I have a hard time saying “no” to things. I’m a fixer…. of people and processes. And, I’m pretty resilient through that process of fixing (see previous post). [or at least, I think I am] But I can get worn out….. most of which happens because I’ve let someone or something push through my boundaries.
I manage a crazy schedule……typically down to the minute of every day. I work in public health in a job that includes quite a bit of travel, I volunteer with a ministry, I’m in seminary, I lead a small group….and on and on and on. Most of the time, I can do it all effortlessly because of the gifts that God has given me….and with a smile on my face, but occasionally, I get overwhelmed and feel resentful when one more thing gets added to my plate that I didn’t necessarily want added to my plate. [So sorry if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of me when I’m overwhelmed….it ain’t pretty.]
Over the past two years, God has shown me that when I get overwhelmed and resentful it is nearly ALWAYS because my boundaries have been crossed…and…. it’s not the other person’s fault….it’s mine. Me. There is absolutely no one else I can blame. I’ve allowed the boundary crossing to happen by saying yes to something that I shouldn’t have said yes to. I’m sloooooooowwwwwlllllly learning to say “no” and put other healthy boundaries in place.
Boundaries are good. They are Godly. They are a gift from God and something I am in control of. God uses boundaries in His relationships with us, so why wouldn’t we have boundaries when in relationship with other people? [be it work, family, friends, etc.]
It takes me a while to really get a lesson from God (see previous posts….). In regards to boundaries, it’s decades in the making and he’s teaching me both experientially (in ways that have seriously hurt and I’ve had to relearn my lesson) and scholastically (reading…I’m a self professed nerd)….
A few weeks ago, my mom and I were talking about the books we were reading and…..low and behold, we were both reading Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No To Take Control of Your Life. We both LOVED the book! And had both been recommending it to our friends. It’s quite an old book (published in 1992), so in my humble opinion…. that we were reading this SAME book at the exact SAME time was a God-thing.
Back to those feelings of being overwhelmed and resentfulness….. In reading the book, it became ever-clear that I am the only one who can control my feelings and actions. I don’t have to say yes to everyone and everything. The authors of Boundaries call it the Law of Responsibility. I don’t have to take responsibility for the people I love….. my role is to show responsibility to them.
A boundary always deals with yourself – not the other person. It’s not about control – it’s about giving up control and giving love. This is how God loves us. He doesn’t try to control us. He loves us, unconditionally….with grace and mercy…and He gives us free will.
My mom is much better at boundaries than I am. She is much better about saying “no” when she has other priorities. She’s not always that way….but overall, she’s been a great role model in living with balance. After we talked about our love for the book, we both shared about how we can each do better with implementing boundaries and how it’s a lifelong process with every relationship….such as she with my dad.
Unequal relationships lack boundaries. In interacting with the families whom I do life with who are living in poverty, I’ve had to learn and implement boundaries…..because I don’t want these relationships to fail because of poor boundaries. I can’t do everything for them. And they don’t want me too. And for that matter…neither does God. Doing too much for them will wear me out because the relationship is then unequal. I want them to be friends. To do life with me. Authentically.
One recent activity in doing life with some of the moms has been trying to get their kids into summer camp. It’s not been the easiest of activities because it involves identifying a camp, getting information, registering, organizing transportation, etc. The moms have to have a role and responsibility in the process. I have to give the moms freedom, just like God would to her, to make the summer camp happen, once I’ve planted the seed and been supportive. As much as I want to make this happen for the kids, I know that if I do too much and don’t implement boundaries, the relationship then becomes unequal and could fail. Maybe they don’t want their kids going to summer camp? That’s ok. That’s not my decision to make….it’s theirs.
We care for ourselves by what we do and what we don’t do. I’ll continue to give up control and implement boundaries….. and maybe say “no” a little bit more often. 😉