SETTING BOUNDARIES: It’s All About Guarding Your Heart

My favorite boundary story concerns my granddaughter. She was 4 years old and her papa had
been teasing her with silly nicknames and she didn’t like it one bit! She turned to him and said
emphatically, “Papa, stop doing that! I don’t like it when you call me names. Just stop it…I
have a “boundary!” I was really shocked that she knew that word, let alone how to use it. But
I was really proud of her; the fact that she knew she could say “no” to something she was not
comfortable with.

I know we have all been in situations where we have needed to take a stand and say “no” to
things that are hurting us but maybe we just didn’t know how. You may be wondering, as I did
years ago, what does a “boundary” look like? Basically boundaries are designed to protect and
honor important parts of ourselves. They enable us to “guard our hearts” by protecting our
values, emotions, time and energy from people who seek to take advantage of us. There are
times we must take a stand against things that are wrong. So having boundaries clarifies what I
will and will NOT accept in my life. Boundaries also help us take “ownership” of our lives by
learning to say “no” and not feel guilty!

The most basic boundary word is “no.” I know for many of us, saying no to others is very
difficult to do. For example, what do you do when someone asks you to work on a project that
you clearly have no time for? And you think you must say “yes” or you will feel guilty? Or think
about the person who will NOT take no for an answer…they push and push until you finally give
in, saying “yes” out of compulsion or for fear of losing their approval. It is so important to know
how to handle these situations by using some of the following boundary phrases:

  • I’m not comfortable with that
  • I disagree
  • No thank you
  • I don’t want to
  • I choose not to
  • I will not allow myself to be talked to like that
  • This is not acceptable

These are all phrases meant to give a clear message to those who try to take away your freedom, time, or energy. Set healthy boundaries and “guard your heart above all else, for it
determines the course of your life.” ( Proverbs 4:23)

— Contributed by Susan Adams

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