Think about your typical response to the question, “how are you”? Usually, we say fine, but often it’s followed by “I’m just really busy”. We often feel like we’re on a treadmill with so much to do and so little time! And why do we often find ourselves so busy? This chronic busyness often points to a deeper issue: the inability to say no, indicative of fuzzy personal boundaries.
According to Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me…They help us guard our hearts will all diligence. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out”.
Boundaries manifest in various forms—emotional, physical, spiritual or time—and they are etched in the context of relationships, encompassing family, friends, colleagues, and those we lead. Boundaries help support healthy relationships, they promote honesty and encourage respect for each other. It’s important to take the time to establish boundaries in our lives so that more positive relationships can grow. Boundaries keep us focused on our priorities, they protect us, physically, emotionally, and mentally. They help build trust, being honest about our limits can prevent overpromising and underdelivering
The most basic, common boundary setting tool is the word “no”. As leaders, we need to be able to say no where appropriate to the pressure and demands that are often placed on us. And sometimes we need to say no to the authentic needs of people in our lives. But it’s not enough to have and set boundaries, we have to clearly communicate them to others. And remember it’s not only about saying no, it’s about how we say no. We need to express ourselves clearly, be respectful and speak the truth in love. Share what you might be able to say yes to; maybe offer an alternative.
Why do we have such a difficult time setting boundaries and saying no? Often, we want to say yes, even when we don’t have the time and we want to help and be supportive. But often we don’t say no out of fear. Fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, fear of what they will think or will say about us, or fear of them getting angry and losing the relationship. How many times have you said yes to something you really didn’t want to do or have the time to do and felt resentful afterward? Your heart really wasn’t in it. Although it may be difficult to say no, boundaries protect us and the people in our lives. Because it’s not just about our boundaries. We should treat others the way we want to be treated. We should also respect and accept it when someone says no to us.
We need to get off that crazy treadmill and sometimes that means taking a pause to think about the situation before we respond. For me, I try to pray first before I respond because I tend to say yes too often. Boundaries are not only about saying no. Sometimes we need to say no to something or someone to be able to say yes to what God is calling us to!