I had a wonderful conversation with a friend of mine today about the way we phrase things and what it says about our behavior. The whole study of how we react to others and how well we represent ourselves is called ego boundaries, and it is one of the topics that I consider very important in understanding people. In fact, all three of our kids will tell you that I am a real stickler on representing yourself and not being overly swayed by others trying to impose their will on you.
For example, have you ever heard someone say, “You make me so mad”? What they are saying is the another person has the ability to control how they feel – the same thing with “You make me so happy…” or “Drinking makes me funny” or anything else that causes us to assign our behavior to somebody else. It just isn’t healthy. Each of us is born with the ability to control how we feel – whether we choose to be swayed by someone else or not.
Many times I see weak ego boundaries when I have lunch with somebody. They order something, then I order, then they change their order to match mine because “it sounds good.” Ever sit at a table when someone asks you what you are going to order? That’s a sign that they are having a tough time making a decision and would like your input so they can decide if they want to emulate your behavior.
Needless to say, I am hyper-alert and my ears perk up when somebody announces that their behavior is a result of someone else’s actions. Now sometimes I am aware that our bosses say things that we need to do, or they give us instructions that we need to follow, but that is not the norm. Usually when we have weak boundaries, it is not a superior, but rather a subordinate or peer who is swaying our behavior. And when people realize that they are responsible for their own decisions about how they are going to feel, their effectiveness as leaders immediately grows exponentially.
So this afternoon, after our chat, I decided to think about any particular illustration where I could identify ego boundaries with God and to try and figure out if God ever “makes” us do anything – or whether He encourages us to follow Him. This goes to the whole concept of “free will” and whether or not God controls us or whether we have the ability to follow, or not, as we see fit. Know what I thought of? Yep….. one verse, the beginning of the 23rd Psalm. Remember it?
Psalm 23:1-3 clearly tells us, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” So I went back and thought about this very important passage of Scripture. I even did a little study in the Greek and Hebrew and found out some interesting stuff. For example, in the Hebrew, the passage seems more like, “He causes me to want to rest in fresh grass” rather the the seeming command that He “makes me lie down in green pastures.” But that’s an important distinction.
There is a huge difference between God making us do something and encouraging us to do something out of our love for Him – an act of obedience, if you will. And God is not a forceful God – He created us with free will and we have the choice to either follow, or not. Now I realize that this whole issue of understanding the nuances of words may seem a little over the top, but it really is important.
Even though God has the right to force us to do something, that’s not how He rolls. He loves us and wants us to make our choices based on our love for Him. Therefore, God encourages us, and reminds us of His great caring for us. One of the problems with the translation of the Bible into English is that we lose some of the colorful use of the original languages.
I confess that I am not a raving fan of the “Message” which is a paraphrase of the Bible. It loses much of the original word for word translation of the Scriptures, but in this passage, as much as I hate to admit it, the Message really does a better job. In that translation, Psalm 23:2 reads, ” You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.” Frankly, much more accurate that “He makes me….”
Anyway, I am sure that you get the idea. God gives us choices and we can follow, or pass. Either way, it is up to us. God hopes we choose to follow Him, as an act of obedience based on our love for Him. My encouragement this evening is to consider subordinating your will to the will of God – not because He “makes” you but because you want to. I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed. And my prayer is that you will always have the desire to follow the Lord and live in the divine peace that comes from an authentic, genuine relationship with Him. And on this earth, I pray that you will be successful representing yourself with strong ego boundaries, because that’s the way we were created by God. Grace and peace…