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Boundaries: Why is it so difficult to have Boundaries?

In the book "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, really give clarity on not only why boundaries are so important, but also maybe why we have such a hard time having boundaries!

I realized for me, it was because I want to accommodate others needs and wants, either out of fear of not being accepted, or loved. I quickly realized that I never knew where my limitations were, or how it was going to effect me physically, and emotionally. I have used the counterproductive approach of placing meaning on the situation of feeling burned out, or taken advantage of, by placing blame on the person to whom I let run willy nilly through my world!

We all sometimes get upset that the person testing our boundaries don't somehow automatically know where our emotional and physical limitations are.


"Doesn't everyone think like me? They should already know where my boundaries are, and I shouldn't have to tell them! It's common sense!"


Well.....nobody thinks and acts exactly like you. Your situation is very unique to you, and YOU are in charge of keeping your own boundaries clear. It's like saying, "Yep, come over! All is this free range, take what you need!" And then resenting them when they have jumped on your bed and ate all the food in your fridge. Sometimes they do it because THEY don't care if someone did that to them, or they are simply taking advantage of your generosity.

I know especially in the Christian world we are taught somewhat innocently to give and give everything you have and always help those in need. The book "Boundaries" uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to show that that was never the blueprint for effective service. Keeping both people (the one serving and the one being served) in a healthy place to be able to give and receive, is what is demonstrated in this story.

The Samaritan took the beaten and broken man traveling from Jerusalem, tenderly bound up his wounds, and carried him to an Inn. We can deduce from the story that the man was a Jew, a common enemy to Samaritan's. Looking past cultural differences, and reasons why this man might have found himself in such a bad way, he opened the gate of his boundary, and let this man in.

The Samaritan obviously was on a journey of his own, so when he needed to continue on in the morning, he then gave the innkeeper charge over the beaten man, giving him money to help, and promising more if needed when he returned.

The Samaritan did what he felt he could. He offered service first, and then he offered money when he couldn't offer physical help. Both ways of helping were valid, so he could still keep his obligations. He gave what he felt like he could.

There may be times in our lives, when we are asked to serve, and it's inconvenient. In these situations, really look inside yourself and see if you want to serve out of love, or if you are just doing it to please other people, manipulate the relationship, or stoke your ego fire by being a martyr.

If you are in a relationship that is feeling very one-sided, like the person involved is constantly taking and taking and never giving back- the problem very well could be you. Are you trying to manipulate the relationship by offering favors, and then expecting favors in return, challenging the person's boundaries? If we aren't building relationships on genuine love and respect for the others agency and boundaries, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, and possibly a transactional relationship.

Maybe you need the ego trip of being the friend who is constantly giving even though you are suffering. Maybe you are afraid of not being liked or accepted?

The next time you feel a trigger- where your boundary is being tested- Stop and really ask yourself if you:

  1. Have the time and energy to help

  2. Want to serve or give out of genuine love

  3. Not expecting anything in return

The more you understand the framework of your own boundaries, the more freedom you will have.

Brene Brown sums up boundaries perfectly when she said:


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