Boundaries or Bound by Others? (it’s your choice)

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“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.” Tony Gaskins

I had never heard the word boundaries used in reference to relationships until a counselor told me I didn’t have any. She said, “You have no idea where you end and where others begin.”

According to Merriam-Webster, here are the definitions of boundaries as they relate to people:

  • A point or limit that indicates where two things become different. (Okay, so this isn’t about people, but it’s a logical reminder about the point where I end and you begin.)
  • Unofficial rules about what should not be done.
  • Limits that define acceptable behavior.

Most of us think setting boundaries is about saying “no.” And it is. And setting boundaries is also about saying “yes” … to us and to what we need and want.

Boundaries are about saying “yes” to #GettingYourOwnLife.

And saying “yes” to #LovingthePeopleinIt.

Because boundaries, even though they may not seem loving at first glance, are just as much about caring for others as they are about caring for ourselves.

Here’s what Betty (a friend I learned a lot from) told me about boundaries. She said, “If you do what’s best for you, it’s best for everyone.”

Her advice sounded selfish, but it’s not, because what’s best for us is to live our lives according to what God has in mind for us, not what our family and friends have in mind.

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Drawing a line is wise.

Drawing a line is a form of self-care and a way to be kind to others.

Drawing a line is the litmus test for dozens of demands made on our time, energy, and finances.

Here’s an example of a boundary Betty helped me set early on, and also an example of how it turned out best for everyone.

Betty and I talked about my family’s tumultuous Sunday afternoon lunches at Mom’s house. She said, “Have you ever thought about not going?”

“We’ve been getting together for years. Mom would be so upset if we stopped,” I said.

“Really? Are you sure about that?”

I was convinced breaking tradition would cause more turmoil, but Betty convinced me to take a break. She said, “Why don’t you give it a try and see what happens?”

I made up some excuse for missing the next couple of Sunday lunches. Mom didn’t seem upset like I dreaded. In fact, she looked relieved. By the third Sunday, she had her own excuse for missing lunch. The rest of the family who Mom cooked for decided to take a break as well. It was best for everyone when our decade-long tradition ended.

Some boundaries aren’t as easily implemented. Actually, that one didn’t seem easy except in retrospect. However, following through helped me see the value in doing what’s best for me (not out of selfishness, but from a place of self-care and other-care). I saw Betty’s perspective on “doing what’s best for you” as it turned out to be best for everyone.

There are easier boundaries to set like declining a request to head up a program at church or saying “no” when asked to donate time or money to a cause we’re not devoted to. I say “easier,” but sometimes these are hard no’s for us people pleasers. There are harder no’s, though, like a friend who left her daughter in jail after several arrests and another friend who dropped off her son at a homeless shelter after he stole from her to sustain his addiction. These boundaries don’t sound best for anyone, but consider the alternative of reinforcing (like the quote says) destructive behavior.

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Setting boundaries (doing what’s best for you that ends up being best for everyone) includes all sorts of things like …

  • Asking for and expecting respect from family and friends. Setting boundaries may mean ending a conversation with  a spouse who is verbally abusive or taking time off from an adult child who continually manipulates to get his/her way. It may mean limiting time with a friend who complains non-stop or who gives non-stop advice.
  • Refusing to fund adult children (or anyone else) if giving them money jeopardizes your finances or jeopardizes them taking responsibility. Setting boundaries may mean cutting off an allowance or not paying their rent so you’re able to afford your own bills. I have two widowed friends who struggle financially month-to-month because their sons borrowed large sums of money they can’t repay.
  • Checking into childcare for grandchildren and senior care for sick or aging family members if you notice a decline in your own physical or emotional well-being. Setting boundaries may mean seeking assistance for them so you don’t end up having to be taken care of yourself.
  • Saying “no” to church, to school and community activities, and to other people’s agendas when their plans don’t coincide with the ones you and God agreed on. Setting boundaries may mean dropping off committees, declining to help with important ministries, and deciding not to show up for every worthy cause.

