As a Christian counselor, I have seen many clients whose current “issues” are in many ways a direct result of weak or non-existent personal boundaries in their lives. Our center teaches a lot on this topic and what follows are the five most common misunderstandings that we perceive people have about this topic.
When we counsel on boundaries, we rely extensively on a series of books written by Cloud and Townsend. Although they did not invent the concept, their resources and materials present the framework and process clearly to help people implement them in their lives.
We need to know when to say “yes” and also when to say “no” to important people in our lives so we can take control and not feel like a puppet on the end of everyone else’s strings. Setting boundaries involves being responsible for our own words, actions and responses to others.
- Myth 1: I’m being selfish if I set boundaries
The truth: We only have one life to live and we cannot serve and honor God properly if we cannot manage our time and energy effectively. This accusation typically comes from those people in our lives who are using ungodly means to try to control us.
- Myth 2: If I set boundaries, others will be mad at me.
The truth: Anger and frustration from others may be a short term reaction to newly set boundaries but it is often a vital emotion to be experienced by them so they can assess the consequences of continually violating your boundaries. Boundaries only take on significant meaning when they are properly enforced in the face of opposition.
- Myth 3: I will be hurting others if I set boundaries.
The truth: Boundaries are a defensive weapon to help us get our lives in order and not an offensive weapon to hurt others. In the same way as anger, offending parties often need to “feel the pain” before they will begin to effect changes in their behavior towards you.
- Myth 4: I’m setting boundaries because I am angry.
The truth: As with the “you’re being selfish” accusation, this is a typical knee-jerk response from someone who is newly offended by a person beginning to set boundaries. It is actually a good reaction because it indicates that the boundary-setting is having the desired effect. Boundaries decrease anger because boundary violation (which produces anger) is lessened.
- Myth 5: Setting boundaries won’t work because the other person(s) won’t respect them.
The truth: I am amazed by the number of people who seemingly understand the concept of boundaries but are continually flustered by the reality that they are unable to set someone else’s boundaries. The simple fact that the only boundaries we can set (and enforce) are our own. As the individual sets their boundaries, each offended party then has the opportunity to respond in a proper way. Consistency and persistence are the keys to seeing this happen!
There are other myths but these are the major ones we encounter. It is one thing to understand the concepts of boundaries and something completely different to implement and maintain them effectively. It is a learned skill and an essential one in order to lead a peaceful, ordered life where we are led by the Holy Spirit and our own will rather than being tossed about by the whims of others.
Do you need help understanding or implementing boundaries? Pick up a copy of the Boundaries book. Need more than that? We would love to help you!