Let me make one thing very clear: Boundaries are for YOU, not the person you are learning to set them on/against.
There are many people who allow themselves to be “saddled” with responsibility that belongs to another person, and I can’t say I wasn’t like that, because I was. I have found that setting boundaries, and sticking to them, has brought me a lot more peace than to keep being looked at as a “fixer,” and allowing myself to be controlled and manipulated into reaping consequences for someone else.
I think the biggest problem with the early learning of boundaries is learning to overcome the “self-guilt” we are sure to feel when we begin learning and exercising self-care in this aspect. I remember going through that aspect, because, like most of you, I thought if I didn’t “take over” for someone else who was clearly slacking off, that I was a bad person, when really, I wasn’t a bad person at all. I had just been twisted into doing something, and taking responsibility for something/someone that wasn’t mine in the first place.
As a result, I wasn’t showing the aspects of a true “cheerful giver.” When you’re asked to do something, you know it’s not yours to do, and don’t take it on with a right heart, you’re just as much at fault as the person who shifted it onto you.
It’s different when people truly can’t do for themselves, and they need help. There have been times when I have gone ahead and taken the lead because I knew more about whatever this was, than they did. They were always grateful for the help, and I didn’t mind, because I understood.
However, if I know what they’re up to–and their intentions aren’t as well-hidden as one would think if you know what to look for–then I don’t feel bad at all about saying no to their request. It’s sounds cold to someone that doesn’t understand the difference, or someone who hasn’t grown into this aspect, but when you’re looking at a bigger picture, and at the clear irresponsibility within an immature person, then it puts a whole other light onto the situation, and makes it a whole different story.
Learning self-care is not an easy task, but it is necessary to protect ourselves from people who would steal our God-given Peace (which is, by far, our greatest heart’s treasure in this world), and from people who clearly don’t want to grow up, and take responsibility for themselves.
One of the most difficult things to adjust to, is the realization that not everyone has your best interest at heart. This often makes you wary, on edge, until you emotionally adjust to this fact, as you’re continuing to learn to set necessary boundaries on people who would be harmful to you.
It’s not to say you can’t still be friends with them, but they have to learn to understand and then learn to respect your boundaries, which include not choosing to allow them to have any input into, or influence over, certain areas of your life. In other words, you’re not choosing to share certain aspects of your life. Another way of putting it is choosing to guard your privacy.
A good example, would be family who gets too involved in your business. Immediate family is one thing, those people who live in your household, who will be directly affected by what happens under YOUR roof. However, the extended family, who don’t live in your house, don’t help pay your bills, and it’s not a “life-or-death” kind of situation, should always be limited on what they know about what goes on under your roof.
Another example, is having a close friendship, and that friend thinks they are “entitled” to knowing everything about your business. Uh, no, that doesn’t work. Just because you’re friends, doesn’t give your friend the right to know everything about you.
The first emotional sign someone has crossed a private line, believe it or not, is anger, because deep within yourself, you feel violated in some way. It’s a warning for you to take heed, because a line (boundary) has been crossed, or they are in the process of trying to cross it. So, when they start crossing the clear line between friendship and being outright nosy, you set a firm boundary on that, and you shouldn’t think twice about it.
It doesn’t mean people will respect a boundary you set, but when you set a boundary, be prepared to enforce it, if necessary, with a consequence of your own choosing.
If you set a consequence and don’t enforce it, it will make you look “weak” to the person you set it on, and the next time they cross, will be much worse, because if you threaten them, they’ll just laugh at you, and keep doing it, because they can.
No person outside of yourself, should ever have total, and complete access to your most private thoughts and inner workings–except for God Himself, from whom you can’t hide anything. However, even God respects your right to choose to limit His intervention into whichever areas of your life you choose to keep Him out of.
God is not an “entitled” kind of God. He is one who not only exercises His own boundaries, according to His Word, and precepts, but He will also respect your right to exercise whatever boundaries you think are necessary for yourself.
If you don’t choose to allow Him to work in your life, He will not make you. Now, on your part, of course, we know, this would be a “backward” kind of boundary, because we know that God doesn’t mean us any harm. But you have a lot of people who choose to shut Him out, because of their stubborn pride, the commission of ongoing sin that separates Him, and they, and their iron will that thinks they can do anything without any help (an aspect of pride, but bears mentioning here).
