The “B” Word {and why it’s so essential}

The “B” Word {and why it’s so essential}

You’re reading a post in the Hearts Undaunted series. In this series, we explore how to live free from overwhelming fear, anxiety, discouragement, insecurity, and worthlessness. Please click here to read other posts in this series.

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Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and where someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.

–Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

For this recovering people pleaser/conflict avoider, “boundaries” feels like a dirty word.

And ”ownership”? Ouch.

This book was nothing like I expected, so much more, and intensely unsettling.

My sister-in-law gave me this book (yes, I know how that sounds) upon her observation of my flailing through a difficult relationship. It nailed me in its opening pages.

The fictitious opening story about a miserable, boundary-less woman? Um, yes, coulda been me.

I realized some important things very quickly.

  1. The friend whose behavior I was stressing over? Way out of bounds!
  2. Both my “yes” and my “no” are wishy-washy.
  3. Identity-wise, I had not separated myself from my family of origin.
  4. Being molested by a family member in my childhood had obliterated both my understanding of the need to establish healthy boundaries and the expectation that people would respect my boundaries.

I’m going to focus this post on #4. I’ll let Joyce Meyer explain. Commenting on being abused by her father, she says:

It became my burden not to let my pain cause problems in my family. And as long as I kept this secret, I couldn’t get free from the pain of it. –Enjoying Everyday Life, May 2012

This blog space is for living in the light of Truth.

As difficult, and perhaps unsavory, a topic that sexual abuse may be, it is important to strip it of the shame, anxiety, fear, discouragement, feelings of worthlessness, and general suffering it inflicts by bringing it into the light.

The root of many of my emotional struggles lies in my history of childhood sexual abuse.  Understanding the grip this issue has on emotional health is crucial for healing.

As a result of the abuse, I was unable to establish boundaries that enable me to take ownership over my life.

I viewed the world as an unpredictable, scary place where anyone is capable of committing despicable acts.

I viewed any negative situation as something from which I needed rescuing.

I viewed myself as unworthy of support and protection.

And more.

Please note: My parents have been amazing. They did everything they knew to do and were advised to do at the time. No one expects this kind of thing to happen in their family, and it is difficult to know how to navigate through it well.

As an adult, after bearing two children, I was finally able to face my past. An excellent Catholic counselor took me from paralysis to essential basic boundaries.  In my case, I severed ties with my family member because there was no resolution possible–and I had children to protect.

Currently, I am blessed with a wonderful Christian counselor who guides me in establishing the boundaries I need for continued health and healing in my family. In my case, this includes things like saying “no” to events that take place in a home that has painful memories attached.

For a serious issue like abuse, a counselor is essential. I suggest one who shares your religious beliefs and comes recommended by someone you trust. (If cost is a concern, know that many use a sliding scale based on ability to pay.) It is only the grace of God that makes this healing and boundary setting possible.

Past that, and this is suggested in the book, surround yourself with a few people who know you well, support you, and will allow you to practice setting boundaries without becoming offended.

As Drs. Cloud and Townsend point out, having more than one very good friend or family member is important because it is not fair or realistic to expect one person to be available to you (or you to them) at all times. When a person has to say “no,” you have others to turn to.

Heart Verse

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

–Isaiah 43:1

In addition to the grave issues childhood hands to you, there is boundary setting in everyday life. On that, this quote  from Boundaries especially resonated with me:

You must make sure that your boundaries are strong enough that you do not let others define you. Instead, work with God to find out who you really are and what kind of work you are made for…..You should have a realistic expectation of yourself based on who you really are, your own true self with your own particular giftedness. You can only do this with boundaries that stand up and say, ’This is me, and that is not me.’

In other words, setting boundaries claims the greatness God created in each of us. Recognizing this orders our decisions toward glorifying God…and not others’ opinions of us.

Easier said than done.

Praise God for grace…and the freedom that comes with breaking chains.

Heart Questions

  1. In what areas could you set some boundaries?
  2. Do you have 3 or so people in your life who know you deeply, love you unconditionally, and can help you practice setting good boundaries?
  3. What can you do to celebrate taking a look at these difficult questions?

Heart Challenge

Take a few quiet moments to think and pray on the sources of your biggest struggles facing you currently? Do they stem from boundary problems or even childhood experiences? Pray now, asking God to reveal in what area He wants to bring you healing.

Heart Prayer

Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your deep, unfailing love for each of Your children. Thank you for Your promises and Your ability to transform any situation. See the hurts in each woman reading this. Reach deep down in her heart and reveal what You would like to do in her life. Gently bring her to a place of restoration, filling her with Your love and love of others who will support her. I ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son. Amen.

Do you have thoughts on the Heart Questions? What is weighing on you? How can I pray for you today? Let’s chat!

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  1. Thank you for this beautifully honest piece…sharing your story with others is such an amazing gift. It comes up over and over again in life, the boundary thing, which is so essential to remaining in tact. I appreciate your words on the topic as I continue to navigate through my own issues in this area. I am amazed by your openness here, that took tremendous courage. Love you!!

    • It’s so awesome that yours is the first name I saw here. As you might have guessed, I was a wee bit afraid of publishing this one (and by a wee but, I mean terrified). Thanks for your response and support, my friend! Love you!

  2. I can’t say it any better than Angela. Honest & courageous, straight from your beautiful heart. You continue to amaze me.

    • Julie, you are such a blessing to me. Thanks so much for your friendship and support. I’m not sure if courageous is the right word for what I’ve written here, but I appreciate you saying so! Love you!

