Setting boundaries by setting firm lines

It defines countries, states, counties, townships, cities, and towns; they have one thing in common — boundaries. So it goes with us, as we have them as well. They are called emotional and physical boundaries.

This article is centered on emotional boundaries. Like a cocoon, they protect your self-esteem. They insulate you from some feelings of inadequacy, fear, and shame, and from being manipulated or coerced. They are not lines drawn on paper, but exist etched only in our minds.

However, if one doesn’t have boundaries, or if they are never enforced, the aforementioned feelings may manifest themselves in one form or another, such as frustration, anger, or resentment. Over time, these could transform into bitterness and hatred.

If you are experiencing some of the above feelings (or others) at this point, you have a choice to change or remain as you are. If you choose to change, then that becomes part of your journey. First, take the time to meditate or pray before making any change. Next, write down and prioritize your values on what matters most. Then, document what are the situations that really bother you, and how you are going to approach the individual(s) involved. These solutions need to be consistent; otherwise, all is for naught. The last step is clear, open communication, remembering to be kind but assertive when approaching the people involved. In other words, as the old adage states, “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Remember, you cannot change others, only yourself. In creating and enforcing these boundaries, you may be faced with hostility, rejection, and disrespect. If this occurs, do not scream, demean, raise your voice, or move into another’s personal space. Instead, be kind and respectful, but assertive, as this is what the Lord would want you to do. Satan would want you to do the opposite.

If, however, the situation escalates and becomes confrontational, then it is time to respectfully disengage and walk away. When this healthy act occurs, you will feel possible inner peace and contentment.

I have had an experience with setting a personal boundary that I would like to share with all of you. A friend of mine with whom I went to college, now lives far from the area in which I reside. When traveling to the U.P., he would always stop in unannounced, and this continued for quite some time. This caused much animosity and frustration for me and my family, because we never knew when he would just drop by. This continued until one day I addressed this issue with him in a kind, but assertive manner. With this clear communication, the problem was quite easily solved.

The following quote is a great summation of the gist of this article:

“We can say what we need to say. We can gently but assertively speak our mind. We do not need to be judgmental, tactless, blaming, or cruel when we speak our truths.” – Melody Beattie.

I hope the simple suggestions offered may help you establish better emotional boundaries and bring you peace. God bless all of you.

This article is respectfully dedicated to a group of individuals that, through their guidance, patience, and encouragement, have helped to make me a better person.


Daniel J. Paul is a retired school administrator. His columns focus on education, old-fashioned family values, relationships, and other topics. To submit comments or find archived columns, go to meaningfuldifferences.net.


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