There are many kinds and types of boundaries–there are personal boundaries we learn to set upon ourselves, like time management in such a way that we’re always on time for an appointment, and if we’re late, something serious has happened.
Or you’re going to start exercising more because you’ve set a goal of weight-loss. If you don’t “discipline” yourself or set a personal boundary on yourself that says you will take better care of yourself in this area, you know that the consequence for not honoring your own boundary is weight gain. Now, something like that that can be taken TOO far, and cause a problem of its own…but that’s another story.
Another personal boundary is within the wise management of money–being a good steward of what God has blessed you with. If you spend all your money on stuff you don’t need, are you going to be able to pay your necessary household bills every month? Of course not. If you waste your money, your bills don’t get paid, and not only that, certain things will be disconnected, and/or repossessed.
Through exercising this kind of personal boundary, you get your priorities straight, and see to your personal needs first, like buying groceries, pay your house payment, car payment, electricity bill, water bill, and then pay anything else that’s left.
Last, but not least, there are relational boundaries, and I listed one or two examples above within the realm of family and how far they can get into your personal business. However, there are also behavioral boundaries that would also relate to the relational boundaries. People will treat you as you will allow them to treat you.
If anyone curses at you, calls you names, insults you, you have a right to put a boundary on that, with a consequence of leaving the room if they continue acting out.
If someone tries to convince you to carry a burden, or responsibility that clearly belongs to them and not you, you set a boundary on that, because you’re not expected to take on a responsibility that’s not yours. If you do, you will reap what they have sown in irresponsibility.
If you continue taking on what is theirs to do, you will actually “cheat” them out of the opportunity to learn to reap for themselves and learn a valuable lesson that wasn’t meant for you in the first place.
You really don’t gain a whole lot when you’re reaping consequences of the place of others and learning their lessons for them. Of course, they’re not learning anything either. They’re continuing within a clear pattern of rebellion and irresponsibility until they are faced with a firm boundary in this area.
Some people end up in jail, losing their freedom, because they don’t respect the rights of others and try to take possessions that don’t belong to them, another kind of boundary that has serious consequences.
Of course, when you set a limit, they’re not going to like it. They will fight it in every way they can to prevent you from shifting what isn’t yours onto their shoulders where it should have been to begin with. However, you have to stand your ground, enforce your boundary, and they are left with two choices:
Take on the responsibility that was theirs and not yours, and suffer their own consequences, or choose to walk away, because they can’t honor your boundary.
Now, understand that it’s not really about “can’t” honor a boundary–it’s really about “won’t” honor a boundary.
When someone says they can’t–this really means they won’t within the area of boundary-setting only. Now, if you ask someone to do something, and they say they can’t–that’s one thing. They may be telling the truth and really can’t.
However, when you set a firm limit/boundary, and that person says they “can’t” honor your boundary–they’re really telling you they “won’t” honor it.
No one wants to ‘grow’ up and take on their own “back-pack” of responsibility. But as long as people continue taking on another person’s responsibilities, allowing that person to keep escaping the consequences in favor of the “over-responsible” person (or person with weak boundaries) continuing to not only take on, but also, reap the consequences for that person, that irresponsible person isn’t going to be forced to grow up, or forced to find another “sucker” to do for them what they’re responsible for doing for themselves,.
The hardest aspect of learning to set boundaries on people’s irresponsible, and bad behavior, is LETTING GO of what you know isn’t yours, and leaving it in the hands of the person who is responsible for it.
It’s much easier to simply go on and take it on, get it done, whatever you’re facing, but what does that say about you? Simple, you’re a “fixer” a “controller,” and even a “manipulator” within various aspects when you choose to keep doing things in the place of people who can do these things for themselves rather than giving them the opportunity (doesn’t matter if it’s unwanted, it’s necessary, though), to learn their own lessons for themselves.
Through the learning of setting boundaries, we begin to learn to clearly discern for ourselves what is ours, vs. what is theirs-in this process, the ‘property lines’ or ’emotional fences’ that separate us from other people, become much clearer. Boundaries simply mean, “come this far, go no farther.” It’s the proverbial line that’s drawn, and the words spoken, and the consequences set should back all these up.
Once you get this down, it makes for a much healthier you.
Food for thought.