Out of Bounds

Recovery requires boundaries. Unfortunately we often think of boundaries as limiting factors. They’re the rules and regs we have to live by in order to maintain sobriety. But this is an entirely narrow view of boundaries.

Instead, I encourage you to think of boundaries as the guardrails you surround yourself with to protect your soul. These include what you look at, listen to, ingest, smell, where you go, and who you interact with. You are the primary protector of your soul. God gave you rule over that part of His kingdom. He owns it, but we are stewards of it.

When we relax our boundaries and engage pseudo porn, lustful looking, “harmless” flirting (quotes indicate denial) or drink a little too much we are dabbling with disaster. When we listen to podcasts or shows that pollute our thinking, go places or say or do things that violate our consciences we are fueling fallout. Its only a matter of time. Maybe you can relate in that when I relax a little boundary, it turns into relaxing bigger boundaries. And when I bump against them to see if they’ll really hold me, I’m actually seeing how far I can get. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Alternatively, when I live well within intentionally designed boundaries, I allow my soul to flourish. It’s life giving. It creates a lifestyle of abundance rather than a mentality of scarcity. The most important people get the best parts of me, rather than a dulled out version of me.

The sad truth though, is that when I live with poor boundaries I’m really being a poor steward of the soul God has given me. Rather than cultivating, sanctifying and treasuring it as a reflection of His glory, I’m covering it with grit, grime and pollution.

Recovery boundaries aren’t limiters. They’re life givers.

Empathy Tools

Shelley recently did a blogpost writing about humility and empathy (you’ll see a link to it at the bottom). Then she asked me to do a quick video with her about it. But she didn’t tell me what the questions were going to be. They were hard! You can scroll to the bottom of the post to see it if you’d like.

The conversation that typically transpires in my office regarding empathy includes the question, “how do I do it?”  Meaning, how does a guy actually practice empathy. Empathy is so much a character trait developed through sanctification, you can’t just manufacture it. But, you can prepare and cultivate your heart for it. Remember that the idea of empathy is to see another person’s experience through their lens. It’s not asking the question, “how would I feel in that particular situation?” it is instead asking, “how do they feel in that particular situation?”. That person’s life experiences are all coming to bear on the moment. If you have trouble dialing in to empathy, here is a super simple tool to help. Take a look, then I’ll explain it.empathy chart.001


It goes like this:

  1. Identify something that brings up past pain. It could be something happening in the moment, or something from the distant past.
  2. Think about what it must feel like for your wife to experience this. For example-
    1. Buying a crappy birthday present. Especially if its a pattern, how does it feel to receive that from you? Perhaps there have been hints. Or even overt statements about what to buy/do. When you show up with something that was winging it at best, and completely out of left field at worst, what emotions might get stirred. Write them down.
  3. Consider what you feel, for her, when you acknowledge that you’ve brought about these emotions in the person you love the most on the planet.
    1. It’s easy to go into shame mode here, writing things like guilty, ashamed, angry at myself, disappointed in myself, etc. That’s how you feel for you. You want to key in on what you feel for her.
  4. Share it. You can literally speak from left to right across the chart: here’s what has happened and what I’ve done, what I can imagine you feel, and what I feel for you.

For me to cultivate empathy, I had to go through these type of exercises on my own, outside of the heated exchanges. So that meant sitting at my desk in the middle of the day, or while at lunch, or driving in my car looking at a feelings chart and matching words to emotions. I needed to try and practice seeing life through her lens. Sometimes I was only coming up with the right words to match what I thought she thought I should feel. With me? But that’s ok, because I had to start somewhere.

That facilitated me being more able to do empathy when the heated moments happened.

Is this the ultimate fix? Negative. But it is one more way you can tap into your heart, and thus hopefully connect with your wife’s heart.

Here are the links I mentioned earlier –

Shelley’s post on Empathy & Humility

Empathy & Humility Video


Bottom Line

A quick thought to ponder-

What’s your bottom line purpose for today?

What is that baseline commitment that if you meet it, whether or not your day went well, whether or not you performed as a zero or a hero, you can hit the sack with peace?

For me, that is honoring God by being authentic, transparent and speaking truth. If I can function today living out who God has called me to be I can rest. If I tell the truth, both of my life and the life of Jesus, I can rest. If I can be vulnerable and avoid masks and pretenses that portray I can handle life by my own strength, then I can rest knowing I’ve done all I can do.

If we’ll chase after that bottom line commitment today, with all our strength and energy, it’s unlikely we’ll look at porn, go to a strip club, have an(other) affair or be tangled up in the barbed wire of our own egos.

You can do it.