The pandemic fostered more online connections. We gather in different digital platforms for work meetings, bible studies, school, and hilarious online gatherings with friends and family. This an advanced way of keeping connected. But are we setting healthy relationship boundaries?
Our 24/7 connection with others has a downside. When we become too comfortable with each other, we may disrespect the person’s time, space, and deplete their energy. We may overstep other people’s boundaries.
What are Boundaries?
One Christian counselor, and he defines boundaries this way. It is a personal property line that marks things we handle. It defines who we are and who we are not. Also, it is taking responsibility for your actions and emotions and NOT taking responsibility for other people’s actions and emotions.
The primary purpose of setting boundaries is to create healthy and nurturing relationships and maintain a positive view of self without being too self-absorbed.
Do you have healthy relationship boundaries? If you feel any of these, you may have poor boundaries.
- When you feel responsible for other people
- When you get into other people’s problems
- When you feel manipulated
- When you feel that other people’s happiness depend on you
- When you always say, “YES”
- When you feel burnout
Why we Need to Set Boundaries
Relationships help us grow as individuals. We need relationships to thrive. But not all relationships are good for us. Some can be toxic. According to psychologists, toxic relationships happen when people overstep other people’s emotional boundaries.
Overstepping of boundaries is prevalent in the Filipino culture. Our elders trained us to keep quiet and not speak up. We bury our emotions because expressing it is embarassing. But these restrictions invalidate our emotions and make us feel manipulated.
We put boundaries to protect our mental health. Boundaries allow us to filter the behavior that is acceptable to us or not. It also says a lot about who we are — values, needs, skills/gifts, convictions — and who we are not. Setting boundaries in relationships is self-care. We need to believe that our needs matter too.
Setting Boundaries is Biblical
I did some research on the biblical context of setting boundaries, and I learned God set boundaries. First, He set physical boundaries by separating the land, sea, and sky; day and night. God restricted Adam and Eve to eat from THAT tree in the garden. In the time of Moses, He carved on stone tablets how they should live (10 Commandments). God is just and loving and He would allow no one beyond His boundaries because that is dishonoring him. If the people did, He called them out and disciplined them.
In the New Testament, Jesus also set His boundaries. He was a busy man, but he lived an unhurried life. He ate, rested, and slept. Every time He needed to meet with a person one on one, He did it with intention. Remember the man who was born blind (Mark 8:22-26) or the woman at the well (John 4:1-26)? He took time and stopped to meet these people’s needs. But he never did this to all the people.
My husband reminded me of the feeding of the 5000. (Matthew 13:14-21) Jesus ate with the crowd and enjoyed that time with his followers. He didn’t heal everyone who came to him for healing. When His mother Mary (John 2:2-5) urged Him to “do something”, he stopped her.
How to Set Healthy Relationship Boundaries
We have already established how important it is to set boundaries to keep healthy relationships. And that is, in fact, self-care. It’s all about you and you get to filter what you allow in your life. How do we do that?
- Make a checklist of your beliefs, values, and what is important to you. We are accountable for our life.
- Next is to communicate your needs. One example of setting boundaries is how you spend your time. Do we tend to say Yes to every event, job, opportunity that comes our way? Do we find yourself exhausted after? Then, we have not set our boundaries when it comes to time. If the invitation takes time away from family or personal time, then say NO. If we don’t, expect burnout, anger, and resentment.
- Set boundaries with no explanation. When people try to convince us to do something we don’t want to do, they ask us why. Just be honest and say what you feel regardless of their response. It is important to make a stand on what you want to do or not.
- Declare the consequences when they overstep your boundaries. I like the example I found in Psychology Today. If a person cannot respect you, then what is the point of continuing the relationship? It may be harsh or threatening. But you know that you need to be respected and if this person can’t give you that, then we can close the door on that person for a time. Allow them to mull over their actions.
Setting up boundaries is NOT putting a wall between us and other people. It is protecting our mind and heart from things that hurt us. Dr. Henry Cloud, the author Boundaries, says that when we allow people to step over our boundaries, we experience pain. It destroys relationships. But when we set these boundaries in place, it will enrich healthy relationships boundaries with family, friends, co-workers, and others. Before we can care for others, we have to watch ourselves first. Don’t let anyone tell you that caring for yourself or your mental health is selfish.