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Do yourself a favor. Free your energy by setting a boundary today.

Setting boundaries restricts destructive behavior (#whileLovingthePeopleinIt) that could divert our time, energy, and money from what we believe we’ve been called to do (#GettingYourOwnLife). It’s a favor to everyone to set them. 

Do you have boundaries that need setting?

In This Together,
Kim

I appreciate the images, Pixabay.com. Gotta buy you that coffee one of these days.

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23 responses »

  1. Such a wealth of knowledge here, Kim. I often allow my past (and costly) mistakes to affect my decision making process today when it comes to saying “no”, especially where family is concerned. I needed this today. Thank you!

    • Hi Cathy,

      I think we all tend to do that. Guilt has warped my sense of how to take care of myself and my belief that I have a right to set boundaries and stick with them. Betty, who I mentioned in the post, told me about false guilt, feeling bad for things I shouldn’t because no one else will take responsibility for them. I do that way too often. So, some of our guilt isn’t even legitimate, like any of us need more. 🙂

      I appreciate you reading and commenting. Good luck with setting boundaries! We all deserve our space, life, and to be able to say “no.” ❤

  2. I love love love this Kim. I can’t even tell you how many upset moments I have had trying to explain boundaries to others. Finally I have had to create boundaries in explaining boundaries! I came to the conclusion that if my boundaries are not accepted no matter what I say then explanation is no longer needed. I just enforce it and everyone else will have to be mad at me. Its hard because, like most people, I hate making people mad at me. But sooner or later we need to respect ourselves enough to stand ground. I found that once I did this, others followed in suit eventually. Took a long time but finally I have come to the resolve that allowing people into my life is a privilege for them not a right. Respect for my wishes is non negotiable for things I do not choose to compromise on. Very good subject here! I think most people struggle with this. Kudos to you. Love you, and by proxy, love Betty too!

    • Oh, Jenine, you would have loved Betty. ❤ The three of us would have been the three musketeers. Clones, for sure. She was the only other person (besides you) I've been able to share anything with and feel 100% accepted. I sure miss her, but one of these days, we'll all laugh together.

      I'm going to tell you the same thing as you wrote above. I love, love, love "I can’t even tell you how many upset moments I have had trying to explain boundaries to others. Finally I have had to create boundaries in explaining boundaries!" I laughed so hard (because I relate so much), I nearly fell out of my chair. I called John in and tried to read it to him. Finally, he just had to read it himself because I was still laughing. I can't tell you how many time I've said to him, "I'm not explaining this again."

      And that's just him. There have been plenty of others who seemed dumbfounded by very logical boundaries I've set. I’ve lost family members and friends (one who I was friends with more than 30 years) because of setting boundaries.

      But like I heard another friend say, "I've often regretted not setting boundaries, but I've never once been sorry when I have set them."

      That's been true for me too. I hate the losses, but I can't afford to keep losing me.

      Love you lots! ❤

      • Thats hilarious! I start laughing even if I read that you are laughing! Ive realized that people who do not understand what boundaries even are will be very hard to even explain to. Its like they have to read it from some professional source, like someone who has a PhD or something, or its too much to accept from just me, lol. Mind you, I have so many degrees I can wallpaper my office with them, but on a personal level its almost like that does not account for diddle squat when I try to explain some basic human needs, lol. Honestly, I dont think I could have survived the last two years without boundaries enforced, or at least trying. Heck, I have a hard time just getting loved ones to leave the past behind so we can all just get on with our lives! Thats another good subject, the past! UGH! Hmm, “Empower the Present” will have to be my next blog post. I think I am becoming queen of boundaries though. I have put several states between myself and my past, and others in my life. I finally do have one…you know…a life of my own! LOL!

      • LoL. I know what you mean. What do we know, right? Maybe I should start putting a bunch of letters behind my name when I write my posts. What do you think? Bahahaha.

