But when our marriage or business relationship or friendship or parent-child relationships leave us exhausted, lonely, frustrated and joyless, boundaries are the first thing to check. I do not believe any relationship is consistently 50-50, but running on 90-10 gives one side too much power and leaves the other side too little consideration. Many bullies are built rather than born because one person wants things "perfect" and the other wants to be "perfectly helpful" even though there is generally little communication about how to help everyone get more of what they need: their cup filled with love, respect, purpose, hope. These are things that God gives us, but also being created "in God's image" they are things we should feel safe sharing freely with those we love and trust.
Boundary checks are definitely a fitting response to being told (1) how we should feel, (2) how "all good people" would act, (3) how we "always", "never", "have not ever", "have always" have done, said or acted (because we nearly never "always" or "never" anything), (3) how other people perceive or value us, (4) how it is not our business to request a calm and at least somewhat clear and specific ideas of what the other party thinks might make things better, or (5) having someone demand something from us that feels unsafe, unfair, unreasonable or impossible.
If I may borrow from the Serenity Prayer, I would suggest that boundaries are what separate what we can change or affect in positive ways and what do not have the authority to affect in positive ways and the power is in learning to identify the difference. We can not make our (insert family, friend or agency here) be "better", "fairer", "healthier", "kinder", "wiser", et al. We can control our response to them, hold them in the best regard that we can manage or learn, and refrain from intentionally harming them. But we can not "fix them". That is absolutely, utterly and totally God's business except in the limited and narrow situation where we are guardians for children or frail adults and even then our capacity to assist is limited by the capacity of the ward to receive aid.
Now, we have full permission and God encouragement to seek God's help in working to make OURSELVES better, fairer, healthier, kinder, wiser, et al. And, frankly, I have found that to be a full-time job that must be attended to faithfully even when I am seeking to be God's helping Hands and Feet.
Where are you in relationship to the fences in your family, with your friends, at your job, in your community? Owning what you can positively affect and laying down what your can not positively affect makes an amazing difference in our joy, our peace, our energy, our ability to freely accept and give love and our ability to respond to those gifts that God lavishes on us to the degree we are willing to accept them.
Tomorrow: Do words matter?
Musings upon reading: Boundaries: When to Say YES and When to Say NO To Take Control of Your Life (See BOOKS tab above.)