Understanding Healthy Boundaries – What Are They Anyway?
Boundaries are thought of in many different ways. A moat around a castle, an impermeable wall, an immovable fence, or limits we place on someone’s influence in our life are just a few. Boundaries are often thought of as mean, punitive, and controlling. But these ideas are rooted in a misunderstanding of exactly what healthy boundaries are and what they accomplish.
A Better Definition Of Boundaries
Here is a definition of boundaries that differs from most that I like: A boundary is the point at which I can no longer be my best self, or I’m about to lose myself.” This definition begs the question, where is the threshold where you begin to lose yourself, your authenticity, your truest and best self? And this definition demands that you be deeply present to yourself and your circumstances moment by moment, day by day. It also changes your view of a boundary from a wall or fence to that of an amoeba with a mutable membrane that senses your environment in every moment, intuits whether or not it is in your best interest and allows you to respond with healthy boundaries that are good for you and serves others.
What Do Healthy Boundaries Accomplish?
Boundaries in this sense are limits that we set to protect our time, energy, spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing. Boundaries can create both physical and emotional space between you and others. These types of boundaries are a way to tell others what we expect, what we need, how we want to be treated and what’s okay with you and what’s not. And healthy boundaries protect you from being mistreated or taken advantage of.
When we don’t have healthy boundaries, our lives can be controlled and manipulated by others, and we lose a sense of our best and truest selves. We can also become angry, resentful, and self-isolating.
Setting boundaries doesn’t come easily or naturally for most vocational ministers. So, we become people-pleasers, focusing on meeting other people’s needs and expectations rather than caring for ourselves and being authentic in our relationships. Even worse, we fail to recognize that we have the right and the responsibility to protect ourselves and to be our best selves by setting healthy boundaries.
Healthy Boundaries Are Good For Everyone
Boundaries are essential in all relationships – with your parents, children, friends, boss, church members and colleagues. It’s counterintuitive but healthy boundaries are good for everyone, even when they are met with anger and resistance. Boundaries aren’t meant to punish or control people. We set boundaries for our own wellbeing and ultimately boundaries are good for everyone involved. Think about it, don’t you find relationships easier when you know what a friend, a spouse, a child, or a boss specifically wants and expects? All relationships are easier when both parties are clear about their needs and expectations, even if you don’t like or approve of it. It’s kind, not selfish, to tell others what you need and expect out of the relationship and how you want to be treated.
When we understand the importance and benefits of boundaries, it becomes easier to set them. In the coming weeks we will be looking at how to set healthy, kind and effective boundaries and how to respond when people don’t respect your boundaries.
Posted on April 5, 2022