Boundaries: Provided or Invented?

Navigating to what is right can be difficult under certain circumstances, especially if you have to figure it out yourself.

One of the benefits of strong religious beliefs is that it takes a lot of the ambiguity and uncertainty out of determining what’s right, what actions are permissible. The boundaries are provided for you in a set of rules that you can follow and live by. It even provides all of the associated guilt and fear for non-complience to keep you in line.

Follow a path or make your path?

If you toss that stuff out you’re left with making your own rules, which is MUCH harder. The thought processes and searching required to come up with a well grounded set of principles you commit to live by is daunting to say the least. Those rules and standards are often under stress and scrutiny — you know you made them up so there is no moral ground to retreat to or hide behind. There is a fine line between changing or breaking one of them because it’s consistent with the true path you want for yourself, versus just ignoring one as a matter of convenience or in a moment of weakness. Sometimes you have to decide whether it’s worthwhile to take the harder road because it’s consistent with your principles, or if it’s only a harder road and doesn’t actually do anything to build you up according to your own ‘what do I really want out of life‘ examination. It’s challenging to navigate, and it’s not easy to get real help. You can turn to religion for some guidelines. There are plenty of opinions there, depending upon the religion you choose. But unless you accept it all wholeheartedly you’re still on your own to decide what matters.

With or without religion you first have to decide whether and to what degree you want to commit to living your life by a set of principles. Most of us do, but often one of the more powerful underlying motivations is for us to feel good about ourselves (are you a good person). This frames the choice in deciding how important it is for you to feel good about yourself as opposed to to doing what feels good. (As you think about this, think about the plight of an overweight person or addict. It’s easy to stand on the outside and assume you know what needs to be done.) When you’re objective the choice can seem clear, but it can be awfully hard to navigate it on your own, especially when things get complicated.


14 Responses to “Boundaries: Provided or Invented?”

  1. 1 Anonymous September 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    What you’re talking about is accountability. The difference is in who or what you feel accountable to.

  2. 2 David Stewart September 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    That’s a big part of it, but there is more. I’m really talking about DIRECTION. You choose that. Then you choose the boundaries you believe are consistent with it. Or, in some cases/directions they are chosen for you. You make a big choice, which can then make a lot of smaller choices more clear…if you fully buy in. If you don’t fully buy in to one of the institutions then it leaves more up to you in terms of putting your own scrutiny on more things. There are pros and cons either way.

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