Throughout most of my adult life, I’ve struggled to set good boundaries. Raised in a religious group that subjugated my own sense of self, I failed to learn normal boundaries as many other well-adjusted adults seem to have learned naturally.
Thank goodness I married a man who seemed to be equipped with the normal boundaries gene. I rely on him in many ways and he’s taught me over the years (in addition to good therapy and the book, Boundaries by Cloud and Townshend). Through this process, whether it is saying “no” to extended family visits at inconvenient times or interjecting myself into a situation where I wasn’t invited to join in, I developed some helpful acronyms that might also be of use to you.
NMP or Not My Problem
It may seem harsh, but this acronym has helped me greatly over the years. As a Highly Sensitive Person, I tend to notice all the details that most everyone else misses. The stray dog hiding under a bush, the lost wallet at the park, misplaced items as I help in my child’s classroom. I made a bad habit long ago to get myself involved in places I had in which I had no business. Some might call it doing good deeds; my husband calls it lack of focus and getting my nose into things I shouldn’t. Now, I’m not advocating ignoring situations where people need real help and you happen to be there at the right time and right place. I’m referring to all the little times I get sidetracked by returning something, fixing something that isn’t mine or getting involved when I have no business butting in. Remembering that these distractions are not my problem to fix, repair, or find a solution to keeps me focused correctly on the areas God has for me right now.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”Stay Focused: We (women) often get off-target in seemingly innocuous ways. These small bits of time add up and will deplete you and keep you from your real purpose. Click To Tweet
SIL or Stay in Your Lane
“Stay in your lane,” my husband says to me–I’ve done it again and gotten involved in someone else’s dilemma, fixing something that isn’t mine to fix, helping someone who didn’t ask for my help. My teen daughter was struggling to figure out what friend to invite to an event. Instead of letting her figure it out, I stepped in and made a suggestion, which resulted in me having to pick up an extra child—something I didn’t really have time for. While well-meaning, jumping into people’s drama mostly pulls away from whatever goals I have for my own life. Often, I get myself into situations that could have worked themselves out on their own, without my meddling. Now, I imagine a two-lane road curving off into the distance. I visualize driving down that road, two hands on the wheel, focused, and determined to stay my own course.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.Single Vision: I frequently want to feel needed, and so I pull out of my lane and into someone else's to feel better about myself. God already sees me as incredibly valuable. This life he has for me is all I need. Click To Tweet
MOB or Mind Your Own Business
There I go again, watching the neighbors from my desk in front of the window. Who is going and coming so frequently? Why are there so many cars I don’t recognize? I sit here all day working, and yet I’m distracted by other people’s business happening just beyond the threshold of my home. Why do I care? It seems the protector in me feels the need to always be on top of everything happening in my space–my home, my neighborhood, my city. I stop and remember that so many things are just not any of my business. I have this small circle before me where I must plant my garden and tend to it. My husband needs me, my children need me. The more I give my attention to situations where I haven’t been invited in, the less I have for myself, my family, and my life goals.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.Mindful Actions: Reminding myself to stay attentive to my own needs and how God has wired me, in essence, preserves my energy for the goals at hand. Getting distracted by more exciting happenings around me only removes me from being… Click To Tweet
Setting Good Boundaries
In addition to not learning good boundaries in my younger years, when I found Christ and began serving in church, I now see that I said “yes” to many more volunteer opportunities than I had reasonable time for. I was willing and very eager to help, but in looking back, I had so few boundaries in place that I struggled to do everything–tend to my young children, keep my business going, care for my husband well–the thing that really slipped was the care of myself. I hit burnout more than once. Caring for myself has now become something I pay substantially more attention to. Am I staying more in my own lane? Am I getting into other people’s problems less where I’m not needed (and probably was never invited)?
As a recovering boundary-less woman on the road to recovery, I grow in confidence each day as I’m able to ask God, “How would you use me today and what things should I add to my list that weren’t there already?” I listen and invite the Holy Spirit in to guide me. I pause more frequently to listen–to God and to myself before engaging. I’m learning more, albeit very slowly. There is no mark to hit aside from embracing the sense of peace God provides and can provide when we clear our plate of things we have no business doing and wait on God to direct our steps.
A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?
Questions to Ask Yourself: Do I need to SIL, MOB, or NMP?
- Have I been asked to get involved and help?
- Am I related to these people that want my help?
- Have I already helped in some other way?
- Do I have the personal bandwidth to help right now?
- If my own family is asking for help, is there something I can first do to encourage them to solve their own problem?
I pray blessings on your boundary setting!
Lauren Hunter is a writer who loves the big picture of God’s journey we are all on together. Married to her high school sweetheart, Lauren lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. Her latest book is Leaving Christian Science: 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ.