We hear the phrase “set your boundaries” quite often and I’m never really sure what someone means by that.  Perhaps it’s something like, “This is what I will do and this is what I won’t do.”

Boundaries And what if we don’t “set our boundaries?”  What’s so bad that could happen? Plenty, though at first pretty subtle.  No, I take that back.  It’s not subtle but by our denial and minimization (two handy dandy feats of our mind) we can push any consequence to the nether regions and go about our merry seemingly not bothered at all.  Then, somewhere in the future, POW, we explode, we’re angry, we’re resentful, we’re depressed, we’re jealous.  What the heck?  Where did that come from?  It was there all along but we snubbed and ignored these inevitable experiences that come from not honoring our boundaries.

Any way we cannot be honest and get away with it and live a great life filled with vitality and zest and daringness and health?  Nope.  Why not?  Cuz that just isn’t life’s design. Kind of like asking, “How come if I am on the ice rink with tennis shoes I keep slipping?”  Or, “How come if I am wearing hockey skates on a  basketball court  I keep losing the game?”

Think of boundaries as fences that define where your property ends and another’s begins.  Boundaries, fences, keep what is unwanted out.  That’s all well and good.  But fences can also keep us pent up and disconnected from others.  What if there is something we need? What if there is something we want to give to another (be it a material gift or a gift of loving support?).  For that we need our fences need a gate.  We need a gate in our fence that allows us to go out, allows another to come in, and allows us to give and to receive. The gate must swing both ways and it must be overseen by our God-given intelligence. Each of us is given an innate sense that gives us an inner knowing of when to open it to others to come in; when to open it so when we are in need we may go to others; when to keep it closed so we do not bring harm to ourselves; when to open the gate to escort out those who bring us harm.

Joyce L. Juster, M.A., LP 02/02/12  (Adapted from Boundries, by McCloud and Townsend)

  Examples of Fences, Boundaries

     1. Words
The most basic boundary setting word is no. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you.  Being clear about your no—and your yes—is fundamental to living a good life.  Your words also define your property for others as you communicate your feelings, intentions, or dislikes. ‘I like this and I hate that.’  Or, ‘I will do this, and I will not do that.’”
     2. Truth
Many people live scattered and tumultuous lives trying to live outside of their own boundaries, not accepting and expressing the truth of who they are. Honesty about who you are sustains you and nurtures your integrity, your sense of oneness with yourself.
     3.  Geographical Distance
Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help you replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, after you have given to your limit.
     4.  Time
Taking time off from a person, or a project, can be a way of regaining ownership over some out-of-control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set.
     5.  Emotional Distance
Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living.  People who have been in abusive relationship need to find a safe place to begin to “thaw out” emotionally.”
     6.  Other People
People subject to another person’s addictions, control, or abuse are finding that after years and years of “loving too much they can find the ability to create boundaries only through a support group.  Their support system is giving them the strength to say “no” to abuse and control for the first time in their lives.
     7.  Consequences
Consequences give some good “barbs” to fences.  The let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves.  This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.

What’s Within My Boundaries? 

     1.  Feelings
Feelings play an enormous role in our motivation and behavior.  It is important to know your feelings, own your feelings, and be aware of your feelings.  They should not be ignored; however, they should not be placed in charge.
     2. Attitudes and Beliefs
Attitudes have to do with your orientation toward something, the stance you take toward others: God, life, work, and relationships.  Beliefs are anything that you accept as true.  We need to own our attitudes and convictions because they fall within our property line.  We are the ones who feel their effect and the only ones who can change them.
     3.  Behaviors
Behaviors have consequences.  We do indeed reap what we sow.  To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless.
     4.  Choices
You are the one who makes your choices.  You are the one who must live with their consequences.  And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.
     5.  Values
What we value is what we love and assign importance to.  When we take responsibility for out-of-control behavior caused by loving the wrong things or valuing things that have no lasting value, when we confess that we have a heart that values things that will not satisfy, we can begin to create with a new heart.  Boundaries help us not to deny but to own our old hurtful values and in doing so we can learn to make other choices that express and reflect who we really are.
     6.  Limits
Two aspects of limits stand out when it comes to creating better boundaries.  The first is setting limits on others.  In reality, setting limits on others is a misnomer.  We can’t do that.  What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behavior right.  The other aspect is setting our own internal limits. We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire, without acting it out.  We need self-control without repression. We need to be able to say no to ourselves.  This includes both our destructive desires and some good ones that are not wise to pursue at a given time.
     7.  Talents
We are accountable when we are exercising our gifts and being productive.  It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fear of failure.
     8.  Thoughts
Establishing boundaries to thinking involves three things:

  • We must own our own thoughts.  Certainly we should listen to the thoughts of others, but we are also to weight things for ourselves in the context of relationship, “sharpening” each other as iron, but remaining separate thinkers.
  • We must grow in knowledge and expand our minds beyond what we already know, beyond our assumptions, beyond our childhood conclusions that are no longer appropriate or helpful for the adults we have become.
  • We must clarify distorted thinking. We all have a tendency to not see things clearly, to think and perceive in distorted ways.  As we assimilate new information, our thinking adapts and grows closer to reality. Also, we need to make sure that we are communicating our thoughts to others.  We have our own thoughts, and if we want others to know them, we must tell them.

Joyce L. Juster, M.A., LP 02/02/12  (Adapted from Boundries, by McCloud and Townsend)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 at 12:23 pm and is filed under Emotions, Life Lessons, Psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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