Communicating Boundaries

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Authors of Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend tell us boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.  

Cloud and Townsend remind us that God sets the boundaries of his “yard.” We know what he permits in the “yard.” He tells us what he allows and doesn’t allow, what he likes and doesn’t like. We were created in God’s own image. God wants us to develop our own boundaries so that we can live in peace and fellowship with him and with others. Boundaries are our property lines in all areas of our life:  physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Setting boundaries brings health to our relationships. When we have mature boundaries, we can move steadily and peacefully in our faith walk.

Consider these questions to determine if you have some boundary issues.
Are there people in your life who consistently call upon you to do things they should do for themselves? Does the bad behavior of others have a negative effect on your feelings and your own behavior? Do you allow others’ moods to dictate your level of happiness, sadness, etc.? Do you sacrifice your plans in order to please others? Do you allow others to blame you when their plans don’t work out?

Having boundaries helps us to cultivate a healthy self-image, maintain balance, and develop appropriate intimate relationships. Unhealthy boundaries cause us deep emotional pain, affect our self-worth, and cause us to become resentful of others.

It’s never too late to set boundaries, but we need to become introspective about what we will and will not allow in our relationships. God will give us the wisdom to deal with our boundaries when we seek him.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

The most basic boundary-setting word is NO and the Bible is clear about using this word.

Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

It is important to communicate with people the boundaries you have set without making blaming statements. We tend to resort to statements such as, “You make me so mad,” “You never consider my feelings,” “You drive me crazy.” These statements are intended to shame and make the other person look bad and usually end up in a blaming game. Consider using the tried and true formula below when you need to communicate how another person’s behavior affects you and what you intend to do to set healthy boundaries. It is helpful in a variety of circumstances from a child baiting you into an argument or an adult abusing your generosity.

Formula for Communicating Boundaries
First, it is very important for us to learn to communicate about how another person's behavior is affecting us - without making blaming "you" type of statements.  We communicate how we feel with these 3 statements.

When you . . . . .
I feel . . . . .
I want . . . .
Next, set the boundary. This is vital to learning to love our self, and to communicating to others that we have worth.
There are basically three parts to a boundary.  The first two are setting the boundary - the third is what we will do to defend that boundary.
If you - a description of the behavior you find unacceptable (again being as descriptive as possible.)
I will - a description of what action you will take to protect and take care of yourself in the event the other person violates the boundary.
If you continue this behavior - a description of what steps you will take to protect the boundary that you have set.


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