Tag Archives: Decision making

Setting Boundaries: More Questions

A friend of mine surprised me with his comment about setting boundaries. He said the idea of setting boundaries has caused as many problems as it has solved.setting boundaries

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.


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.

Subscribe to this blog and I’ll send you a 60 page preview of my book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.



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. 


Four Inputs For Your Decision-Making Process

Every day you are confronted with opportunities to define your life by making a decision. What is your decision-making process? More specifically: Who are you listening to? Where do you turn for advice? (…if you even turn anywhere for advice). How you answer these questions tells me how likely you are to succeed, fail, or just get by.Decision-making

Does your decision-making lack a rudder?

In the preface to STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, I write:

I’m struck how this present generation lacks mentors, guides, and sages. These counselors exist, but we don’t have the same access to them that we once did. Many of us grow up in broken families, often moving from place to place, overloaded with options from our media-rich world, and disconnected from the churches and civic organizations that once held us together and served as anchors for our lives.  It’s as if we have to find the answers to life on our own, reinventing the wheel with each problem we face. It can be a lonely place not knowing where to turn for some of the most basic and important decisions in life.

As a result, our “advisors” in life  become our favorite TV shows, our favorite musical artists or authors, or the group consensus around the water cooler at work. But what seems to work on TV, or sounds insightful through the radio waves, doesn’t mean it’s true or helpful for you in the long run.  Our lives can become like rudderless ships, pushed in whatever direction the wind blows.

Good decision-making is often counter intuitive.

I was reminded of this recently as I watched Les Miserables.  The story is of an ex-convict who encounters the love of God through the forgiveness of a priest. He then commits himself to offer that same grace to others, at great expense to himself.  His decisions throughout life go against what most watercooler counselors would advise. Yet his life offers compelling evidence that sacrificial love and forgiveness are worth the price you pay. His decisions weren’t based on selfishness or common wisdom but in timeless spiritual truths.

Quality decision-making pays a high return.

I received an inheritance this year. The first thing I did was turn to a financial expert to help advise me in how to invest the money so it will serve me in years to come. Every day we inherit another 24 hours but we aren’t always so quick to get the expert advice we need that will benefit us in years to come. Maybe you suffer a few regrets for that reason.

Four Inputs For Quality Decision-Making.

As you enter this new year, I hope you’ll consider your source of advice. When facing the big decisions about career, relationships, finances, or faith, where are you turning? To whom are you listening? Here are four advisors to consider:

  1. Successful people. Whom do you want to be like? Talk to people that have proven themselves to be good decision makers. Ask them to mentor you and seek their counsel.
  2. Experts or Counselors. These people deal with hundreds of people: thousands over a span of years. What is unique and overwhelming to you is old hat to them. The Bible says that wisdom is found in those who take advice (Proverbs 13:10).
  3. Expert authors. In the column of this blog I’ve listed some of my top picks for books. They will give you great advice in important areas of life.
  4. The Bible. No book has keener insight into our hearts and what leads us astray or to success. The book of Proverbs in the Bible alone offers an abundance of time-tested advice. One Bible character (David) said that God’s words were like counselors to him (Psalm 119:24).

Most of this advice is yours for free. Why would you want to make any major decision without the benefit of these inputs?  You can save yourself a world of hurt with just a little bit of time and the humility to listen.  Don’t let pride or impatience cause you to settle for for what “seems” good or what “others are doing.” Get the input you need that will serve you and others well for years to come.

I hope 2013 will be a year of good decision-making for you!

Question: What/who has helped you make good decisions in the past? Leave your comment below. Thanks!


Make Good Decisions and Leave No Regrets in 2013

Good decisions can save a lot of time and a lot of hardship. Plus good decisions offer a lot of recurring joy.

Here’s a good example. The church, where I serve as pastor, was able to build a facility a couple of years ago. Before that we were renting space. We pulled together a team of people to develop the layout and design. We started by visiting other church buildings to see what we liked and didn’t like.  We took pictures of lodges because we wanted our building to have that kind of look.

good decisions

Cedarbrook Church

Why did we gather so many wise people and so much helpful information for our building?  Because we knew that we’d be stuck with that building for a long time…like…FOREVER.  So we didn’t want to blow it. We didn’t want to have to live with the fruit of sloppy planning.

We were pleased with our work and the best thing is, when it was all built, we still liked what we designed. In fact, what inspired this post was my thinking about how much I still like the building. If we had it to do all over again I’d barely suggest any changes.

Good Decisions = No Regrets

We’ve had very few problems and many complements. It dawned on me that we are simply receiving back rewards for our hard work on the front end of the process. Spending time looking at all the angles in the beginning enabled us to live regret-free now. We don’t constantly say to ourselves, “If only we had done this…” or “Now what are we going to do?” Plus we get to enjoy a great building that meets our needs and feels so welcoming to our community.

What if we took our life decisions as seriously as we did that building? How much regret could we eliminate from our lives if we simply invested in making good decisions in the first place?

