I don’t like being told I can’t do something. However, there are times that I must acknowledge that I am limited and cannot do everything I want to do. For example, I can’t fly. My body simply isn’t made for it. While this physical example seems extreme, in our work and home lives, we are often trying to emotionally and mentally fly. It just isn’t possible. It would be amazing, but we have limits.
In order for us to have boundaries, we must acknowledge that we cannot and should not do everything. We must embrace our limits and operate inside them. There may be brief taxing scenarios that take us beyond our limits. But when this becomes a pattern of behavior, then we will begin to rapidly lose our health in all areas (emotional, mental, physical and spiritual).
Boundaries are what we use to define who we are and what we value. While most people think of boundaries as having a negative connotation, evoking limitations, the truth is that boundaries are also freeing. When we have healthy boundaries, we remain true to ourselves in the midst of the tension of daily life.
The boundary lines will fall differently for different people. Boundaries are determined not only by our capacities, but also by what we value. Our boundaries will reflect who or what has our hearts and attention. You may be influenced by your surroundings to shift a boundary, but you are the one that makes the defining line that determines whether or not the matter in question is of value to you.
Our boundaries solidify as we transition from adolescence to adulthood. In adolescence we are under the care and influence of our parents. We see the modeling of their values and learn to draw our boundaries based on theirs, whether for good or ill. When we transition into adulthood, the defining and enforcing of those boundaries becomes our responsibility.
In his 2010 TedTalk on WorkLife Balance, Nigel Marsh boldly states that we should never entrust our lives to any organization. We often have hopes that the organization will care for and shepherd us. The organization may be known for having a great employee satisfaction rate. However, many times this desire for our workplace to maintain our balance is just adolescence in disguise. We surrender our position as the adult in our work relationship and allow our employer to become our parent. Simply put, your employer’s main focus is not your overall well-being. They are, after all, in business for another purpose. We must embrace our need to be adults and take responsibility for our lives. We must also, as adults, respect the power of a healthy “No”. We must not infringe upon the boundaries of others. This doesn’t mean there won’t be tension or give and take, but it does mean that after the negotiating is finished, there is a respect for the boundaries drawn. This means that I respect the decision of a co-worker to invest in their home relationships and trust that as an adult they will meet the work need that we discussed. I must not belittle the values of others. However, I must also realize that due to boundaries and differing values, some jobs and roles will always be at odds. This does not mean that there cannot be healthy functioning, but it does mean that all parties involved will have to communicate clearly and function as adults.
Boundaries acknowledge limits yet also grant freedom. We may have to revisit them throughout our lives and in this process give ourselves grace to learn and embrace the truth of our limits.
I have heard it said “you are what you love”, and as adults, we must see what we love and care for it.
Grace and Peace,