Boundaries

I picked up an oldie but a goodie this week: “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

I like to be inside people’s heads anyway, but to see how so many conflicts and emotional trauma could be avoided by the simple concept of boundaries is astounding.

I am what the good authors would call “compliant.” I have trouble saying the word “no.” It’s a perfectly good word, useful in many situations, but for some reason it’s hard for me. I don’t want to make waves; I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to do the right thing; I want to help people.

Did you know that it’s okay to say “no” if you don’t want to do something? I didn’t. I thought feeling guilty was an acceptable reason to say yes, even if I didn’t have the desire or the time to do it. For some strange reason, living by everyone else’s agenda leaves me a little hollow, and a little resentful.

Yet bad feelings is what I’ve tried to avoid. I don’t want other people to think I’m selfish. I want to avoid the potential conflict.

The authors answer? Set boundaries. Take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings. Don’t be afraid to communicate them to others. Do things that line up with your values. Respect other people’s boundaries.

I also didn’t realize that I am responsible to get my needs met and my desires fulfilled. I can’t expect anyone else to do that for me. If things aren’t going right, I have to be proactive enough to take a step toward making them right.

One of the illustrations that really tickled me was that God is good at maintaining boundaries. After all, He doesn’t let anyone in His house (heaven) who doesn’t respect Him and His Son. People think He’s mean, but he’s just setting proper boundaries.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who tends to say yes to the bad (like me), or say no to the good, or manipulate others, or ignore other’s concerns. We each have responsibilities for ourselves and to others. No one else is going to create and maintain the boundaries in your life that will protect you and provide a way for you to grow. That’s up to you.

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