Setting healthy boundaries may be the hardest relational thing we ever do, but it’s also one of the most loving things we do. To say through our actions, “I love you too much to allow this dysfunction to continue, so I will draw a line in the sand,” is to change the future of our relationship – as well as the future of anyone affected by that relationship.
You may feel like you’re standing alone with wild winds whipping all around, trying to knock you down, but you are doing holy work. Stand firm. Plant your feet and trust God to be your strength when you have none left. I’ve been there and I’ll come hold up your arms if you get tired. The fight is worth it.
Setting healthy boundaries with someone you date might mean you don’t marry the wrong person, or it might mean that your relationship with your spouse gets off to a much better start. When Rick and I were dating, I refused to move away from Nashville until we were married. I wasn’t going to give up everything good in my life for the possibility of marriage. I needed to be married to make that change.
Setting healthy boundaries with a boss or colleague might mean that you don’t keep your current job, but it might be exactly what God needs to lead you to at the job He has for you. Or it might mean that your time in that job is much more productive and protects your family relationships. There was a time when I didn’t know how to do that and the result was disastrous. If I’d required clarity and good communication from the beginning, things would have changed for the better – not only me, but for everyone else I worked with at the time. I learned that lesson the hard way.
Setting healthy boundaries with children might mean that you’re “the meanest mom in the world,” but it might also mean that your children grow up to be productive members of society who know how to set healthy boundaries for themselves. My kids would happily watch Netflix all day, every day. It’s a great babysitter, keeping them quiet and keeping my house neat. They even learn some good things from some of those shows. But I always know when they’ve been watching too much TV when they get grumpy and can’t think of anything else. The healthiest thing I can do for them (and myself) is to turn off all the screens and do something creative.
Setting healthy boundaries with your parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends may feel like you’re about to lose everything. It may be the most terrifying thing you’ve ever done – to fight the pounding fear in your heart and say, “This may be the way we’ve always done things, but I love you all enough to change the course of our lives and require that we do things a better way. I’m worth it. You’re worth it. Our family is worth it.” For me, that has meant different things. One that’s been very important to me is ending the constant conversation about how much we weigh and how discontent we are with our bodies, as well as criticizing others for their size. I don’t say those things any more. I don’t allow that critical, self-absorbed voice to put me down all day long. I certainly won’t allow my daughter to be a part of those conversations. The damage is catastrophic. That boundary took a long time to create, but anyone who knows me at all knows that the “f” word in my house is “fat.”
It isn’t appropriate for me to share the more difficult boundaries I’ve had to set in my life. I work hard to make sure my writing honors my loved ones and doesn’t tear them down. Don’t mistake my silence on some subjects for disregard or for lack of struggle. It is respect. Your loved ones deserve that too.
Stand up, my friend, and set a new course for yourself and your loved ones.
In your own way, change the world. ♥️
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