        “Empower the Present” – you have to write it. ❤

        And, of course, you have your own life. Our belt business is thriving! 😀

  3. I rode out one toxic relationship in my life for various reasons but set clear boundaries. I think I’m glad I did as the relationship has totally changed. Tell you next Friday!

    I won’t do volunteer work anymore unless it directly benefits somebody I like or to do something easy like give things or a bit of money because i’m an obsessive worker and people would see that, give me more and more responsibility, make many promises and then almost laugh when I asked about the promises. That sounds nasty, not being “passionate” about volunteering, but then I think about it and I help many people come to terms with a disability so I’m still doing it but on my terms.

    I think we all have to understand what “our terms” are.

    I know how strong you seem in person and love how you delve into these subjects and show how vulnerable you are! Thanks Kim!

    ~pia
    http://courtingdestiny.com

    • Pia, you’re writing next Friday about your toxic relationship turned better? On the blog link below? I love your posts, so Inquiring minds want to know …

      You help so many and you’re right, helping others should be on our terms. Then we’re doing it for the right reasons and then it’s really helpful. When we think “I should …” and “give” from that place, I think that’s when it’s nasty. 😉 I believe you do your part beautifully as a volunteer like helping me believe in my writing. That’s no easy task, but you’ve offered so much support! ❤

      Your last paragraph is important to me. I want to write this stuff and share my struggles without seeming wimpy. Thank you!

  4. Kim, this is such an important topic for everyone, although I think women have a harder time setting boundaries than men do. I have had to set many boundaries through the years with family and friends, and it’s always painful. Sometimes the response, like your mother’s, has been one of relief or what in heavens name took you so long. Setting boundaries in the workplace was even more difficult as I always wanted to please the boss. When I didn’t set boundaries, sometimes it backfired because people labeled me as “teacher’s pet” always kissing up to the boss. It has taken me many years of therapy and working on myself to set the boundaries, but it’s still not easy. One thing I know, if you haven’t learned to set boundaries before becoming a caregiver, you will likely not survive the experience. Thanks once again for a beautifully written post on a great topic!

    • Mary, I’m like you in that I wanted to please people, so I didn’t rock the boat with boundaries. Funny thing is, when John and I were talking this evening, I realized the things I was most afraid would happen if I set boundaries happened anyway. I should have just set them. My life would have been easier and boundaries may have made a difference … relationships that went awry may have been better instead of ending. Oh, well, too bad hindsight is in the future when we’re living right now. 🙂

      Thank you! ❤

  5. I read a book on boundaries back in the 90’s that changed my life. I have used the concepts I learned time and time again. I am a healthier person today because of it! This is an excellent post Miss Kim! Everyone’s a winner when we set boundaries!

  6. From Facebook (from Laura Drumb’s page) ~

    2 Tina Gross, Angelo Drumb Bivins

    Laura Drumb This article has touched my heart because it deals with one of my worst faults, not setting enough firm boundaries for my life. I want to do everything, help everyone, be involved in it all! And I cannot. Not enough time, energy, money, strength! And God knows that, why He calls us to set these boundaries and then abide by them. If I would do this more, I could accomplish so much more in my writing! And in everything else, for that matter!!

    Maybe you are like this, too? Read the article and let me know what you think!

    Mary Mcculloch As parents, we teach our children to respect us and obey every thing we tell them to do. Somewhere along the line, we need to teach them to think and respect their own thoughts and ideas.
    · 1 · 4 hrs

    Laura Drumb Yes, Mary! I think that’s where education has broken down, frankly, teaching kids to think for themselves & that it’s OK to sometimes think of their own needs, too! They just learn rote facts & can spit them out (sometimes!) but have NO clue what they have learned nor how to apply it to their own lives. Especially when it comes to forming these values for their own lives & putting them into action. They just don’t know how!
    · 1 · 4 hrs

    Sent by private message. We’re now FB friends. 🙂

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks so much for sharing my post about boundaries.

