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Healthy Confrontation—and Unhealthy Triggers

Healthy Confrontation and Unhealthy TriggersEarlier this week I attended a meeting with 30 other people. The topics at hand were shifting leadership and self-examination as we moved into a season of significant change. We all shared faith in Christ and a dedication to move in His Spirit toward a direction in unity—but how to get there? And isn’t that always the question?

As it turned out, I was one of the first to enter the room and find my spot. When I noticed the number of chairs set out, I realized there was an expectation of a greater number of people arriving than I originally anticipated. I felt my blood pressure go up. I have always struggled to be around a crowd of people, and while 30 people is not overwhelming, 30 people with strong opinions on weighty topics could press me in. As the room filled up, I started my deep breathing, tapping my foot anxiously until my husband arrived.

One by one as topics were introduced and I sorted out which personalities in the room were going to weigh in, I prayed for patience, grace, and love. I have a deep love for each of the people who were in the room that night; we serve God together. But I am a feeler with heart overload, and when confrontations arose, I found myself noticeably sucking in my breath. People made difficult statements to each other in love. Full-on panic set in for me. I began to plan my exit.

To be fair, all topics were handled in loving ways and with kindness and open ears and hearts. So as I drove home after the meeting (I managed to stay until the end), I cried out to God:

Why am I like this? Why am I so impatient when people express opinions? Why do I crawl into myself when people disagree with each other? Why am I having an ungodly response to what was a godly meeting? Lord, I prayed in advance of this meeting and prepared my heart. What else could I have done?

You see, I was very ashamed of my reaction, even though it didn’t directly affect another person in the room and it remained all in my head.

I came home and confessed to my Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When God Said: “Enough!”

when-god-said_I was doing laundry and packing for our upcoming trip to put my father’s ashes in the ground. Spring Break wasn’t exactly a cheery occasion for us to prepare for, but we were looking forward to finally laying my father to rest with a few of our own personal touches.

As I tried to pack in spurts, we were slammed with nonstop high school jazz band events and a nightmarish two weeks of seventh grade. The latter involved multiple projects, a massive genetics and cell cycle test, and endless homework, none of which was spaced out or staggered. My poor daughter was up until 11 PM most nights making sure she checked off her own assignment lists.

She went out the door one morning a complete zombie. She could barely eat, put her contacts in, etc. She was so rundown and discouraged. Her only sentence this particular morning was:

“I have to go back to school and get more homework to come home to.”

I finally put my foot down and respectfully told the guidance counselor: “Enough! She has worked conscientiously and nonstop for weeks. On my instruction she isn’t doing homework tonight. I’m just letting you know.”

[My husband and I are both products of public schooling and strongly believe in it, but we shouldn’t have to give our daughter an espresso drink to wake her up enough in the morning to head out to school. This is middle school, not college.]

My son, on the other hand, had a band event in which students were driving themselves and taking several other students along. Major highways. An hour away. Rush hour traffic. Seven teens in a van with a teen driver. I adore our school music program, but um, no! Because our car was in the shop, we could not drive. I gently asked our fantastic band director to please place my son with an adult driver, and if not, my husband and I were not comfortable sending him to the event. I hated confronting this, but this was my limit.

Enough already!

Sometimes, when we are beyond defending ourselves and fall weary in a heap onto the floor Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Healthy Boundaries: Loving People With “No”

HEALTHY BOUNDARIES- Loving People With %22No%22Recently, I’ve found myself saying “no” more frequently. Admittedly, when we go through difficult seasons, we definitely draw more inward and limit our interactions and involvement. That’s a normal response when we need more mental and emotional energy to process the harder parts of life.

Even so, I’m becoming more comfortable with “no” and finding it to be another way to love people. For one, it’s being honest about ourselves instead of making false promises. Good intentions are a beautiful thing, but when we regularly can’t carry them through, we become people who disappoint.

In child-raising or managing employees, “no” can be a friendly word that clearly delineates where the guardrails and boundaries are before they are accidentally (or intentionally) crossed. Children tend to feel secure when they know expectations; this is also true in the workplace.

So why are relationships so difficult?

Why do we struggle at times to place down a healthy “no” in our closer relationships?

Is it because: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Responding With Honeycomb and Health

Responding With Honeycomb and HealthI read it right before finishing preparations for a talk I was going to give to a group of moms at a local church. I was also in the middle of praying for my father and seeing how his cancer treatment went that day.

It was an unnecessary and petty distraction, a message sent with absolutely no other purpose than to make trouble where, as far as I knew, there wasn’t any to date. In my own personal book of boundaries, it crossed several lines, but more than that, there was no recognizable good intention within it. I’m limited in my perspective, obviously. I don’t have God’s eyes. From where I was sitting, however, it was right up there in the Book of the Absurd or Ridiculous, and it could have flamed old fires of aggravation.

Know that familiar scenario?

The one where other people want to stir our pot?  

Where they can’t leave well enough alone? 

