The grace of restriction?


I admit it, I hate restrictions. I like the freedom to do what I want. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I want to do it all the more. Have you ever wanted to NOT “keep off the grass” just because the sign was there? Or, have you thought you should be able to handle saying no to a great temptation all by yourself?

In working with men who have done things that have caused their loved ones or church community to trust them less, I sometimes see significant push back when it comes to natural consequences or restrictions put in place to protect the man from himself.  These push backs come in the form of

  • But I said I was sorry. Why won’t you forgive me?
  • You don’t believe in grace. If you did you wouldn’t keep me from having free access to the church (said by a convicted sex offender)
  • I shouldn’t have to have someone checking up on me or controlling my Internet access. If I don’t control myself and say no, then I’ll never learn to do it myself.

This last one is a bit murky. On the surface, the man is accurate. If he doesn’t learn to manage his own impulses, the moment he isn’t under restriction, he’s likely to act out. But here is the deeper issue. He doesn’t want restrictions because he sees them as painful reminders of his past transgressions.

Let me suggest that grace comes in the form of limits and restrictions. A man who abused his power as public school teacher and sexualized a child has served his time. He loves children and “only” offended once. He wants to work with kids in his church and is angry that the church has said no. “But I’m gifted with helping troubled children and I’ve had 15 years of great reports and plenty of parents who tell me they would trust me with their children. Why can’t I do what God made me to do?”

Now, there may be some explanation as to how this man might not ever be a threat again. And yet, might he also realize that restrictions from certain populations of people might actually be a grace to him–a freedom from temptation, from deception, from stresses that formerly led him down a path of fantasy and rumination about being a hero to children?

I haven’t worked this out fully in my head but I do think there can be much grace in restriction. I certainly see my children receiving a grace from not being allowed to watch certain shows or have unfiltered Internet access.

What grace have you received from a restriction? Was it both a blessing and a suffering?

1 Comment

Filed under christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, deception, Psychology

One response to “The grace of restriction?

  1. Rob

    i guess this is what luther meant when he talked of the school of grace. “grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness”, etc. Rob

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