Avoid the fix/endure/move on Syndrome

What if you gathered wise people to instruct your relational decisions, or financial decisions, or career decisions? So often we go on a whim, or a feeling. We go on tradition, or what people expect from us. We base our decisions on trends or circumstances. Our decisions often feel good in the moment, but it’s not always long before we start to see the downside to our decision-making.

That’s when you end up in that dreaded place of wondering if you should fix what’s broken, endure what’s broken, or cut your losses and move on. Do you realize how much emotional energy goes into all that? Good decisions can prevent it all.

Make Good Decisions This Year

As you approach a new year with new decisions, I want to encourage you to take the time you need to make well advised, well thought through decisions. As with my church’s building, it’s so nice to continually be thankful for our good decisions and not live in continual regret of bad decisions. I hope you will make the upfront investment of time as you approach your personal decisions this year. It will save you hours of headaches in days to come and hopefully offer a great deal of joy.

Question: I’m sure you’ve got a story of how making good decisions or not affected your life. Would you care to briefly mention it below? Thanks.

To help you in your relational decision-making this year, consider my new book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.


Regret Proof Your Life With Better Decisions

Regret Proof Your Life

Regret Proof Your Life – Be Present

Good decisions are hard to come by.  I often meet people after they’ve made a bad decision.  I’ve learned about regret by talking to hundreds of people who regret their past.

Occasionally people come to see me BEFORE the decision.  They realize the weight of the situation at hand and want all the input they can get. Wise people.

I’ve made my share of bad decisions but  I made a good one last week…to drop everything to visit my siblings after my mother’s death (the memorial is not for a month).  It required leaving work for two days (I’m already buried in work after being gone for two weeks) but it was the right thing to do. It was very important for my family’s grieving process. If I hadn’t done that I would have regretted it in the future.

That decision got me thinking about regret and decision-making in general. There are some decisions that you can wait on. But other decisions require your full attention and the ability to act on them before the window of opportunity closes. How you respond in that moment determines if you will be celebrating or kicking yourself later on.

Given those two polar opposites here are seven ideas to help you regret proof your life.

Seven Keys to Regret Proof Your Life

  1. Be present. This means to clue into THIS moment mentally and not be thinking about your past or your future. THIS MOMENT requires your attention if you want to have a good future and a no regret past.  There is a quote in the Bible that says that the men of Issachar were wise because they understood their times.  They knew what to do because they were tuned into the moment. It’s important to discern when opportunities or threats need your attention and take action.
  2. Anticipate. To help you be present it’s important to identify those moments in advance so they don’t catch you by surprise. I find it helpful to take time to be quiet, reflect and pray asking God to show me those moments that need my attention.  A few years ago I recognized that my mom was slowing slipping away. I decided to visit her more and be ready to drop everything so I could be near her in the end. That’s what happened and I have great memories now of my mom in her last days. Anticipate these key moments in your life and the lives of your loved ones so you can be there and say the right thing in the moment.
  3. Ask yourself…will I ever have this moment again? Some opportunities only come once.  When that reality hits your radar you need to sit up and take note. It’s not time to hesitate. It’s not time to procrastinate. I only have one opportunity to grieve my mother. I will either do it well or not. If I’m not cued into the NOW then I will most likely have regret.  There are many moments when you only have once chance to say the right thing; one chance to make the sale, one chance to comfort a hurting friend, one chance to say good-bye. Don’t miss the moment.
  4. Ask yourself…will I regret not taking action?   Last week I could have easily pooh-poohed the idea of visiting my family. I was swamped at work.  But I asked myself…will I regret this in the future?  The answer was a big “yes”.  I knew I’d look back and kick myself saying…What were you thinking?  Was work really THAT important?  More important than grieving well and connecting with family?
  5. Prepare for the moment. We often get paralyzed and procrastinate in the moment because we don’t know what to say or do. We feel inadequate so we freeze.  This always amazes me because there is almost always SOMEONE who can help you. But don’t just ask anyone. Ask people for advice who have shown success in what you are questioning.  When I have financial questions I ask people who have managed their money well. When I have parenting questions I ask a friend who has done a great job raising his kids.
  6. Get input from the Bible.  There is so much good advice in the Bible. Unfortunately, many people never crack it open. Even if you don’t believe in God the Bible is a time-tested book of wisdom telling us what kind of decisions succeed and fail.  Check out the book of Proverbs.
  7. Pull the trigger. After you’ve anticipated, prepared and are present then take action. Do or say the right thing. Don’t equivocate.

My dad had a saying…you gotta be thinking all the time.  What that means is that I need to be present. I need to be aware of my surroundings…the opportunities and threats in all walks of life. I can’t afford to be lazy mentally or I’ll pay for it. I’ll regret.

Many people have complained to me that their life has been one bad thing after another.  What’s often true is that they made one bad decision (or non-decision) after another. Good decisions will change your life. There are many “one-time” decisions that relate to finances, relationships, sex, career and more. You don’t want to be led by your emotions or peer pressure or your busy schedule. That only leads to regret. This post is my simple attempt at helping you on the FRONT side of your decisions and not the BACK side.

Question: What are some things that have led to regret or saved you from regret? Leave your comment below and “share the knowledge”  by clicking the links below. Thanks.