If you’ve read a few of my blogs, by now you’ve noted I’ve written about boundaries several times. I’m using the term slightly different here than you’ll read about if you pick up the books on boundaries. In those books you will read that it’s important to keep an emotional boundary around your individual self and not let other people tread on you or manipulate you or guilt trip you into doing something that you wouldn’t normally do. So, for example, if your mother-in-law tells you that you never come to see her and that she’s all alone and don’t you love her, and then you feel like crap and secretly hate her for criticizing you, but you go to her house anyway, not because you want to, but because she’s guilted you into going, these books would say your mother-in-law has crossed a boundary. You are a big girl and you can decide with your husband if and when you want to go to your mother-in-laws and you don’t need to feel guilty about not going. That would be called a boundary issue. The mother-in-law is seeking to cross an emotional barrier and you gently don’t let her. You aren’t mean about it. If you were mean about it, you’d be crossing her boundaries!
Or your 22 year old son tries to convince you that you need to co-sign a loan on a new car because he needs one bad. He’s never paid a bill on time in his life and you know if you do it it will be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. But he whines and moans and says you are a terrible dad and so finally out of desperation, to shut him up, you cosign the loan. You know as soon as you do it that you are a complete idiot, but you do it anyway out of guilt or sheer frustration. That would be a boundary issue. It’s OK to say no to your children!
But when I’m writing about boundaries in marriage, I’m referring to the boundary of integrity around a husband and wife. It’s just the two of you. There is an invisible circle around you to protect each other and the marriage from evil and temptation. There is a battle for the heart as you face this world and temptation is lurking at the door to your soul looking for an opportunity to devour you and laugh at the meal he’s eating, but you keep that entrance closed. You’ve got one person in your heart and that’s your wife or husband. That’s what it meant when you said, “Having Thee Only” in your wedding vows. The “having” in your vow doesn’t mean “possession”. You don’t own your spouse! But with the 6.7 plus billion people in the world and the 7.2 trillion temptations out there, the only person you “have” in your heart is her or him. That’s it. That’s what I mean by boundary.
And I’ve said in previous blogs that this type of a boundary is GOOD. You’ll note our verse above. It says that integrity preserves us. Your integrity is the key to keeping appropriate boundaries between you and the other tempting specimens of the human race, whether in everyday life or in digital form on the internet or the unbelievable hunks in the romance novels that make you swoon or the dude you met on that chat sight (“He’s just my friend”) out of your heart.
Integrity preserves. The common definition of integrity is that you are the same person in public as you are in private. That’s fine, unless you are a jerk in public! If you make inappropriate choices when you are alone and inappropriate choices when you are with others, I suppose there’s integrity in the sense that in both instances you are inappropriate! But maybe we need a better definition.
The word integrity comes from the Latin word for integer, which, for all you non-math buffs, including me, is the word for whole numbers like 1, 2, 3, etc. If you apply that concept to the moral arena in means “wholeness” or “completeness” or “soundness,” or, to say it another way, you hold to a complete set of principles that do not vary. You’re not going to let temptation of any stripe cause you to divide the integer of your heart. It’s solely committed to your beloved. End of story.
In our day of wanton pleasure at every turn, integrity sounds boring. But if integrity preserves us, the opposite of integrity leads to chaos. You want a life of unrelenting grief and heartache? Here’s the sure formula guaranteed to turn your life into a complete mess:
Have an affair and see how your spouse responds. Note her sleepless nights, her panicky feelings, her doubting eyes, her temperamental spirit. But keep having your affair anyway, because you are just friends and you aren’t going to let your wife or anyone tread on you. No. No. Note your kids hate your affairee’s guts and they won’t look you in the eye anymore nor do they ask you for any advice and whenever they see you they look depressed. Note your mom and dad’s reaction. They aren’t jumping for joy either. Note your boss firing you for fraternizing on the job and putting the company in a legal quagmire. Note how your bill collectors don’t have a lot of compassion when you don’t pay your bills. Note how no one seems to understand you and you seem all alone. Note how your affairee’s spouse called you and said if he ever found you with her again that would be how you would be found, if you know what I mean. Note how scared you are. Note how you are sleeping in the spare bedroom and the bed squeaks every time you move. Note how your wife filed because you really “love” your affairee and you just want to be happy. Note how your lawyer said you have to pay $5000 up front before he’ll take your case and so you give him your credit card. Note how after the divorce you never hardly ever see your children and you are all alone and your affairee turned out to be a crazy woman and when you shared with her all your problems she told you were a crazy man and she dumped you like a hot potato and how could she do that ‘cuz the sex was unbelievable and it felt so right and you loved her and now you are living in an upstairs apartment with the stairs that are made of wood on the outside of the house and they creak every time you take a step and the wind blew your grocery bag out of your hands the other day when you tried to take them in and you have to park your old beater in the street underneath that stupid walnut tree and there’s crap all over it every morning, not to mention the birds are leaving you God’s opinion on the hood, too, and, dang, if you don’t spend a lot of time in that dingy apartment alone.
So, ahh, I’ll take boring integrity any day. You’d be surprised. If you let integrity rule your life, you probably won’t have to come see me. Not that I’m not a nice guy or anything.