Monday, May 3, 2010

Sowing and Reaping

Today as I was walking to work I was thinking about the law of sowing and reaping. The idea of this being a law was set forth by Cloud and Townsend in their excellent "Boundaries" books but the idea comes straight from the Bible itself:

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."
- Galatians 6:7

The law of sowing and reaping is the law of cause and effect. Simple reality. You can’t avoid the consequences of your actions. If you overspend, you will most likely get into debt. If you eat right and exercise, you will have better physical health. Obvious, right? However, in human relationships, some people try to save others from this law by stepping in and reaping the consequences for someone else. For example, if every time you overspent, your parents stepped in and covered for you, they would be keeping you from experiencing natural consequences. And you’d never learn anything. You would do it over and over again.

Many of us struggle with this tendency to “step in” when it is not wise to do so. It is like a savior mentality where we feel like we want to save those we love from ever being hurt. Yet it is in getting hurt that we learn. Some of us have gone to great lengths to “fix” something for someone else, but by doing that, we not only drain ourselves, but take power away from those we care about – keeping them from experiencing the consequences and learning from them. This is called codependence.

Some of us have been in relationships where our partner attempted to do the same for us – to “rescue” us from the pain naturally occurring from the choices we made. Who are you protecting from the natural consequences of their actions? Your friend, your children, your spouse? How are you preventing their growth and independence? There is a place for grace and for mercy. But when people repeatedly do things that would usually result in negative consequences for them and we repeatedly rescue them from those consequences they learn nothing. You are actually doing them a world of harm. Stop it! Just stop it! Stop being codependent! Stop paying for their mistakes. Let them experience the consequences so that they can grow from them. I write this for every spouse with an addicted partner, every parent who keeps paying their kids way and rescuing them financially, every friend who is constantly rescuing their friends from themselves as a way of "caring." And I write it for myself.


Moxymama said...

I agree, although the part where I struggle is when my husband's decisions, for example, would cause a negative effect on our family. Then I feel compelled to step in and correct it, even though letting him suffer the consequences would probably be wiser I feel like the rest of us shouldn't suffer as well.

Karle said...

Mark dealt with this a lot at school this year. We had QUITE the year of wrong decisions by students that had to be dealt with. Love, grace and mercy with was shown, but when it was obvious that it was time for consequences alone it amazed me the people who stood up angry that more mercy and grace wasn't shown instead.
Yes, in the moment mercy and grace feel better and I believe some learn this way , but for many it is the pain of consequences that make us remember why we don't want to do that again. Hopefully some of these students who saw Mark as a traitor who didn't really care like he said he did, will someday see that he actually cared a lot about who they are and who they would become.