    I can relate to every word you said about wanting to do everything for everyone. If I followed my own advice, I’d also have a lot more time for writing, etc. smile emoticon I do okay, but I could do better.

    I’m writing all of this in an attempt to do just that. For some reason, it helps so much to have other women relate and share their comments. I’m getting better with and because of y’all.

    In Joy!
    Kim

  7. From Facebook (from Mary Wilson’s page) ~

    Here’s another wonderful post from my friend, Kim Henson. It’s so important for all of us to set boundaries in our lives and relationships in order to be the best person we can be for others.

    Jean Steen, Beth Jarrott and 4 others

    1 share

    Kim Jamison Important subject, Mary. Thanks for posting.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · 46 mins

    Kim Henson Thank you, Kim.
    Like · Reply · 36 mins

    Kim Henson Thank you for sharing, Mary McKerihan Wilson. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · 37 mins

    Linda Hopkinson Awesome post! You are awesome Kim and I love you and who you are heart emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · 7 mins

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Linda Hopkinson. heart emoticon I was just on your page and watching Keith Urban. About to share it when you posted. LoL. Love you too, my friend!
    Like · Reply · 5 mins

    Linda Hopkinson I just love that video… they are great together!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 4 mins

    Kim Henson Linda Hopkinson, they are and so cute. You’re going to see him in person? I will not be jealous. wink emoticon Maybe a little.
    Like · Reply · 1 min

    Linda Hopkinson He is coming to the Country Music Festival in MB… can’t wait!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Just now

    Kim Henson Linda Hopkinson, how fun! You’ll have a blast.
    Like · Reply · Just now

  8. From Facebook (from JJ Warren Synder’s page) ~

    Great post about setting boundaries by my friend and WIN sister Kim Henson.

    2 Annette Pencille and Rosie Posie

    Kim Henson Thanks for sharing, JJ Warren Snyder. heart emoticon See you next Thursday.
    Like · Reply · 36 mins

  9. From Facebook (from Martha J. Walker Curtis’s page) ~

    Setting boundaries is something we should do for ourselves. When another tries to bind you by what “they think” is in your best interest, be sure it truely is right for you. Don’t feel obligated to follow someone else’s agenda.

    7 Krystine Kercher and 6 others

    Kim Henson Thanks so much for sharing, Martha J. Walker Curtis. I appreciate it and your comment above. So true.
    Like · Reply · Just now · Edited

    Jeneal Rogers This is so important.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr

  10. From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~

    9 Annette Pencille, Connie Gardner and 7 others

    6 shares

    Christy Young I am going to read this again tomorrow when I’m not so groggy. I appreciate boundaries. They have been very important in my personal growth, and life lessons. You are so wise Kim.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · May 12 at 11:43pm

    Christy Young Okay, more awake now. I love this Kim. I started working on setting healthy boundaries several years ago and began seeing positive results. Setting them may or may not be painful, but they are needed, and the outcome is what matters. Boundaries do not …See More
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson Christy Young, everything you shared here, I could cut and paste into the post. So true. I think I have the book Boundaries and also one titled Boundaries in Your Marriage by the same author. However, I can’t find either one. Who is the author of the one you read? I’d love to connect Biblical truths to this sort of thing. Thank you!
    Like · Reply · 6 hrs

    Christy Young I’ll find it later this evening. Jay and I both have a copy. If you want to borrow mine to read it again, you are more than welcome!
    I have not read the one for marriage. I bet that one is really great!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 4 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks, Christy Young. I may have packed mine in a box and put them at John’s shop. We’re going by there this weekend, so I’m going to try and find my copies.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 4 hrs

    Kim Henson Here’s the one I have. http://www.amazon.com/Boundar…/dp/0310247454/ref=sr_1_1…

    Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
    AMAZON.COM
    Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 1 · 4 hrs

    Kim Henson And here’s the marriage one, although I don’t remember the cover looking like that. I really want to ride to the shop and find it tonight. OCD’s kicked in. http://www.amazon.com/Boundar…/dp/0310243149/ref=sr_1_1…

