Boundaries are everywhere! In sports, the field or court has a boundary you must stay in, when driving the lanes are clearly defined borders, and in relationships there are lines we must walk. Boundaries are necessary to establish and maintain any type of healthy relationship, whether with your parents, coworkers, children, or spouse.
Recently our church did an amazing five part series on boundaries. In the fourth section, Boundaries With Our Bodies, Jared Fox used the analogy of coaching his young son in basketball. He said he shows them a diagram of the court and how they have to stay inside the boundary in order to play. But as soon as they cross the line, they are out of bounds. He goes on to describe this in relation to how we take care of our bodies, it is well done!
In this blog post I want to dive into the concept of personal boundaries, using examples from different life stages, bring light to when they aren’t clear, and discuss how we can create them in our lives to have peace and freedom.
Boundaries allow you to say no to the things that don’t serve you and yes to those that are in your best interest. They mark our own personal limits in all areas like family, work, sex and health. If this this sounds selfish, consider the fact that meeting our own needs is our job. Even faith based people cannot sit idly by and wait for God to take care of them, they have to bring the proverbial shovel if they want to move mountains.
As parents we have rules our children are expected to follow. When they are young we keep them inside a very small boundary because they aren’t capable of handling too much freedom yet. We create simple tasks like taking out the trash after school, cleaning up their rooms when they’ve been asked or not going past a certain house in the neighborhood on their bikes without and adult. We expect them to do these things or there will be a consequence.
As they age, if your teenage son goes to a party at a friend’s house, more than likely you’ve had “the talk” with him about being safe and making good choices like not drinking alcohol or doing drugs. These conversations create healthy boundaries because you want your son to be safe and not get hurt or in trouble. The expectation would be for him to adhere to the rules and come home when he has been asked to. So the boundary is getting a little bigger for him as he ages.
If your son decides to participate in those types of activities and comes home late and intoxicated, you’ll have a consequence of grounding or taking away his phone in addition to talking with him about the situation. Without a consequence for overstepping your boundary, this pattern is likely to repeat. How will he know that it was wrong and shouldn’t do it again?
The intention behind creating healthy boundaries with your kids is so they grow up to be strong, productive, healthy, and successful young adults. They cannot do this on their own without guidance, that’s our job as parents.
In a situation with your child, more than likely the boundaries are set and established starting at a young age. Not that you have the whole alcohol conversation with them at their Kindergarten graduation, but it’s just little things like keeping their hands to themselves.
That allows your child to learn self-control. The older your child gets, the bigger the boundaries become. The more they stay in bounds, the more you will open them up. Then when they cross the line you close them a little.
By maintaining healthy boundaries in a relationship with your kids, it allows you to be the parent and not play the role of the friend or someone who enables them. The child will benefit from a parent who instills these teachings consistently.
Most importantly are the boundaries that you set for yourself. Maybe this involves the way someone treats you, or boundaries with your body. It’s important that you don’t let someone mistreat you in any case and there are tactful ways to go about addressing this head on.
Many people hate confrontation and would do just about anything to not cause a stir, but keeping some things to your self is not worth sacrificing your self-worth or sanity. If someone at work is being disrespectful, you need to speak up and let them know you don’t appreciate the way they are talking to you and try to find a middle ground to start an actual discussion.
If you’re feeling attacked for any reason, it is your responsibility to stand up and say something. Nobody else is going to do this for you. You will get what you tolerate or put up with. Of course every one has a bad day sometimes, and so we extend grace to them in those moments because we love them. However, when you are repetitively put down your criticized you have to stand up.
You can do this in the very moment it occurs by simply stating back, “it hurts my feelings when you say that”, or ouch”. This sort of remark brings light right away to what was said or done by the other person. You simply reflect back what they are saying for example “I hear your opinion about that and sounds really important to you. But my husband and I have talked about it a lot and we have decided to go a different way”. So, don’t allow people to put you down even if they are “having a bad day”. That doesn’t give someone permission to belittle you.
Another important thing to remember about boundaries is the people closest to you will need them as well. If you don’t feel like driving an hour to your little cousin’s soccer game because you and your husband finally have some alone time and have a chance to go out without the kids, you can say no. You need to respect yourself enough to fend off any guilt or shame and take the time for your marriage.
If your girlfriends want to go out on the town and make a night out of it, but you’re feeling exhausted from work and all you want to do is snuggle under the covers in your pajamas, say no. If you’re an introvert especially (those who get their energy from being alone) that down time that you’re allowing yourself can put you in a better state of mind to tackle the next day or work week. Take a minute to think of another time you can connect with them and then say NO!
Take time for yourself when you need it whether that be getting a massage, taking a yoga class or meeting a friend for coffe. Whatever that looks like for you, just make the space for it, put it into your calendar and do it.
Establishing and maintaining boundaries is an effort, and it won’t stop people from continuing to try to take advantage. But, the more you stop people and show them how to treat you the way you want to and deserve to be treated, it will get better. So, they are not a bad thing. I know its not easy at first but when you are consistent people will notice and eventually the relationship will change.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where i end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.” -Henry Cloud
So you can see more clearly why creating healthy boundaries both in relationships and for yourself is freeing. Have you done this with anyone recently? Have you noticed changes in how you feel or their behavior? I would love to hear from you, be sure to leave a comment below.
If you are like me I love to listen to podcasts and books in my car or even at home when I am buzzing around doing chores or working out. I want you to listen to the incredible series I mentioned at the beginning of this post about boundaries on the Mountain Christian Podcast. It’s called Pushing The Limits. Click the link for it or search for it wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, a great read for anyone who prefers to hold something in their hands, is Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend.
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