There are countless things I’d love to do if I had limitless time: backpack in the Rockies, white water raft in West Virginia, connect with all my friends from school, play Ultimate Frisbee every other day, make meals for my family every night…
One of the things that I’d love to do and actually have done has been reading bedtime stories to my little brother. It’s a sweet experience of adventures and connection. But some nights it is incredibly late and I have to choose between reading a chapter of a bedtime story or getting enough sleep. Both are good. But I can only have one.
Let’s revisit an old post and introduce a helpful component: boundaries! We set boundaries for ourselves to keep ourselves safe and to take care of ourselves so that we have something to offer others.
Danny Silk does a splendid job of saying it how it is in his book Keep Your Love On. “Not everyone should have the same access to you. You are responsible to manage different levels of intimacy, responsibility, influence, and trust with the people in your life.”
That really stood out to me. Life doesn’t just happen to me (victim mode). I have a role to play–an important role to play! I am responsible (to myself, to others, and to God) for myself. To fulfill this, I need to be intentional. I need to move into a place of authentic power and founded identity. Because not everyone should have the same access to me.
If I’m not intentional, I forget this. True, my closest friends’ hurts hurt me the worst, but everyone else’s hurts also are valid and pretty quick I start feeling guilty if I don’t do something to help anyone who needs help. And everyone needs help! So I’m left at “guilty” as a pretty normal state of being. It seems like Christians are conditioned to feel this way. Mr. Silk understands this too; “It’s easy to think that it is spiritual to offer all people unlimited access to our lives. But everyone who tries to do this eventually discovers that it is not sustainable, healthy, or spiritual…at all.”
Trying to give part of myself to everyone who asks for it, or to everyone who has a need, leaves me a bare-boned skeleton, unable to give those closest to me the attention and care that they deserve.
Two noteworthy thoughts. First, Jesus had boundaries. The only perfect human to ever live had boundaries. We are not unspiritual if we limit our commitments and specify where our energies come to an end.
Secondly, I am created in the image of God. I have value. Hence I need to be taken care of. To give myself completely away to others is not taking care of myself according to the worth I have (which I don’t get to determine for myself–see this previous post).
That being said, we need to think through our priorities. We need to recognize those loved ones who we have committed ourselves to and make sure we’re saving enough of ourselves for them. We need to know how far we can go with our resources.
And then we need to say “no.” to everything else.
My favorite take-away from Mr. Silk’s chapter regarding boundaries was
This is how boundaries work. You say “yes” to something, which necessarily means saying “no” to everything else. At first is may be a challenge to hold on to your “yes” as all the things you said “no” to present themselves and say, “Really? Why not?” but if you consistently set a firm boundary around your “yes,” eventually the things you said “no” to don’t present themselves to you as viable options. It becomes a lifestyle to live within your boundaries.
Last night I was exhausted to the point where I could likely blow up. My little brother asked for some time with me before bed. Before reading this chapter, I would’ve felt guilty saying no. But now I recognized that I didn’t have a good self to offer him last night. It would be better for both of us if I just went to bed. I firmly stated “no” and found such authentic power in knowing what I needed and being able to hold to my boundaries.
Find authentic power. Live with self-worth. Kick shame & guilt to the sidelines. It takes lots of courage. AND I believe you have it in you. Join me in creating healthy boundaries for yourself and your limited resources. You’re worth it.