    Boundaries in Marriage
    Learn when to say yes and when to say no–to your spouse and to others–to make the most of your…
    AMAZON.COM
    Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 1 · 3 hrs

    Christy Young Kim Henson That top one is the one I have too. If you don’t find yours, let me know if you want to borrow mine. Thanks for sharing the marriage one! Will check that one out too.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs

    Kim Henson Christy Young, thanks. Now, where are those books?
    Like · Reply · 3 hrs

    Martha J. Walker Curtis Great post.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · May 12 at 11:45pm

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Martha J. Walker Curtis. I appreciate you sharing it.
    Like · Reply · 6 hrs

    Peggy New I’ll never forget the look on the lady’s face when I said no to baking cookies for a prison ministry. She argued with me and asked/told me to not be ridiculous and just make some. I hate to cook and only make cookies for my children on holidays. I didn’t make her cookies and she seldom speaks to me now. Which is ok because I still won’t bake cookies upon her demand!
    Unlike · Reply · 4 · May 12 at 11:45pm

    Kim Henson Hahahaha, Peggy New. I know this to be true about cookies and your children … and one time for friends who decided to have a cookie exchange at the busiest time of the year. wink emoticon I had a similar thing happen (arguing and not speaking later) when I said…See More
    Like · Reply · 1 · 5 hrs

    Summer Turner Wonderful post, S. Kim Henson. This has been a major life theme for me.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 12:03am

    Kim Henson Thanks and me too, Summer Turner. I’ve done better some times than others, but I keep boundaries in mind anytime I’m asked to do something. I used to say “yes” to everything. Crazy choices like that will teach you a lot and fast. wink emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · 5 hrs · Edited

    JJ Warren Snyder Great post! I firmly believe in boundaries in order to be mentally and emotionally at peace. They’re not easy, but necessary. I’m still working on some.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 17 hrs

    Kim Henson JJ Warren Snyder, I’m with you. I think we’re always working on boundaries since we’re changing and the people around us are too. Some things that used to be acceptable are no longer that way since I’m less tolerant or maybe I’m just tired wink emoticon, and vice versa. I love what you said about “not easy, but necessary.” I use that necessary line a lot.
    Like · Reply · 3 hrs

    Sandi Kay Lenning I agree and I have been working on this for a while. It’s hardest when it comes to your kids but it is necessary for our own happiness. After all, God put us on this earth for a purpose and that means we have a value too.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 16 hrs

    Kim Henson Exactly, Sandi Kay Lenning. Setting boundaries with kids is hard because we used to take care of them 100 percent. As their moms, we question when it’s okay to back off and have our own lives. I think it’s hard to know where the line is, especially with kids, but if we don’t draw one, we’ll be parenting FOREVER and never have our own lives. I love what you said, “… we have a value too. ” heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs · Edited

    Diane Wilson Dale That is a great post…boundaries certainly are necessary!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 16 hrs

    Kim Henson They are, Diane Wilson Dale. I’ve had a time setting them and then respecting the ones I put into place, but they’ve been necessary. In fact, they probably saved my life.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 3 hrs

    Teresa Hardee Cox Great post!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 13 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Teresa Hardee Cox. heart emoticon I appreciate you stopping by and reading.
    Like · Reply · 3 hrs

  11. From Facebook (from Linda Hopkinson’s page) ~

    7Jean Dalton, Nancy Wanner and 5 others

    1 share (Jean Dalton)

    Kim Henson Awww, you shared it. Thank you, Linda Hopkinson! heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · 21 hrs

    Linda Hopkinson Absolutely ! I truly respect your work and love your posts!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 21 hrs

    Kim Henson Linda Hopkinson, I sure do appreciate you!
    Like · Reply · 21 hrs

    Jessica Kelly Great post. Thanks for sharing mom! Sage advice!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 20 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks for your comment, Jessica.
    Like · Reply · Just now

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