Category Archives: Boundaries

The Trio: Safe Supervision

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image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Introduction

The first time I met my boss was during my interview; he had his head resting on his hands the entire time. He was exhausted, and there was no denying it. When you’re in politics, and a mercy gift to boot, it’s highly likely that you’re doing some people pleasing–and that was definitely the case with my boss. A compassionate man, he is always willing to listen and give people his time. Everyone who calls our office claims to be “a good friend” of his, and he knows more people than I ever will. (But like a true mercy, he has very few who are actually close to him.) He has told me many times that he needs a great deal of time to process, and he is married to a prophet woman who does a great job of giving him many of the things he needs. More than just compassionate, my boss is caring and has grown into his mercy gift at age 61. He has something that the other two in the trio do not yet have: maturity. And beyond that, he has what my coworker lacks: acceptance of his gift.

The Involvement

The involvement with my boss on my end has simply been that I have gotten to be led by a mature mercy male for the first time in a long time. It has been less about what I am doing to be involved and more about what I am learning through my relationship with him. I have worked under former mercy male leaders, and it has been disastrous in some areas. It is helpful that my current boss and his wife are devout Christians; that his wife has a solid identity and therefore does not feel intimidated by me or challenged by my involvement in his professional life; and that I myself am more grounded in my own identity in Christ. It is wonderful to genuinely care for my boss and see his gifts displayed in such a public way, with such maturity. He is incredibly good at asking for help in the areas where he does not have great control, like boundaries with his time. He is not only well liked, he is well respected by folks in all walks of life and is one of the humblest men I know. Working with him daily reminds me of how much I want a Jesus-loving, humble, grounded-in-his-identity, mercy male husband of my own.

The Importance

My boss represents something in a mercy male relationship that I have not experienced in a long time: safety. This is a stunning revelation to me, even as I write it. Last week, as I was thinking about this blog, I actually said to myself that I did not know what the importance of this relationship was–but now it’s very clear to me. Listen, I know relationships, people, even LIFE ITSELF is not safe. Nor did Jesus call us to a safe life. But I know that I have been avoiding mercy males–or at least keeping a safe distance–because of how many times I’ve been hurt by them. And while I am aware that Jesus assured us we would have a life full of troubles (John 16:33), I am also aware that we are to guard our hearts, because all of life springs forth from it (Proverbs 4:23). I am enjoying the safety of my relationship with this mature mercy male because we all need safe people in our lives. He does not flirt or lead me on intentionally or unintentionally; he does not use me to get his touch needs fulfilled; I don’t feel guarded around him because he is mature enough to set his own boundaries. That means I don’t have to guard my heart, because he helps in that area. So instead of feeling stressed and worried around him, I am enjoying a kinship with a mercy male, and our dynamic flows exactly the way God intended it to. We joke, we laugh, we share, and we naturally work well together but not in any kind of inappropriate or unhealthy way. In fact, he just got back from a week-long trip, and the first thing he did when he saw me was give me a hug. I did not feel used, I did not feel weird–I just enjoyed the cool, safe relationship I have with a mercy male.

There’s something to be said for feeling safe in a relationship. And while I know my ultimate safety comes from spending time in the arms of my Savior, it is nice to know that I can also find safety in a relationship with a mercy male who has no agenda except to care for those he leads. And that has been remarkably healing for this pushy prophet girl.

 

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Emotionally Healthy Habits: Boundaries

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I was at my family’s house for the week helping to take care of my uncle. My normal schedule includes a lot of solitude, very little television, no pets, no children…lots of quiet time for my thoughts and prayer, and always a good night’s sleep. At my family’s house, however, there is a loud 8-year old, three barking dogs, a television running 24-hours a day, and two other adults. It’s chaotic and lacks quiet—completely opposite of my normal routine. One night, after I went out and got dinner, I went into the kitchen to enjoy eating quietly. My dinner wasn’t even open before someone said, “Did you see the latest news report?” I sighed and calmly (but firmly) said, “Can I please just have some quiet time?” I was granted my request, albeit grudgingly, as they left the house. I then retreated upstairs to write and enjoy that quiet time—and the enforcement of necessary boundaries in my life.