Where they insert themselves somewhere they don’t belong?

This same scenario, with a few changed details and characters, has played itself out several times over my life. I’m sure from time to time we all encounter: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Someone Else’s Courtroom: How Exactly Did I Get Here?

Someone Else's Courtroom-How Exactly Did I Get HereLately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by people stepping across boundaries into each other’s lives where they may not belong. Ever feel that way? Sometimes, they are my own toes being stepped on, but often, I am merely witness to someone landing in another person’s courtroom without realizing it.

How did we become so good at grabbing the judge’s gavel and slamming it around?

I’m not talking about expressing public opinion on social, political, or spiritual issues. I’m referring to people jumping into our marriages, parenting, and family business without receiving an invite.

You know those little comments made half in jest or with a veil of concern? The ones that really have nothing behind them other than that person’s different standard, unsolicited opinion, or insecurity? It can look like this:

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Negative Voices Knock on Our Door

 When Negative Voices Knock on Our Door

To begin, I want to ask us all a question: Do we feel we have to answer the door every time there is a knock or doorbell ring?

If I’m not expecting someone, I don’t always answer, especially if answering means grabbing a robe, hurrying out of the bathroom, or interrupting something going on that needs my full attention. I will fully disclose that I’m not much of a phone or drop-in visitor person; however, if a knock sounds urgent, I usually make an attempt to answer it. Otherwise, I don’t feel I have to get to it just because it’s a noise beckoning me. Same thing with the phone ringing.

So, I got to thinking:

Why do we feel we have to entertain negative voices when they come along?

Why do we let them in, help them take their shoes off, hang up their coats, and invite them to take up space in our living rooms?

Why do we mislead them into thinking they are welcomed and may cross our threshold any time that suits them?

Fear.

We are often afraid:

  • to offend
  • to lose the relationship
  • to not meet expectation
  • to hurt someone without meaning to
  • to deal with repercussions from anger

But I would like to suggest it’s dishonest to let them (the negativity, not necessarily the person) in unless we plan to join them (and I surely hope we don’t). I also think it’s easier to be passive and open the door.

It takes courage and action to say: “No, we’re not going to go there. That is not a place you may make commentary or cast judgment upon,” or “It’s lovely to see you, but rejection, disrespect, and discouragement are not on the menu today. What else would you like to talk about?”

I have been pondering this quite a bit recently as several friends shared some relational struggles they were having with others. We all have them. These were my thoughts:

Boundaries aren’t for shutting people out, but they are defined as being unwilling to remain in dysfunctional, dishonoring patterns, but simultaneously inviting the other person to come along and engage in—or at first learn—new, healthy patterns of relating. We can invite people to get on that train, but we cannot make them ride it.

Now, this all sounds like I have this under control and sit above everyone else doling out boundaries right and left. Quite the contrary. I learn much from those who have drawn them for me over time. Sometimes, their boundaries may be out of over-self-protection, but I still need to observe them. At other times, lines drawn in the sand for me have at least indicated where the relationship could or could not go.

Boundaries are like navigational tools to help us know how to relate better with someone. They provide a map of safe topics and interactions and clue us in, if we’re willing to listen, to where we should and should not tread. If we’re careful about communicating, our boundaries should do the same for others.

But, bringing it back to negative voices: We don’t have to allow them. Plenty of naysaying goes on in our lives every day—some of it constructive but much of it destructive. When people want to go down Toxic Alley with us, we don’t have to permit it. In fact, they are often looking for us to provide some guardrails for the relationship, and if we don’t, they are like children who don’t know the rules in their own homes: insecure and lost. Not only that, by being passive, we give negativity permission to come in and stay a while. Once it gets in the door, it often takes over the relationship, gets into our heads and hearts, and hijacks everything that could be good or constructive.

That doesn’t mean we shut the person (or people) out, necessarily—just the behaviors that are destructive.

This can also be true when nobody real is knocking at the door…only our own negative voices from the past. I write a lot about this in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New DayWhatever we have let in and made welcomed will keep coming back. Guaranteed. When we swirl around in negative thinking, we’ve already let the first thought in the door and offered it a cup of coffee.

So, how do we stop the madness inside our minds and hearts? The perseverating? Bitter chewing? Stewing in ugly thoughts of insecurity, misunderstanding, misconceptions, wrong assumptions? How do we stop them at the door?

We don’t let them in.

Just because negative voices knock on our doors, bang into our minds, and try to take up space in our hearts,

we do not have to let them in.

Here are some answers I draw from my faith in Christ and His redemptive work on the cross. The first selection talks about how not to be anxious (bring it!). Really, doesn’t negative thinking contribute to anxiety, and vice versa? It’s an ever-hungry beast.

What’s the remedy for stopping negative thoughts and voices at the door?

Rejoice.

Let your requests be made known to God.

The peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds.

Think about good things.

Take every thought captive to obey Christ.

God gave us a spirit of self-control (sound mind).

