We all know by now in this enlightened Christian age of ours that we should have boundaries. That yes, we need to be selfless, and yes, we need to serve people sacrificially, but no, we should not tolerate someone taking advantage of us at their own and our peril.
And here’s how I define boundaries: knowing what you’re willing to take from someone and do for someone, and what you’re not.
An example: I will not get in the car with you if you’ve been drinking.
Not this: Stop drinking.
See the difference? One is about you. The latter is about the other person, who you cannot control no matter what you try. (Trust me.)
Now, some boundaries need to be stated. “Just so you know, because of the way you spoke to me on the phone the past few times, I’ve decided that I will not be talking on the phone with you or in person anymore; at least until further notice. If you contact me, I will text or email you back.” It’s a courtesy to the other person so they’re aware of the changes coming, and it gives them a heads up that the way they’re treating you is not so great and that you have decided to start drawing some lines in the sand as far as what’s acceptable for you.
But then, there are other situations. Sometimes, a boundary does not need to be stated, just enforced.
I know someone who, when visiting with her sister, makes sure she has an errand to run at a certain time so that she can skedaddle and not have a lingering and emotionally draining conversation over tea every time they see each other. She hasn’t told her this; she’s simply tweaked how she handles her scheduling.
And I had an issue recently where someone treated me in a way that was absolutely unacceptable to me. It shook me up, and it shocked me really. I plan to curtail future interactions until an apology comes, or indefinitely if one never does (I’m sadly not banking on it). I have no plans on telling this person mainly because I know this person well enough to know that it wouldn’t do any good, and would even perhaps be turned around on me.
Boundaries are not a one-size-fits-all emotional tool. You need to determine the strength and longevity of your relationship, how often you see the other person, and if you can live with the consequences you set out. For instance, “I won’t get in the car with you…” is a gauntlet of sorts and you absolutely need to be ready to back it up with action before throwing it down, like having another person you can get a ride from, planning on driving separately, or even having a number handy of someone you can text or call in an emergency.
Remember, boundaries are not to hurt other people. They are to protect you. Use them wisely, with caution, and only when you’re ready to follow through consistently. And sometimes, you can keep them to yourself.