Let’s talk about boundaries.
I want you to picture a house. Between the house and neighbors, are property lines. They may be represented as a fence, a sign, a wall, a garden, a hedge, etc. They show where one property ends and another begins. The owner of each property is responsible for what happens on their property. Non owners are not responsible for what happens on the property.
In his book Boundaries, Dr. Henry cloud shares that boundaries define what IS me and what IS NOT me.
Knowing where you end and another begins gives a sense of ownership. Knowing what you own and taking responsibility over gives you freedom. But if you don’t take ownership over your life your choices and options will become limited.
Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. They help us protect our time, energy, and well being. But a boundary isn’t a wall that can’t be crossed. It’s more like a gate. But we get to choose what’s allowed in and what’s not. We choose when the gate remains open and when we may need to begin shutting it.
So how do we implement the practice of boundaries?
- Use your values as a filter for your boundaries and also what you may commit to. You may value travel and family, so because of that you will say yes to family weekend trip, but may say no a bbq with coworkers that occurs the same weekend without saying “I’m sorry”. Jess Connolly says it this way – “Not having time for something is not a sin.”
- Use your why as another filter. If you are clear on why you do what you do, the distractions are easier to tune out and boundaries can be more clearly defined. In Nehemiah 6:3 when he’s rebuilding the wall and gets messages trying to distract him from his work, says “I am doing a good work and I can’t come down”.
- Communicate your boundaries to others as needed. This may look like sharing up front how often you’re able to meet with a group of friends for Taco Tuesdays, sharing proactively what time you will have to leave an event, or letting a coworker or your boss know what time commitment you are able to give to a last minute project they included you on.
- Share your desires with your partner or spouse for things like how much time you’d like to set aside for a hobby each week, that you would like to not have a tv in your bedroom, or expectations surrounding communication and plans with others. It can also look like sharing how many evenings you’re able to cook based on your schedule or when your schedule is too tight to pick the kids up and you need some help. Since boundaries go both ways, you have to make sure your open to hear your spouse’s as well.
- Communicate boundaries with your kids and teach them how to set them. Boundaries can look like the time they need to be in their room at night with no devices, or giving ownership to your kids that each time they leave a relatives house they don’t have to give them a hug or kiss before they leave if they’d prefer not to.
- With our devices, boundaries can look like putting our phone to bed in another room at night, not checking them first thing when we wake up, or setting them in another room an hour in the evenings and a day each weekend.
- With work, a boundary may be determining ahead of time the latest you’re willing to work during the week if you have a more flexible schedule. Or it may be that you don’t work in certain rooms of the house. Or that you won’t work while away on vacation if you’re self employed.
Reflect on your own boundaries – those you have set and maybe those that have not yet been implemented. Think about the one area where considering a boundary could give you some freedom.