Boundaries can be defined as a pre-determined, or common sense way or even an intuition that we hold on to that defines our “safe place”. A boundary is like a walled protection with gates in the wall where we may choose to let some people get closer than others. There are fences, perhaps internal, which also help to give us the developmental and protective “space” we need in which to flourish.
How do you know if you are doing well at putting into practice boundaries? Do you often find yourself saying yes, when you really want to say no? What do healthy boundaries look like? How do we keep them strong and in place without becoming totally unavailable to those we love, work with, or serve in some capacity?
Boundaries involve another important word-balance!
One of my major clues whether or not I am successful at implementing my boundaries is that I feel uncomfortable. Other times I may feel that nagging voice of resentment when I have responded with too many “yes’s” because I don’t say what I need to say or do what I need to do and my frustration and irritation simmers just below the surface.
When someone has overstepped my personal physical boundary I feel uncomfortable or upset because perhaps my personal space has been invaded. Yet I often wrestle with the question of whether my concern is justified. But I am learning to listen to that internal voice when that red flag that goes up. I am learning to accept that my concern is justified if my radar keeps going up concerning a specific person lets say…..I am justified if I am uncomfortable.
And then there are the times I may feel uncomfortable when I’ve worked to make clear a boundary that someone continually tries to step on or over. And as I’ve examined my words and actions I’ve found that I didn’t do or say anything wrong or unkind, even though I may feel uncomfortable because I am not giving in to another’s demands as much as I did when I was younger.
And maybe it feels cruel or unkind because I can now do something for myself instead of focusing solely on the other’s desires, no longer so preoccupied with wondering if I am hurting the other person, or the fear of getting them angry. I’ve learned that in the case of them getting angry I can either set the boundary or try to control their response, perhaps by appeasing them, but I’ve learned that I can’t do both.
I can’t effectively set personal boundaries and at the same time take responsibility for controlling another person’s feelings or actions. I set personal boundaries to take care of myself, not to control another.
And though I may feel all right while I give my honest answer in setting a boundary there are times when the old tapes begin to replay the guilt messages. But, those tapes are wearing out; the messages they play aren’t so noisy and clear anymore.
I know that boundaries are healthy and good, and that God is helping me to say “no” appropriately and He is equipping me to make my boundaries functional.