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.
- The friend whose behavior I was stressing over? Way out of bounds!
- Both my “yes” and my “no” are wishy-washy.
- Identity-wise, I had not separated myself from my family of origin.
- 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.
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.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
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.
- In what areas could you set some boundaries?
- 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?
- What can you do to celebrate taking a look at these difficult questions?
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.
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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