That caught my attention. He said setting boundaries has given some people the idea that they have the right to cut people out of their lives rather than engage and resolve problems.
He’s probably right to some degree. There probably are some people who will use any excuse they can find to do what they want to do. For them, boundaries justifies their actions. But, in general, I’d like to see more people using boundaries, not less, as long as they are applied with wisdom and grace.
I started out my list of questions by referring to Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan”. This was a man who wasn’t afraid to drop everything to help someone. He didn’t use a boundary to save himself from helping the man. This is our starting point. This is the norm. But setting boundaries becomes important when you encounter destructive people. They aren’t victims like the Good Samaritan encountered. They are victimizers who take advantage of their relationship to you. When this happens you need to set boundaries to protect yourself from their abuse.
Questions to Help in Setting Boundaries
Here are some final questions to ask yourself when people ask you to “take their rope.” Track back to hear the original analogy.
- Am I trying to escape another responsibility by picking up this one? Check your motive. Caretakers love to take care of other people so they don’t have to deal with their own issues.
- Do I know how long a time commitment I’m signing up for? Am I being realistic? What if things don’t work out? What if it takes twice as long? Am I prepared for that? Do I have an exit plan? Be careful. Many people are overly optimistic and fail to count the cost.
- Who can I ask to help me? Just because you say “yes” doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Form a team.
- Am I responding out of guilt? Good Christians should do this. My mom would do this. Am I responding out of obligation? You “owe” them. Am I responding out of shame? What will people say if I don’t? If the answer is “yes” that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do it. It might just mean you need to change your motive.
- Can I do this and not be resentful? Play the martyr? Expect payback? Again, the answer might be “no” but maybe you just need to change your attitude. Learn to be a cheerful giver.
Setting Boundaries is About Investing Well
You get the idea. I’m sure there are other questions to ask yourself. I’d love to hear what questions you ask yourself. The goal here is to be a wise investor. You don’t want to just invest your money wisely but your time and talent as well. We all have to answer to God for how we spend our time, money, and talent. Be careful not to let people manipulate you for their personal gain at your expense. But, as my friend warned, don’t use “boundaries” as an excuse to walk away from a hard relationship. God might be asking more of you than that.
You might find my book STUCK helpful in dealing with hard relationships. Subscribe to this blog in the right margin and I’ll send you a 60 page preview of the book.