  3. Amazing Mandy. I think #4 is truth whether you are abused by family or not. For me, abused by a church member, it created a lot of conflict. The place I should have felt safest and BEEN safe was a dark scary place for me. I suspect the act itself tears down walls and builds up bad ones that we don’t recognize until later in life when the pain slams us against one of those walls.

    • You’re so right, Tina. There are so many kinds of abuse, and they have similar effects. I’m sorry that you had to experience that. I continue to pray for healing and restoration for you. Thank you for sharing here!

  4. I’m a people pleaser and I struggle with if I say “no” will you still like me? I am getting better and have built some healthy lines between dysfunction and healthy relationships but I could use some prayer in the grey areas.. For example: is it fear of failing or a need for boundaries that I avoid certain situations? Is always saying no a protection and excuse to not take a risk or am I protecting myself from harm?
    Lastly, I find you to be one of the bravest women I have had pleasure of knowing…I hope your heart continues to heal! Love ya!

    • Jenn, you found me! I hear you on these questions, and I think the answers are not clear cut. I have found that my people pleasing in rooted, in part, from abuse because the abuse taught me that who I am is not good enough–that I am not worth protecting or standing up for. Therefore, I have to make up for that lack by pleasing people. I learned that boundaries are letting my yes mean yes and my no mean no. Anything else is not being the person God created me to be. Easier said than done:) I’d guess that avoiding situations is a combination of fear of failing and a need for boundaries. Healing is a process, and it’s OK to say no out of protection.

      You are incredibly kind to me. Thanks so much for sharing here. I’m praying for you:) Love you, sweet friend!

  5. Blessings daughter! I love you so much! You did a really good thing here:) prayers for your courageous heart!

  6. So happy to have “met” you in Better Writer on FB! I commend you on having the courage to be honest about your sexual abuse. Having done that myself for the past several weeks on Tamar’s Redemption ( I know how vulnerable and exposed it feels. Know that openness leads to healing, not just for you, but for others. I’m going to have to examine the “boundary” issue in my own life, cause I have a terrible time saying “no” to people. Blessings!

    A Heartening Life –
    Christy recently posted..Betrayal – Tamar’s Redemption TuesdayMy Profile

    • Thank you, Christy. I feel so blessed to have “met” you as well. I would really like to meet up at Allume. I appreciate your encouragement, and I pray that my words will help bring healing to others! Prayers for you as you examine boundaries and experience the freedom they bring. Blessings!

  7. Amazing post! I had someone hand me that book as well, and some of my lack of boundaries was/is rooted in abuse. How good and amazing is our God to bring us to places of healing and restoration! Thanks for your beautiful, honest heart!
    Katharine Barrett recently posted..What’s Ah-Ah-Ah-Choo! Up Wednesday…My Profile

    • Ah, I LOVE what you said about our God being amazing and bringing healing and restoration. Yes! Amen!!! Thank you, Katharine. Prayers for you…healing and boundary-setting are ongoing processes:)

  8. Mandy this is incredible. Knowing you personally I know how hard this must have been to write and how liberating it must be to have written it. You are beautiful and amazing!

    • Thank you so much, Heather! Yes, and yes:) I wasn’t sure what impact it would have on family or how it would make them feel, so I appreciate your support. Love you!

  9. Sarah in MI says:

    You are a courageous lady, Mandy. I know you will help someone out there who is feeling alone in a similar struggle. Love you!

  10. GREAT piece, Mandy. Boundaries can be very difficult at first, but it gets easier once you figure it out. And the freedom they bring? Priceless!

    I’m glad you were able to find good counselors that were a good fit. That can be a challenge in itself, but they are SO helpful. Even on days when you don’t feel like you’ve made much progress, at least you don’t feel like you’re crazy.

    Hope you have a fabulous weekend!
    Susan recently posted..How can you show you care?My Profile

    • Goodness, yes! To everything you wrote. Boundaries do get easier, praise God! Praise Him for that sweet freedom, too.

      Hope YOU have a fabulous weekend, too!

  11. I love you, Mandy. You are strong and courageous because He lives in you. Thank you for RISK. For risking being vulnerable. He has and will do such amazing things through your story. I can’t wait to hug you soon.
    Tobi recently posted..RaceMy Profile

    • Risk. That’s a good word for this post:) Ah, your words made me tear up, but in a good way. Thanks for saying He lives in me. My aim is to keep Him there, but it feels so good when it seems like I am sharing Him with others. I really pray that my story can help someone. That was my primary reason for sharing, and then my own healing. Love you, Tobi. Less than 2 weeks!!!

  12. Great post, very relevant and important to share. Setting boundaries is a life-long process. It is something that can only be done day by day by day. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Debi Stangeland recently posted..Way to Go Einstein: The art of waitingMy Profile

  13. Mandy, your courageous and beautiful!!! I’m sorry this is part of your life experiences:( but what Satan meant for harm, God has used it for His glory!! You are obedient and precious to all who know you!! Way to go, you shined the life changing light of Jesus on a area that so many keep in the dark. The devil would want these experiences to be left in dark shameful closets to haunt sons and daughters of The King, but God has plans to set us free and share with others how Jesus is the only One that can heal our brokenness!! Love you friend!!

  14. Katie:) How is it you know just what to say? Well, I know how: you are filled with the Spirit! But, I love how you love Jesus and cooperate with Him. You surely bless me by your faith and your sweet love of others. than you for these words! It’s like you looked right in my heart and saw my desire to shine the light of truth on a dark place–to make it lose Satan’s power over it. Love you, friend! Thanks so much for your friendship and your words here.

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