Submission vs. Claiming Our Rights

Allowing Others Their Rights

Setting boundaries and establishing mutual basic rights in relationships becomes challenging when we confuse our “rights” to protect our own life with the “right” to control another person’s behavior.  While learning to embrace our rights can be a welcome relief, the challenge is that we must allow others the very same freedoms.

  • We have no right to try to change how another person believes, thinks, feels, or behaves.
  • We have no right to attempt to make a person into who we think they should be.

If we are dealing with emotionally or spiritually unhealthy people, this means we must allow them to make their own choices that might lead them to destructive and damaging consequences in their lives.  It is important we give people the freedom to choose – whether it be right or wrong.  People have that right.

If and when we attempt to stop, redirect, or fix another human being’s choices and decisions, we are not only exhibiting shame-based behavior ourselves, but we are attempting to serve the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Submission yield signSubmission Versus Claiming Our Rights

God doesn’t call us to be doormats, but He does call us to live submitted lives.  Submission doesn’t operate by someone else controlling us, or by us feeling obligated or guilted into doing something.  Submission is a by-product of love and is built upon the respect and honor due to another person.  In essence, when we submit, we give up our own rights and allow someone else to make a decision.  This assumes we aren’t compromising our core rights and beliefs in the process.

I often explain the concept of Biblical “submission” to my clients in this way:  It is a gift we give another person, not something they take from us or force upon us.  True submission does not place us under the authority of another person.  No, true Biblical submission actually compels us to yield our needs in favor of the needs of another person so that they may experience the love and grace of Christ through us. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV).

Submission in Christian Marriage

Submission does not seek to manipulate someone in order to get personal needs met or to control an outcome.  Instead, as two people come together in love and submission, there should be compatibility, not compromise, and yielding, not manipulation.

We are able to submit to a person when we love God, ourselves, and others properly.  If any of these are missing or lacking, submission will quickly become unhealthy and lead to either fear or identity dependence.

In the NLT version of the Bible, Ephesians 5:21 tells us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Responsibility in Relationships

Part of learning how to establish healthy, reasonable boundaries is to know where “I” end and “you” begin.  To break this down, I’ve created a table that looks at three functions in a relationship:

Our responsibilities to God, self, and others Our reasonable expectations of other people God’s responsibilities
We offer ourselves as complete human beings in relationships, not needing someone else to make us whole or to complete us. We can expect people to be whole, complete human beings in relationships, not looking for us to make up for their deficiencies. We learn to find sufficiency in Christ – He alone will make us whole and complete through Him.
We are able to offer forgiveness on a continual basis when others commit wrongdoing against us, offering a relationship pattern of grace. We can expect people to offer forgiveness and grace when we fall short. We know that all forgiveness comes from God.  Where we fail each other, we find grace through Jesus Christ.
We are responsible for the changes we need to make in our life.  We are not responsible for others. We can allow people to be responsible for the changes they need to make in their lives. They are not responsible for ours. God convicts us of those things we need to change, and then gives us the power only to change ourselves.
We take responsibility for our own emotions and don’t attempt to make others responsible for our feelings and moods, whether good or bad. We can expect people to take responsibility for their own emotions, not holding us

accountable for their feelings and moods, whether good or bad.

We know that only God can help us identify our emotions and the root causes behind them.
We can offer our ideas, beliefs, and wishes in the relationship, no

matter how different they might be from those of other people. We respect their differing views, but don’t allow them to disrespect or compromise

our core beliefs.

We can expect people to offer their ideas, beliefs, and wishes, and respect our views that may be different from theirs. We ask God to take our ideas, beliefs, and wishes, and align them

with His will.

We love others the best way we know how, understanding that, as human beings, our love cannot be perfect. We can expect people to love us the best way they know how, understanding their love for us won’t be perfect. We know that only God loves us perfectly, and we allow our deepest need for love to be met by Him.
When problems occur, we take responsibility for our part and do

not resort to blaming others or allowing ourselves to play the role of a victim.

When problems occur, we can expect others to take responsibility for their part and to

not resort to blaming us or attempting to guilt us.

We ask God to resolve the issues in our life, and we seek the Word of God for answers, examples, and principles.
We commit to be faithful and honest to others. We expect others to commit to being faithful and honest with us. God is faithful by nature.  It is impossible for Him to go against His own character of faithfulness; therefore, we can always trust Him and count on Him.

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