To grow in spiritual maturity and to fully live our purpose, we must have clear, healthy boundaries for our lives.  These boundaries help us function freely and safely to ensure well-being for ourselves and others in our care.

Boundaries help us keep clear of clutter — emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual — anything which does not serve our purpose or help us nurture ourselves and our heart’s desires.  They guide us in deciding what we let in and what we keep out, so we say “Yes” only to what matters most.

In setting boundaries, we know that God is in charge of the Universe and that our responsibilities may differ from others’.  We distinguish what our roles are in particular places at specific times.  We understand that just because something needs to be done, we aren’t the one to do it.

Discerning Where to Draw the Line

Setting boundaries means discerning:

  • When to say, “No,” “Not Now,” “Not Ever,” or “Not Me.”
    • For example: We may not ever want to go sky-diving, but we’ll fly coach to vacation overseas.
  • How much of our lives we want to live in public and share on social media.
    • For example: If we’re in the hospital, we may request prayers for healing, but we avoid posting photos of our surgical procedure.
  • What our relationships are, and when and with whom we share personal intimacies and vulnerabilities.
    • For example: We might discuss vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction with our physician or BFF, but not with a business colleague. Or, we wouldn’t ask our boss to pick up our dry cleaning, though we can request that our life partner does.
  • How we honor our bodies and personal space, and who we allow into our homes.
    • For example, a colleague may stand too close to us, ask too many personal questions, or constantly try to hug or touch us. Or, we may feel uncomfortable having a particular contractor in our home, even though they are highly recommended.
  • How we want to manage our energy, rather than our time.
    • For example, if we need to unwind before we go to sleep, we can set our devices to silent at 9:00 pm. Or we may agree to buy cookies for a party, because baking isn’t our forte.
  • When and to whom we’ll provide our phone number, email, and social media contacts.
    • For example: We may give a restaurant our phone number to confirm a reservation, though we don’t want them to email us their weekly specials. Or we don’t “friend” strangers, even though they’re friends with someone else we know.
  • What we’ll put into and onto our bodies, and how we observe certain practices and rituals. This includes food, medicines, supplements, and substances, as well as our clothing and tattoos.
    • For example: Someone who keeps kosher at home may choose to eat shrimp at their favorite restaurant. Or someone wears a mask in all public places because their child is immune-compromised.
  • How we want to be addressed and respected.
    • For example, We’re addressed professionally as Doctor, Professor, or Your Honor, but a stranger assumes familiarity and calls us by our first name. Or someone who purports to be our friend continually calls us high-maintenance or self-centered when we assert our needs.
  • What information and images we allow into our minds, and how long we need to process information we receive.
    • For example, we may avoid news broadcasts first thing in the morning, right before bedtime, or during meals. Or we tell a loved one that we can’t rehash an old hurt with them because we’re still healing the hurt ourselves.
  • When we offer assistance and support.
    • For example, we may be glad to help an elderly relative do their weekly grocery shopping, but we don’t tell our neighbors how to resolve their personal problems.
  • What is toxic for us.
    • For example: We may cut ties with an abusive relative and refuse to be at any events they attend. Or, if we’re in AA, we only meet friends at “dry” places.
  • Which codes of ethics or confidentiality standards our professions require us to uphold.
    • For example, we are mandated to report child or elder abuse, but we hold in confidence when someone tell us they don’t like their mother and they want to pray about it.

When Boundaries Are Violated

Boundaries are violated when someone repeatedly ignores our requests, especially if in our business or home.  They’re also violated when someone refuses to comply with rules and regulations which are for the safety and security of the whole.

The only time we go outside of a boundary is in an emergency.  And even then, we must gauge how serious a situation is and what is required from us.  The truth is, especially if we’re dealing with addicts or toxic personalities, some people create dramas or assert their personal will to test our boundaries.  Their intention isn’t necessarily to push our buttons, but to get their needs met in the easiest way for them.  Yet, if we’re willing to give in, what’s easier on them may be destructive to us.

In maintaining our boundaries, we can remember: We aren’t preventing or blocking compassion.  We’re doing what we must to stay on purpose, ensure safety, and maintain well-being.  As Pastor Ken Callahan has said, “We can have compassion for the addict, but we don’t let them come into our home and wreck it.”

Questions to Help Us Set Boundaries

  • What clutter (emotional, mental, physical, spiritual) is filling my space?
  • What boundaries do I need to set for the best use of my attention and energy, for my safety, and for my well-being?
  • What is my intuition telling me is best for me and/or my loved ones?
  • What is my intuition telling me feels safe or uncomfortable, perhaps even dangerous?
  • What are my strongest, most heart-felt desires now?
  • What is blocking my way to realizing these desires?
  • What am I doing to nurture these heart-felt desires?
  • Who truly needs the information being requested of me?
  • How is my confidentiality, or the confidentiality of a loved one or client, being honored and protected?
  • What is my role and/or others’ roles in a particular situation?
  • How much connection and intimacy do I want with particular people?
  • If a boundary is being pushed or violated, what do I want to say and do to reinforce the boundary?

Becoming Clear and Free

Poet Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  When we set boundaries for ourselves, we honor that others have boundaries, too.  We recognize that something that’s no big deal to us may be a deal-breaker for them.  This helps us maintain our own firm boundaries while still having loving, caring relationships.

Boundaries also keep us from being people-pleasers and agreeing to things just so we’ll be liked.  We realize that if someone only likes us when we do what they want, then we’re better off without them.  Furthermore, our boundaries help us agree to what truly works for us and to let go of what doesn’t.

Ultimately, the boundaries we establish for our lives give us tremendous freedom because they affirm our power to choose our responses and actions.  As we assess these boundaries and discern what feels best, we gain clarity about our needs.  We also may feel liberated from constraints which blocked our success.  In addition, we often discover new opportunities for connection, mutuality, and understanding.

Whatever boundaries we establish, we can know: The spirit within, our intuition, leads the way.  As we listen to this divine, inner guidance, we are assured of best outcome and a renewed sense of peace.

© 2022 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks – All rights reserved.
Photo from Shutterstock by Kristina Drozd.

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