Establishing legitimate personal boundaries are essential for healthy relationship at all levels. It may find strange when we hear first about the need to have boundaries. But as I shared recently on how to keep away from emotional vampires, it is also essential to build trust based on clearly defined areas of responsibility. How do we deal with difficult people? What we can do is to set limits on our exposure to people who behave poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right. There will be several questions arising in our mind when we think of setting boundaries. Typical ones are: can I set limits and still be a loving person?; what if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?; what are legitimate boundaries?
What are boundaries? In physical world they are easy to identify. Fences, sign walls, hedges and so forth. In spiritual and emotional worlds, it is often hard to see. If we are able to define and recognize them, it would increase the love and care, and would save your life. The boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me a sense of ownership. Knowing what I owns give me freedom, which also help me guard against encroachment. Boundaries are not walls without gates. We should let good in and bad out.
The most basic boundary setting word is no, which set apart from you and others. No is a confrontational word which is important in setting limits on abuse. We get pressured from internally and externally to say ‘yes’. If we cannot say ‘no’ to the external pressure and internal urge, we lost control of our property and not enjoying the fruit of ‘self-control’.
Parents often yell and nag instead of allowing the children to face the natural consequences of their behavior. Parenting with love (warmth) and limits (consequences), produces confident children who have a sense of control over their lives. As parents, we try to control the lives of our children beyond measure. Child researchers use the term, “hatching” and “differentiation” to differentiate the phase where children are developed from dependency to independence. We should help our children grow and avoid perpetual child syndrome where the adult child still asking, “Mom where are my socks”?
Children are typical example I stated above. Same boundary setting is applicable with friends, spouse, parents, siblings, people at work, and people at your spiritual and social organizations. For example, we should be able to identify when the spiritual leader stop preaching and start meddling. Also, we should set our own self boundaries and look internally to identify the internal boundary conflicts.
Developing healthy boundaries are good for overall wellbeing. Some recommendations from scholars in the field are: pray; read spiritual books; develop your gifts; lean on your support group; learn from a support group; have self confidence in learning; rework on past issues; be grateful; and learn to forgive. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have written a wonderful book called ‘boundaries’ on the topic. I highly recommend it.
Finally, defining boundaries are not setting limits. It is setting expectations and goals which is a win-win for all stakeholders.
Good luck and see you next week!