Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Dear Anne, 
People are always telling me that I need to have healthier boundaries, but I don’t even know what that means! I mean I know I have a problem telling people no, which leads me to sacrifice myself to the point of exhaustion for others, and I get wrapped up in other people’s lives and problems a little too much, but isn't that normal for a sweet southern Christian women? Help! I just need to know what healthy boundaries are and how I can start to implement them in my life!

Dear Sweet Southern Lady,
You are not alone with having difficulties saying “no” to people.  Often time we don’t tell people “no” out of fear that we may hurt their feelings, or that we may lose out of other opportunities.  There is nothing wrong with saying “no”, in fact saying “no” can be much healthier for us than always saying “yes”.  When we are constantly saying “yes” to people we over extend ourselves, just like you have mentioned you do.  The problem with this is we get ourselves stretched so thin that we are unable to give our best.  Which is better, to do a great job on a few tasks or to do fair to poor work on many?  My mom always told me that “it’s not always what you say but how you say it”.  We need to learn how to say “no” is a way that it is acceptable to people.  
We can let people know that now is not a good time for us, or that we already have prior commitments.  As Christians we are to look to Christ as our example of how to live our lives.  Jesus often had to take time for Himself, and to get away from the crowds of people.  His days were full of teaching, healing, and serving people; but He always made time for Himself.  During this time He would rest and pray to God the Father (Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, Mark 14:32-34, Luke 4:42, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12).  But we also see in Mark 4:35-41 how Christ “said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind…”  There was always someone else that was seeking help from Christ, but He knew there were times when He had to leave the crowd behind and say “no” to them.”

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
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