Maintain Boundaries: “Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18
Boundaries. Whew, that’s a popular word in my therapy office. Over the last 14 years I have taught people to set and maintain strong physical and emotional lines (boundaries) with the people in their lives. This looks like many things. Physically, it may be telling someone “no” regarding physical affection. Or, it may look like speaking up when someone is in your personal space.
An emotional boundary may be saying to someone, “I feel belittled when you use that tone with me. If you continue to speak to me this way, I will not remain in the conversation.” Sometimes it looks like acknowledging the limits of what we can do in a 24 hour period of time. If this is you, don’t worry- you’re in good company: even Moses needed his father-in-law to point out that he was taking on too much!
I bring up this topic because boundaries are necessary in all of our relationships. Without them, emotional chaos inevitably ensues. With them, we experience peace.
So how do we do this in a practical way? First, we determine our personal boundaries. If you’re a person who frequently feels overwhelmed and stressed because you have a hard time saying “no,” then maybe it’s time to start using that word more often. Perhaps you need to set some boundaries with a person in your life who is chronically disrespectful towards you. Take a moment. Allow yourself to pause and reflect on where you need to set (or strengthen) some boundaries.
With clear boundaries in our minds, we can then communicate them. This can be uncomfortable, especially for those prone to people-pleasing. Trust me, as one who hates conflict, I get it. But learning to communicate assertively- that is, in a clear, direct, respectful manner- will only improve your relationships with others. If you happen to err on the side of communicating aggressively, pray for the fruit of gentleness as you communicate your boundaries.
God has given us the amazing capacity for both relationships and communication. Ask the Spirit to guide you as you establish and communicate boundaries. Inviting him into this process is one of the best ways we can pursue peace with others.