Chapter One is basically the in-action example of what it looks like to live without Boundaries. Poor Sherrie, I could feel her pain. While I didn’t necessarily identify with every aspect of her exhausting, over-taxed existence, there were certainly paragraphs that had me nodding in conviction. Yes, yes! I see those tendencies in myself!
My takeaway from the first chapter is: I can’t wait to see how Sherrie gets her life in order. And I found myself very excited and hopeful about what this book will offer. As chapter one says, “we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”
And I appreciate how well the author points out that part of the problem here is not when a person is trying to be rude or self-centered; it’s a false responsibility we as Christians put on ourselves to be kind or generous or flexible in a way that we really can’t afford to be. As fictional Sherrie shows us: “In her desire to do the right thing, or to avoid conflict, she ends up taking on problems that God never intended her to take on…”
Chapter Two examines what a boundary actually is, what a boundary looks like and what falls within those boundaries. At the heart of this chapter is the explanation that boundaries are not walls — they are designed to keep the good in and keep the bad out. I love this — having boundaries isn’t about closing yourself off from the rest of the world. This isn’t about being an island to protect yourself from being hurt or “used.” And in fact, as the chapter points out, we need others to help us as we navigate what our boundaries are. “Creating boundaries always involves a support network.”
There are good examples of what different kinds of boundaries look like, explaining that a boundary helps you differentiate you from someone else, where you begin and end.
One key part of this chapter for me (among the many phrases I underlined) was the idea that many people have been taught “by their church or family that boundaries are unbiblical, mean or selfish.” I was reflecting on this and couldn’t decide if it was anything I’ve ever been “taught” but certainly something I’m working to find balance in. I think it’s very easy to get caught up in a discernment process of saying yes or operating in a way that makes us uncomfortable because we want to be “loving.” But boundaries — understanding where we begin and end — is about being willing to act on the feelings/discernment of knowing our limits. I think another big challenge, area of misdirected kindness, is putting up with some relationships that are painful because of a “can do all things in Christ” attitude, as in Jesus will give me the grace to deal with difficult people. And of course we can to a degree, but thank you God for personal freedom and using the brain God has given us. Which can sometimes be hard to do. Part of having boundaries is being able to identify those situations that rob us of our peace, and finding how we can realistically relate to difficult people.
Now a word about feelings…I kind of think of feelings as a bad thing (at times). As in, I don’t want to make decisions based purely on feelings, and don’t want to allow my feelings to dictate my outlook on life. I appreciate what Chapter Two has to say about feelings — lots to think about there.
There are a lot of “things” going on within our boundaries and it’s our responsibility to learn to deal with the many facets of being “Me” — and let other people deal with theirs. What a relief! Just the knowledge that the only person I can control is myself, and while I can’t fix other people, I have the freedom to allow my boundaries to protect me and guide me along the way.
Personally, it’s all such a relief to realize I have the freedom and personal power to acknowledge the limits I feel — whether in my schedule or relationships or expectations from others — and to make decisions based on that.
What about you?