We need to ask Him to help us do this. These are His promises for those who believe in Him.

Negativity will keep knocking on our doors. It’s part of what tries to invade and keeps our focus off the love of our Savior. There will always be a battle there: either from others or within our own selves.

But we now have a loving answer—one with structure, safety, boundaries, healthy relating, and a Savior who spread His arms out on a cross as His pledge and promise to always help us defeat the dark things that plague us.

Why?

Because He’s already defeated them.

And He’s got our backs.

Philippians 4:4-9, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 10:5, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

2 Timothy 1:7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control*.

*The King James Version says “sound mind” for “self-control.”

**This blog has been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Testimony Tuesday, Women With Intention WednesdaysGrace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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When We’re in Pain: Keeping the Circle Small

When We're in Pain-Keeping the Circle SmallThe blog right before this one talked about opening ourselves up to more feedback in life. This one is more about the times when we need to keep our circle small.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m hurting, my circle of interaction suddenly shrinks to about five people outside my own immediate family. I think we’re all selective on purpose, during these moments, as a self-protection reflex, an instinct. I’m sure shelves of psychology reference books have been written about this very thing.

Part of the reason behind the shrinking circle is because others are often in their own very rough seasons and can’t really take on something else right now to help.

And that’s okay. We’ve all been there.

Another reason is because it can be difficult to be around people who aren’t tuning into our pain on any level. It can be beneficial to just put those relationships on hold until we regroup and come out of the gray clouds over us. They’re still our friends. They just might not know what to do in this particular situation. That’s okay too.

Sometimes our pain touches in too close to someone else’s pain, and they can’t be part of our inner circle for this reason—at least not in this exact moment. Grace, much grace for them. It’s okay to need some space in these situations. Our experiences can be used to help others, certainly, but if we are still in the throes of deep pain ourselves, it might be wise to not advise others until we’ve come out of it.

Then there are other folks who only really want to be around us for what we offer—not for what we need. That’s okay, too, but they are definitely not entering into the inner circle of “safe”—and really, it’s okay, because that’s not necessarily their goal. They don’t want to. Better we realize that up front. It’s all about expectations, and setting them correctly.

Neither should we let in, during these very sensitive times, those likely to remind us of our own failing (or the failing of one of our children) later.

Yup, not allowed in.

While we may find that our support group of prayer or bringing meals in a moment of sickness or sorrow may be larger than we realized, when we are either struggling with our own particular torment, or a loved one in pain or at risk, we tend to not want to share that with the world. We tend to keep it close, at least until the storm has passed.

Although people are well meaning and offer comfort in their own ways, there are also those tougher moments when someone might walk right up to us, see our tears ever on the edge and rigid tension in our face, and talk on and on about themselves in whatever mundane way or demand our audience over something we can’t really handle at the moment. And while they are not wrong—just maybe a little insensitive—it can make us want to run and hide, find the exit ramp and speed madly down it.

These are the things that overwhelm me personally when I’m in that place. One of my worst triggers is not feeling heard or understood. It also throws me into a panic if I think someone is coming to take from me when I am beyond depleted. I’d so much rather not be approached when I am in that place if the pain is going to blown past as if it is a figment of my imagination. That’s assuming, of course, the person is aware. Obviously, they are not accountable for what they do not know.

And it needs to be accepted.

We recently closed our shutters during a nine-month struggle getting one of the birds in our nest from mental unwellness to a better place of mental wholeness—or something approaching it. I walked around during those nine months tensing up so incredibly afraid of encountering people who wouldn’t “get it” because they hadn’t experienced anything like it yet (thank God!), wouldn’t offer grace, would probe unkindly, or would still want to take something from me in my weakness. My shoulders are still coming out of that tense posture, even now, months after the crisis. And I did run into those kinds of people. Definitely. And I had to draw my boundaries. But I found more grace along the path to soothe my wearied, battered soul—dear, trusted folks who loved me back to safety.

And really, it’s healthy to keep the circle smaller in those moments. Not only is our private stuff, well, private, but I find God calls a few people to help carry us in these times—not the masses. The masses often bring tangible provision, like meals during moments of sickness or for welcoming a new baby, but few will walk through each burden with us in our heaviest times. And that’s okay.

When We're In Pain- Keeping the Circle SmallAnd it may be different people each time. Sometimes it’s a family member or a different friend than the last situation. I love how God uses the people who are going to be able to give us what we need emotionally and offer good counsel at that moment in that particular struggle.

I don’t think we’re all meant to carry around all burdens at once. It would be too weighty. Only Christ could do that on the cross.

I need to also be okay with the idea that I am not always someone else’s answer or “circle person” as they walk through something difficult. I love it when I can be used in this way, but I certainly cannot meet every deep need out there. None of us can. That’s why listening for His guidance and leading is so important. It can overwhelm otherwise.

What do you think? Do you find this to be true?

More of our faith walk through personal struggles can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

*This blog has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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