Everyone has that one person in their life that seems to be the carrier of others’ burdens. You know, the person that everyone confides in or call upon when in need or trouble. Yet they never seem to have a sounding board when the shoe is on the other foot.
These people often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and take it upon themselves to be responsible for everyone else in their lives. They make excuses for a love one’s or friend’s bad behavior, hoping to ultimately love them enough to change their poor conduct. These enablers can never say the word “NO”. In many instances, they also have trouble saying “YES” because they have difficulty receiving help from others. This person, and many like them in the world today have boundary issues. They don’t know when to say “no” to the bad and “yes” to the good.
There are many negative connotations that come with the concept of boundaries. People often associate boundaries with selfishness. However, boundaries help individuals understand their own limits, which ultimately free them to be able to give and do for others.
Consider the safety instructions given on an airplane. They instruct passengers to first secure their own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. The truth is, we cannot give our best to others when we are exhausted, frustrated, unfocused, distracted, worried, stressed and pulled in a million different directions.
A person who spends their life giving to others whole-heartily without asking for anything in return would seem like the epitome of generosity. However, you always have to examine motives. A truly generous person has a heart to give. Many times people say “yes” for reasons other than sheer generosity. People are often bullied, manipulated, or coerced into doing things that they otherwise wouldn’t. Often these people who are easily swayed have led a life of giving in to others. Compliant personalities are generally paired up with an aggressive or manipulative person to co-exist in their dysfunction. It’s a cycle that usually repeats itself over a lifetime. When we do for others it should come from our genuine desire to give. Giving beyond what is truly in your heart can result in resentment toward those you give to, ultimately defeating the true purpose of giving. There is a strong difference between giving and giving-in.
People suffer from boundary issues in many forms. Either they can’t say no or they refuse to take no for an answer. You can also be the one who has a problem with self-boundaries, for instance, saying “no” to that extra piece of cake or another pair of shoes and saying “yes” to going to the gym and sticking to your budget. Unfortunately, our over-indulgent society has made us extremely desensitized to the concept of discipline and boundaries. Boundary issues can exist in marriages, friendships, parent/child relationships, at our jobs, churches, or ultimately anywhere people interact on a consistent basis.
How do you set healthy boundaries?
Understanding the concept of boundaries comes when you understand and realize the concept of choices and consequences. When you decide the consequences you want to have in your life, you make choices that will ultimately lead you in the right direction. Boundaries are developed from a place of love and respect. People who truly love and respect each other would never want to intentionally hurt those they love.
Each person is capable of caring for themselves in reasonable, day to day life circumstances. A lot of times when we think we are helping someone, it turns out that we are really hurting them by not allowing them to stand on their own. Often, we are keeping them from learning valuable, character building lessons that would further equip them for the future. However, we do understand that there are circumstances where we need the help of others. Those are often life-altering events which cause physical and/or emotional trauma. It is in those times that from a place of love and generosity, we lend ourselves to others. But we must always define the word “help.” Is it helping to allow an able bodied adult to live rent-free in your home indefinitely? Wouldn’t it be better to make some determinations of terms which will help motivate that person to get back on their feet be it by setting a time limit, house rules, contributing to the household, etc.
Setting boundaries is an issue with which many people, including myself have struggled. We often worry about what others will think of us. However, this usually comes at a high price. We sacrifice our emotional, physical, and sometimes financial well being when we give beyond what we are able. Also, we can be the offender without realizing it. Disrespecting the boundaries of others can come in many ways. However, it usually comes when we fail to acknowledge a person’s time, space, body, property, money, and emotion.
One key to setting healthy boundaries is communication. We should trust those around us enough to communicate how we feel and what we think. We cannot hold people responsible for what they don’t know regarding our thoughts and feelings. When we begin to openly talk with the people in our lives, we will find that we have a more balanced, peaceful existence, which empowers us to give to others from a place of genuine love, respect, and generosity.
Written by Chandra Wise