Episode 38 - Setting Healthy Boundaries: Part 2
Hi friend! We’re picking up where we left off last week, talking about how to set healthy boundaries in our life. One term we talked about that’s going to be really important to remember in today’s episode is ‘agency’. ‘Agency’ is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. It’s where you decide who you are and who you are not. It is our ability to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do. It refers to the thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power, their independence. ‘Agency’ is taking responsibility for your life through self-regulatory skills. And, we said that one of those self-regulatory skills is setting healthy boundaries.
So, we’re going to talk about what healthy boundaries look like in all kinds of different types of relationships, and that includes boundaries for our spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.
I want to mention spiritual boundaries first is because this will dictate all the other boundaries you choose to set in your life. It’s based on the premise that you have chosen to have a relationship with God. That you’ve chosen to allow Jesus to be Lord of your life, and to give you the blueprint of your life by following His words in the Bible. Your agency is what it is because He’s created you perfectly unique as an individual. There’s only one you, and you are special. And your ability - your empowerment - to set boundaries and to enforce them throughout your life will be found in the security of your relationship with your Heavenly Father. This is preeminent to everything else.
Spiritual boundaries are how we protect the health of our relationship with God.
Examples of some violations of this boundary would be:
· allowing another to dictate how, when, and/or where we worship
· setting our affections on a person instead of our “first love”, Jesus
· finding our worth, value, and desirability in the opinions of another person
Physical boundaries include your body, your personal space, and your privacy.
Violations include, but are certainly not limited to, such things as:
· standing too close
· inappropriate touching or disrespect of the choice of “no”
· sexual exposure
· looking through someone’s private journal
Setting physical boundaries around intimacy is really important, especially when you’re young and/or unmarried. Remember, having ‘agency’ means taking responsibility for your life. And physically, that means determining for yourselfwhere your boundaries are. But, you should be able to set physical boundaries for yourself regardless of age or marital status.
Emotional boundaries involve separating your feelings from another’s feelings.
Violations of this boundary include:
· taking responsibility for another person’s feelings
· letting another’s feelings dictate your own
· sacrificing your own needs to please another
· blaming others for your problems
· accepting responsibility for theirs
Emotionally, we can get wrapped up in another person and lose our identity in them. No matter if that’s a friend, a parent, a significant other. But our ‘agency’ - our independence as an individual - means that we can determine how much or little of our emotional energy we’re willing to share in specific situations and with specific people. We also get to decide how much or how little emotional energy we will accept from other people. Have you ever been around someone that you felt just sucked the life out of you? Or maybe someone you’d describe as toxic. Good news, my friend: You get to decide what kind of people you hang out with and share your life with. Yes, you do.
So, with these three focus areas – the spiritual, physical, and the emotional – let’s look at what setting healthy boundaries might look like in different relationships.
We’re probably only going to get through one today. But next week we’ll pick up and go through two more. But today we’re going to look at what setting healthy boundaries might look like in friendships.
In all of our relationships, we want and need to exchange some emotional energy with people if we are to connect with them. Some friends will become close friends, but some will stay just as acquaintances. And that’s okay. Part of setting boundaries and having ‘agency’ is knowing that you don’t have to be close friends with everyone. And you don’t have to tell everyone everything, either. You get to decide what information about your life and with whom you will share. I mentioned this in part 1 - Sometimes people get a little too curious for their own good. Especially if something has happened in your life, they may ask you all kinds of crazy questions that you might not want to talk about. You are under no obligation to answer someone’s question just because they asked it. And that even includes your close friends. By refusing to answer questions in detail – only sharing what you feel comfortable with – you are setting a boundary.
You also get to decide what kind and how much information about someone else’s life you want to listen to. When someone shares more information than you’re comfortable knowing, he or she has crossed a boundary. By saying “Okay – TMI – that's all I want to know,” you have set a boundary.
When we don't set clear boundaries about what we will accept from others and what they can expect from us, we are sending the message about what behavior or requests are acceptable. When we allow others to dictate what we do (or don’t do) or what we say (or don’t say) and then wonder why they keep doing this – why they keep violating our boundaries – we have not understood that we’ve given them an open invitation to do it over and over again. When we say, “You’ve given away the authority of your ‘agency’,” this is what we mean.
So often, we don’t establish healthy boundaries because we don't want to hurt somebody's feelings, or aren't comfortable dealing with what we perceive to be a confrontation. When this happens, we are at risk for being taken advantage of or even abused. And, again, we have just given the authority of our ‘agency’ over to another person. Deciding what your boundaries are is the kindest, most healthy thing you can do for yourself. This is how to care for yourself well.
So, friend, are you caring for yourself well by setting healthy boundaries in your friendships?
Proverbs gives us some really good advice about what kinds of people make for good friends. As we look at these, think about how you could put healthy boundaries around your friendships:
Proverbs 12:30 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Our friends should show wisdom and discernment and not be in the habit of doing reckless and foolish things.
Proverbs 22:24 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” Be careful around people with little to no self-control, especially with their temper, and certainly don’t allow them into your inner circle of trust.
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” A true and wise friend is one who loves us enough to risk calling us out and speaking painful truths when they see us in trouble. A friend who only pours out empty praise (or, on the flip side, harsh criticisms) is not someone we should trust to give us either advice or correction.
Friend, I hope these scriptures are an encouragement to you. They’re so good, giving us wisdom when setting healthy boundaries in our friendships and exercising our ‘agency’ to decide what kind of person we’re going to be in those relationships. Remember, that’s your responsibility. No one else’s. You have the security and power in your relationship with God to set these boundaries and to enforce them.
Whew! This is such a great topic, right? I really needed it. And there’s just so much to say about setting healthy boundaries. So important. So, we’ll pick this up again next week and talk about setting boundaries in dating and romantic relationships, as well as in families. Those are going to be really good!