Boundaries. I have always heard that word and cringed. Not because I was worried about others establishing boundaries with me, but because I never wanted to be the person that had boundaries with others. I have heard dozens of times in my life that I needed to read the book “Boundaries.” I denied it every time. I thought, “Boundaries? Why should I have boundaries? I want everyone to know that they can rely on me, that I am dependable.” However a problem arises when everyone dubs you as, “Dependable.” Some people seek out the dependable, the reliable. The people who don’t have boundaries. . . They then begin a process of draining the life out of you. Some without even knowing it. Because everyone assumes that if you have a problem you’ll let them know. The problem is, is that we never admit that us saying. “yes” all the time IS a problem. Then one day we look up and find that there are dozens and dozens of people who are relying on us, draining us. The worst part, though? The fact that we created all of these people who are now dependent on us because we couldn’t establish healthy boundaries..
The other sad reality is, is that if you’re really honest you don’t want to let them go, though you know they are slowly draining you, depressing you, and using you up. You just love the feeling of helping others, of using your talents and gifts for the greater good. I mean that’s why we were gifted right? To give ourselves away? It’s that feeling of being needed. Oh, that horrible desire that pushes you on to say, “yes” to one more person, one more coffee date, one more volunteer day, one more social function in which your absence will be missed! (That’s slightly sarcastic) The drive to always be present, always be available, even when it is taking its toll on your mind, heart, and health. Allowing that little voice that says, “But you can’t say “no”, someone needs you!” push you on and on and on…
It is even more of an epidemic in the Christian culture. I believe part of the reason is because we are taught that we are supposed to “lay our lives down for our friends.” To “esteem others more highly than ourselves.” Forgetting that even Jesus had times of retreat, solitude, and silence to rejuvenate and reconnect with His Heavenly father in a more intimate way. When we are lacking rest and communion with God, a vital part of our lives, we find ourselves becoming extraordinarily exhausted. Have you ever noticed that as your energy levels get lower so do the fruits of the Spirit? This is because burn out is NOT what the Lord ever intended for us. To burn up in an instant because we refused to observe the fourth commandment, resting, is not the goal. If we don’t build the fence to protect ourselves, a fence that God ordains, then there will be those who will enter our pastures and trample them till there is nothing left.
There are people, believe it or not, who are attracted to people like you and I. The ones who always have a sadder story, every time you meet with them, the ones who always need advice, the ones who can never get ahead. (Sometimes I think these people are distractions sent by the enemy to drain us because he knows we can’t say no.) But the reality is, is that God is in control. He hasn’t left us as the last resort to helping someone. He hasn’t placed people in our lives that ONLY we can help whenever they need a shoulder to cry on. He loves them just as much as He loves us, and He will provide for their needs. He does want us to care for the ones He loves. This includes YOU! The truth that I am beginning to grasp is that boundaries are not there to keep people out, they are there to protect me! Like fences around cattle. The fences are there to keep the good in, and the harmful out. We need boundaries so that we can tell when something that is not supposed to be entering our inner circle is approaching. Then we can deal with each circumstance, person, event accordingly. We know what is ours to handle and what is not ours. And we take what we need so that we can care for ourselves too.
Part of the problem, I am realizing, is that I have always had a problem with thinking that everything is my responsibility. Even the happiness and emotional health of other people. I take on their well being, and if someone isn’t happy then I am not happy. I feel guilty, and then I make it my mission to “fix” their situation so that I can feel better too. It’s draining, it’s stressful, it’s hectic, it’s burdensome. But when we take the time to breathe, (you know on those nights when something gets canceled and you miraculously end up with some “me” time?) we realize that something has to give. And if we are brave enough to listen, and to hear what our hearts, minds, and bodies are crying out for, we can have breakthrough.
Breakthrough that looks like identifying what is mine, what is yours, and what is ours to handle together. Breakthrough that leads to me having more energy, health, and time to be able to actually contribute to those things I was made to do! Energized and able. Now that’s being helpful. Breakthrough that may also help you identify WHY you need to be so helpful. What’s pushing you on? It could be linked to your own insecurities, and wanting to be needed… So I encourage you, if you identify with my problem, to take a YOU night. Discover something new about yourself! Schedule some time and don’t let anything encroach upon it. Don’t feel guilty. Just do it! And see what you uncover as you realize that maybe, just maybe you are carrying more than your share. So, here’s to sorting through the “yours, mine, and ours” situations. To learning how to say, “No” and meaning it with every fiber of your being. To being free.
May we the truths we discover about ourselves, change us,