Setting Boundaries – Good Questions to Ask

This post continues offering questions to help you decide whether to “pick up the rope” or take-on responsibility that someone offers you. Track back for the full discussion of setting boundaries and how to decide whether to help someone.

Will holding the rope be a short-term fix or a permanent situation?

In other words, is someone asking you to help them for the short-term until they can get back on setting boundariestheir feet or are they looking to you to sustain them indefinitely?  For example, let’s say you are short $50 for rent this month because an illness caused you to miss work. I might be willing to help you out if I have the extra money.  But if you continually mismanage your money and ask me for $50 every month, I’m not going to help you with that.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I see parents support their adult children this way all the time. Helping a chronically irresponsible person makes you an enabler and that hurts everyone. Setting boundaries in advance of the “ask” will help you make the right choice.

Have I consulted with my loved ones about holding this rope?

Some people drop everything to rescue someone in need, not realizing the cost to their loved ones. They presume upon the willingness of their family to help “hold the rope.” That’s not fair to them. Before you agree to a “calling” like this you need to lay out the cost to your family and friends and have their full agreement before you accept someone’s rope.

In the early days of ministry I often failed to include my wife in decisions like this.  I didn’t factor in the cost to her or my children. I would commit to holding a rope and then guilt my wife into supporting me because it was the “right thing to do.”  No, the right thing to do is to get full buy-in from people who will be impacted by you picking up someone’s rope.

There is no virtue in hurting one person to help another. Setting boundaries not only helps protect you but it helps protect those you love.

Is there something in me that needs to be needed?

It dawned on me many years ago that many people in helping professions (pastors, counselors, etc.) need to be needed. They are in a helping profession to compensate for their insecurities. They feel important when people turn to them for help and answers.

Because of that awareness, I scrutinize my motives in wanting to help people.  Am I really concerned about someone’s need or am I more concerned about feeling good about myself?  Am I looking for a quick boost of self-esteem given by rescuing someone? I never want to help someone with that kind of impure motive. Only God can give me the sense of worth that I need.

Setting boundaries brings freedom

Setting boundaries is something that takes thought and courage. We are so easily pulled in ways that hurt us or those we love. But when you do the hard work to define and implement boundaries, you’ll be amazed at the freedom they bring to your life.

I hope these questions help you to make good decisions about your relationships. I have a few more questions to share later this week.

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2 thoughts on “Setting Boundaries – Good Questions to Ask

  1. Elli Hunt

    You have convinced me that boundaries are essential for a healthy life. I can see that clearly, how decisions to help someone needs to be carefully considered and needs to include all the people who are share holders, by my desire to help.

    Sometimes it’s can be hard to see all of the forms that a rope could be presented, some people are just crying out for help, knowing that I would feel guilty if I didn’t help. Even though they refuse to help themselves they would want me to feel guilty for not helping them.

    Still, I think we can respond in helpful ways without accepting the rope or feeding the addictions, perhaps a prayer or prayers would be the most beneficial. Mostly letting them know that someone cares but because of their being irresponsible, limits what others can do.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Yes, it’s important to respond with grace. I haven’t touched on how to respond, only the internal decision-making conversation that we have with ourselves. Some people will get mad, no matter how gracious you are. Many people will understand and appreciate your constructive advice at how they can take responsibility for their problem and not just look for a quick fix by passing their rope to someone.

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