I’ve had several conversations about boundaries this week, both in my personal and professional life. A friend expressed that she struggled with feeling selfish when she set boundaries, another that he felt bad when he “spoke up” and hurt someone’s feelings. We avoid an uncomfortable conversation that may sting and eventually wind up losing an entire relationship. Many believe that in order to be unselfish and loving we have to say yes to everything; answer every phone call, meet every need (but our own) and never ask for what we need, especially if it will hurt someone else. The problem with this line of thinking is that it will kill a relationship. Think about it; instead of simply saying “no” to that person who asks a for quick favor, you begin to avoid them. You turn the other way at church or rush away from them before they can ask something of you. You’re exhausted, over-extended and find yourself getting angry that they dared to ask you to help them AGAIN. You cannot love them, because you cannot say “no” to them.
Are you in a relationship where you cannot let someone know when they have hurt, angered, or even frustrated you? Have you begun to resent them? Is bitterness creeping in? It will. Especially as that loved one continues to do the one thing that is hurting you that you refuse to talk about to save their feelings. We cannot be truly unselfish, we cannot truly love someone if we have not learned to have and voice our boundaries. We will be too busy trying to protect ourselves.
Boundaries are important. They acknowledge that before you can meet the needs of others you have to meet your own. This includes: sleep, alone time, family time, honoring your feelings and generally not having too much on your plate.