I’ve blogged about boundaries before, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said (check it out, though!). However, in light of my recent experience, I do want to note a few positive things that boundaries do for you:

  • Boundaries keep the bad away. You should set boundaries in your life for your own protection, because while they definitely keep out things like bad people and bad circumstances, boundaries also keep out bad attitudes like anger and frustration. What begins in your mind as anger can easily build into other unhealthy emotions and actions, so having healthy, firm boundaries keeps you away from bad habits, bad feelings, and bad interactions with others. I may have waited a bit too long in my experience with my family, because I was already feeling frustrated when I communicated my boundaries. However, I knew I needed to say something, so I did and then I stuck to them by retreating to the bedroom for some solitude. When you are creating boundaries, ask yourself, “What bad things am I keeping out by setting this boundary?”
  • Boundaries allow the good to stay. Boundaries are not just about keeping the bad out. You don’t put a fence up just to keep the wild animals out; you do it to keep the kids inside the yard and out of the street. I wanted to be in a good mood for my family; I am not a nice person when I don’t have alone time or when I don’t have enough sleep and peace. I wanted to set and communicate my boundaries so that I could be in a good mood and be useful to them, instead of tired and cranky. I wanted to have joy and peace when dealing with them so I could show them Jesus. So when you are creating boundaries, it’s also good to ask yourself, “What’s good things will stay in my life if I set this boundary?”
  • Boundaries, when communicated, remove anxiety. Quite honestly, I was stressed about going to stay with my family before I even left my home. I knew that their routine and environment was incredibly different from my own, and that I might not be able to operate in the same fashion that I do when I’m at home. If I had discussed those issues with my family, set the standard, and shared my boundaries, I would have enjoyed myself and accomplished more while there. I realized that once I communicated my boundaries, I felt less anxious about staying there—but it was almost too late, because by then, I was already sleep deprived and bothered by the noise. So now I know that the next time I go to help my family, I will ask myself beforehand, “What stress can be removed from my life by communicating my boundaries from the get-go?”

Ephesians 4:15 says, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Boundaries involve speaking the truth about ourselves in love to others so that we can grow and mature as Christians and become more Christlike. And being Christlike means practicing emotionally healthy habits—and spiritually healthy habits, as we will begin talking about next week!

Enforcing Boundaries

DO NOT CROSS by artur84

image courtesty of artur84 / freedigitalphotos.net

Jennie’s mom calls her seven or eight times a day. One time while dining with Jennie’s mom, she made a point to call Jennie just to say, “We just finished dinner, and now we’re going to eat dessert. It went well and they liked my shrimp.” Because Jennie is one of my dearest friends, I knew she was frustrated. (Even I was annoyed by it!) Jennie often vents about how her mother’s life revolves around her and her family and how she wishes her mother had a life outside of her. I listen, knowing what the problem is: Jennie has not set clear, firm boundaries with her mother.

Boundaries are limitations that we place in our lives to help us meet our own needs, maximize our strengths, and minimize our weaknesses. Boundaries can help protect us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally by regulating any circumstances that would not support our personal growth. For example, Jennie’s mother has not grown emotionally or mentally because Jennie has allowed her mother to depend on her too much. In addition, Jennie has not grown emotionally, either, because she is too afraid of hurting her mother’s feelings by being firm.

Boundaries are a healthy human behavior trait, and the following are some things you can do to have them, set them, and enforce them:

  1. To have boundaries, you must be self-aware. You cannot set limits for yourself if you are unaware of your personal needs, likes, and desires. Before I was self-aware, I would lash out at everyone when I didn’t receive enough “Michelle time”—much to the chagrin of my family and friends. Once I realized that I needed time alone to recharge, I began to plan it into my schedule on vacations, short weekend trips, and busy weeks. This helped me to maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses by meeting my need for silence, relaxation, and reflection. Ask yourself the difficult questions: What do I need? What do I like? When ____ happens, how do I feel?
  2. To set boundaries, you must communicate them. Once I figured myself out, I could not expect that my friends and family suddenly just “knew” that I needed alone time—I had to tell them, and I often have to remind them! Please do not expect people to read your mind. Communicate clearly and communicate often—there is no need to defend or debate, but you must say it. Most importantly, communicate your boundaries to others with grace and kindness. You don’t need to explain yourself, justify your boundaries, or defend your choices: but you DO need to communicate them to others.
  3. To enforce boundaries, you must be firm—but flexible. A lot of people have no boundaries or soft boundaries because they do not know how to firmly but lovingly enforce them. Being firm with boundaries takes discipline and practice! You may have to repeat yourself a number of times and have consequences for when your boundaries are violated constantly. However, being firm does not mean being rigid with your boundaries. If your bedtime is set firmly at 11:00 p.m. on weekdays, but a once-in-a-lifetime event is taking place that will run until midnight, you can give yourself permission to say yes! Remain flexible but firm.

You have a right to care for yourself, and you have a right to be healthy! Boundaries are a great path to self-respect and emotional intelligence and health.

What are some boundaries that you have set in your life?