installments of the blog will be about defining secondary boundaries. As a team at the workshops, the counselors and I have been raising the bar on what and how we present the material. We’re constantly discussing how we can make the workshop more effective and present a TON of important content in the most meaningful way. A member of the team, Jim Phillis, recently presented a breakdown of 10 types of secondary boundaries that have been very, very helpful. I hope you’ll take this material and apply it to your own recovery. I have already applied it to mine, and am making some changes which I’ll share as we go.
First, what are secondary boundaries? They are the fences we cross on our way to going off the cliff of acting out. In other words, they are experiences where we can potentially enter the addictive cycle and ultimately act out. It is important to remember that secondary boundaries are typically innocuous in themselves; they are usually not sinful. However, when we encounter them, we must acknowledge that we are one step closer to sinning. By defining them, we are simply heightening our own awareness and raising our level of intentionality with respect to integrity.
Here are the first 3 types:
Geographical – places that can be triggering. It can include particular cities or parts of town. It could include places within your home. The idea is to define which geographical areas might activate lustful thoughts. Once defined, you’ll need to decide on a strategy to handle them. That could be avoiding them, but more likely will mean being on heightened alert when you are in them.
Situational – contexts that can be triggering. Examples I regularly hear are 3 B’s: Bars, Beaches and Ballgames. With situational triggers it is also important to look more deeply, to see if the issue is the emotional experience of the context. Other situational triggers might include: issues at work, payday, church, meetings where women/men are present, when you’re home alone.
Relational – think people. These are relationships and specifically, situations within those relationships, where you might be triggered. There is overlap with situational here as you’ll see. Again, it is important to look at what happens emotionally in these relational situations to see what makes it a boundary. Examples may include certain people: a flirtatious coworker, a “touchy” person, a family member whom you have a strained relationship with. It could also include particular situations within relationships: conflict with spouse, disciplining kids, dealing with parents or siblings.
To close, remember that we aren’t trying to define every single situation where we might be triggered and to stay away from it. That’s impossible. And unbiblical if we’re to be in but not of the world. The crux of the exercise is to raise our awareness and preparedness. When I worked at Arthur Andersen I was part of a team that developed DRP’s – Disaster Recovery Plans. (The plan at Andersen didn’t account for tax fraud, however). The goal was to assist clients in anticipating situations that might arise where corporate data systems could be compromised (natural disaster, theft, etc), then create a plan to keep the business functioning effectively in light of it.
Same thing here: we want to anticipate situations that might trigger us and have a plan to keep ourselves functioning effectively in light of them.
..but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Sometimes we’re too quick to blame our temptation on the Devil and the culture. Is it true that temptation arises from these sources? Yes, it is. However, often times our temptation originates from within. It begins when we are dragged away and enticed. What does that mean? It means our focus shifts away from what matters most and we become distracted with what fulfills the least. Many of us have reels of old footage from past porn binges, affairs, strip clubs and chat lines that we can recollect and thereby be enticed. When we engage that footage and allow ourselves to fantasize about it we are being dragged away; or to put it in context of the verse, we are dragging ourselves away. Where is that going to lead us?
We also experience temptation as a form of dealing with our emotions. Some of us have learned that emotions such as anger, insignificance, loneliness, rejection, fear, failure and disappointment can be numbed and soothed by engaging sexual thoughts. Unfortunately, it is easier to engage those thoughts and medicate rather than to deal with the emotions appropriately. It was very difficult for me to accept this truth and to learn to deal with my emotions in healthy ways. It was especially difficult to learn how to process my emotions with other people. I wanted to keep it all bottled up and to myself. I didn’t want to weigh anyone down with my junk. I wanted people to think I had it altogether; that I wasn’t needy. The truth is: we’re all needy and sometimes we have to get needy out loud.
Whether to numb feelings or to excite ourselves, we are giving birth to sin and ultimately that will give way to death. We have to take ownership for our self-temptation and be willing to engage our neediness, and surrender ourselves to God.
A couple of questions to consider:
1 – In what ways do you tempt yourself, effectively dragging yourself away to be enticed?
2 – Have you turned these things over to God and others? If not, how about telling God and others about it today.
Joshua, standing before the angel, was dressed in dirty clothes. The angel spoke to his attendants, “Get him out of those filthy clothes,” and then said to Joshua, “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.
I will sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul! He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness.
It is imperative for us to understand our righteousness. If we don’t understand this foundational principle, we will struggle mightily through the rest of our journey towards sexual integrity. We are righteous. Not by our works, not by our looks, not by our bank accounts, not by our church attendance, not by our charitable donations, not by our behaviors, not by our eloquent prayers. Only by the grace of God in Jesus. You see, in accepting Christ our filthy rags were removed. The stench of sexual sin -past, present and future- was taken away. And it’s not by anything we can do for ourselves. These verses clearly depict our re-dressing being the work of God and the heavenly hosts. We have been robed in righteousness and dressed in clean clothes. When we accept Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us. It’s in us. It’s on us. Nothing can remove it from us. You have to accept that in the middle of your acting out, in the midst of a porn session, in the intoxicating delusion of another encounter with your mistress, God sees you as clean. He looks at you like a groom gazes at his bride on their wedding day. He is grieved by your behavior but infinitely loves your being. You are righteous!