Too often we let the World tell us what we should or should not do and often that message is "Don't do anything you don't want to do." Of course, a quick review of what hedonism (the pursuit only of our own desires) grows in families and communities should make all folks rethink that as a goal. But, alas, it does not.
And we also let others tell us how we should feel, think or act, even though we are adults and have a responsibility both to make our own choices and to live with the consequences of our choices. Few of us insist on the consequences part, so if someone else is stealing our learning opportunities it takes great wisdom and strength to break free of those velvet handcuffs.
But this being a grown-up, taking responsibility for both the right and wrong choices, standing on our own feet and learning how to do that better over the years; and it looks mighty unappealing in the eyes of the World. And, too often churchy people and self-help guru's who don't have their own lives in order, find it much easier to tell others how to do and be rather than do themselves.
And please understand that I have no illusions about how much easier it SEEMS to let ourselves be buffeted by others until finally we would rather be wrong that to keep being babied and therefore paying the price for the errors of others. At least if I'm paying for my truly own mistake I have the opportunity to learn a better way for myself!
So this is the boundary in a nutshell: claiming what is rightfully my business and releasing what is rightfully not my business and honoring what is and is not rightfully someone's business empowers us to use our muscles where it can best help us become what we long to be. I found it helpful to think of a three foot by three foot square that I claimed as "Me-city" where I am the major, the chief of police, the principal, the business owner, the business worker, the learner, the parent, the child, the adult, the person who has needs, the person who wants to help those in need. When I keep my values and ethics respected in "Me-city" then I have perspective and power and permission to look outside the city limits and see where I might be helpful based on the gifts and abilities I have and being willing to be uncomfortable but only unsafe when I am absolutely convicted that God is sending me into the danger. And I can only do this when I remember how embarrassing and painful it was when people tried to force their "help" on me in ways that were more about their need to fix than my need for detailed supervision.
Simple in some ways, but definitely not easy. I'm certain that a lot of people are right now thinking of things that need fixing in others that can not possibly be fixed with out their help. I've been there many times and I've been wrong every single time. It is not even about waiting to be asked for help, because sometimes folks have not taken care of their own business but still expect me to put myself at risk to make their situation easier. As a former financial planner I often worked with parents who were financially only "just" OK if they were careful to plan and execute good spending strategies, yet felt guilty when a child demanded they make mortgage or car payments for them because the adult child had been "unlucky" and not planned for the normal and common broken appliances or lost jobs or compulsive spending that all families experienced from time to time (or more often if they consistently make bad choices).
I've been (briefly) involved with charities who fell prey to the temptation to use shady strategies to get people to "do good things" without ever considering the financial or moral consequences of failing to care about the donors as much as they care about the "cause" -- or their own prestige or paychecks.
I hope you are beginning to understand that we can "try to do right" and still get it very wrong if we are not paying attention. And the most unfortunate thing is that we often burn out, demonstrate stingy giving to our children and become deeper and more mired in anger, depression, exhaustion, self-righteousness and a lot of other things that are never God's plan for us. If you feel you have been painted into a corner (or better yet if you suspect you've helped paint yourself into a corner), there is a better way; there is hope; it is possible to be both generous and full of energy and peace!
God has a better way and is longing to help us get with God's Program!
Tomorrow: When do we need boundaries?
Musings upon reading: Boundaries: When to Say YES and When to Say NO To Take Control of Your Life (See BOOKS tab above.)