A Decision Making Process for Establishing Boundaries

I’m continuing a discussion that I started on boundaries last week. Track back to understand the illustration of “the rope”. Put simply, “the rope” symbolizes your taking on someone else’s responsibility. Today, I want to start to discuss a decision making process to help you know whether or not to pick up ropes that people hand you.

Ropes Can Come in Disguise

Someone commented that they wouldn’t accept the rope in the first place. Yes, that’s wise. But sometimes ropes come to us in disguise. You aren’t aware that you have a rope until you try to move on in life and someone jerks you back. They feel abandoned or rejected and don’t want to let you go. You look down and realize they put a rope in your hand a long time ago.

Someone else gave an example of how this happened in her life. Her mom used guilt to get her to take the rope. As a child she didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.  This can happen in a job setting too where you want to please a boss by taking on extra responsibility. But then, what you thought was an exception becomes a new level of expectation.

A Decision Making Process

I want to talk about how to let go of ropes gracefully. But over the next few posts I want to discuss a decision making process to determine if you should pick up ropes in the first place. I have a list of questions that I ask myself when trying to determine my involvement in helping someone.

As a pastor of a larger church, I have people handing me ropes all the time. I learned early on that if I accept every rope handed to me I will only be able to help a select few people.  But I’m not called to serve a few. I’m called to serve hundreds of people. Before I pick up a rope I have to decide how it will impact my ability to help others.

But this dilemma isn’t unique to me. This is true of everyone; it’s just magnified by my position. Everyone has to count the cost of picking up ropes.  So let me share with you some of the questions I use to process which ropes I pick up.  There’s no particular order I’m offering these questions. I’ll just tackle one today:

Can I bring an immediate solution to this problem?

Jesus told a story about robbers that attacked a man and left him for dead. The first two men to decision making processreach the victim were religious and found reasons to ignore the man.  The third person to reach the victim was less religious (if you know the story, he was a Samaritan: from a group of people Jews looked down on for not being full Jews) but he tended to the man’s needs and made sure he was nursed back to health.

The moral of this story is that people who truly know God help others. It doesn’t matter how religious you are: if you ignore the needs of others you don’t really know God. The Samaritan didn’t offer any excuses. He did what he needed to do to help. He was given “a rope” and he took it, no questions asked.

I mention this story because if we want to love God and love others, our first response should be to help others. This is a good starting point. Let’s be careful in this discussion to not become like the two religious men in Jesus’ story who found excuses to not do the obvious thing: help a dying man!  If my involvement can help someone immediately, then most likely I should help.

But of course, some people take this story to the extreme and feel the need to help everyone, no matter what the cost to them or their family. And/or their involvement doesn’t actually help a person. In some cases it makes things worse.  I’ll talk about reasons to not pick up the rope in my upcoming posts.

Learn more about boundaries in my book, STUCK. Subscribe to this blog today and I’ll send you a free 60 page overview of STUCK. 

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3 thoughts on “A Decision Making Process for Establishing Boundaries

  1. Elli Hunt

    I think ground rules, or like you stated, have a number of questions to ask are essential if your help to another is really going to help. Let me give an example, let’s say that you are walking in the down town busy section, heading for someplace, but a man comes up to you and ask for some money, he was down on his luck. Looking at him, his clothes are dirty, he is dirty, and unkempt, Wanting to help you think, well, he is probably hungry and I want to give him enough for a good meal. As he reaches out for the money you smell the strong scent of alcohol, he takes the money quickly and walks across the street into a liquor store. Giving the money seemed like the right thing to do, your intentions were good but in the end your actions perpetuated the addiction. So did you help?

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