I need a favor. Will you boss me around? It’s my heart’s desire to serve you well here in our little community of tender hearts and strong voices. I’m thinking about some changes, but I want to hear all your glorious opinions. (Really! Here’s your chance.) There are some questions at the end of the post. I’ll be eternally grateful if you’ll take a minute to answer in the comments! If you’d rather do it privately, feel free to email me at [email protected]. Now to our topic…
If boundaries are so great, why do they still feel so bad?
I’m doing better at pausing to evaluate expectations– my own and others’– before I jump in, schedule, or commit. It’s great to be clearer about God’s assignments for me and awesome to be more confident with my healthy “no.” But there’s still a rub for me.
When Your Boundaries Feel Bad to You
Recently, I began to feel overwhelmed by the number of asks I was getting from a professional contact. One by one they rolled in. I said “yes” to the first ask that required time and planning beyond our original commitment. But when two more popped into my Inbox, I recognized that all my red flags were flapping.
My chest hurt.
My heart raced.
I flipped madly through my calendar, looking for things to move so that I could pull it all off.
The truth was, the old Amy would have moved heaven and earth to say “yes,” but my healthier self knows better. So I reached out with a gentle “no,” and I got a very gracious response.
Whew. All is well.
But not quite. Even though I set a needed boundary that was received with grace, I still felt bad. I’ve grown, but I’m not quite where I want to be yet.
The End-Goal is Peace
I’m realizing that when I still feel bad after a boundary, that’s internal work that I need to do. Here are the questions I’m asking myself.
- What need would that “yes” have fulfilled? (It’s usually unhealthy.)
- What cost would that “yes” have levied? (It’s usually too high.)
- What gains did the “no” hold? (It usually makes the “no” so, so worth it.)
In this case, I realized that a “yes” would have fulfilled my need to people-please, but it would have cost me the time I needed to prepare for a previous commitment. In pleasing one professional friend, I would have let down another.
The gains to my “no” were preserving the prep time I needed and also setting a precedent. I’ve let my friend know that all the tasks tied to a commitment need to be communicated up front, not added as time goes by. She’s clear because I’ve been clear, and that builds our understanding and trust. Win, win!
When Your Boundaries Feel Bad to Others
In the last example, my boundary was met with understanding and grace, but we know that doesn’t always happen.
Years ago, an old aquaintance who I hadn’t seen for a long time reached out to me for help with her ministry. Even though coaching is what I do for a living, I was happy to give her gratis feedback on her exciting new project. That’s what friends are for, right?
I was happy to do it the first time she asked.
I was ok doing it the second time she asked.
I wasn’t so happy the third time she asked.
Because the friendship wasn’t a close one and I hadn’t heard from her for so long, I felt at that point I was being taken advantage of. So I prayed about my boundaries, and found confirmation. Then, I worked and worked on an email that said “no” as sweetly as possible and offered to share my coaching fees with her if she liked.
Well… that didn’t go over well. I got a scathing email in response implying that I was too big for my britches. I haven’t heard from her since.
I wish I could say that I rolled on in peace, but I didn’t.
I felt bad.
I second-guessed myself like crazy.
But in the end, I knew I had done the right thing. Here’s a big truth that I’m learning…
The boundaries I set in these two examples left me feeling bad temporarily (I’m working on that), but ultimately, it left me with peace and the ability to fulfill what God has given me to do. I don’t even feel bitterness toward the friend who sent me the nasty-gram. She had a bad day, but she’s not a bad person. I trust that God will work on her the way He’s working on me, and I hope for restoration some day.
What Do We Do When Boundaries Feel Bad?
Even when they feel bad, we persevere in our boundaries, knowing that boundaries benefit both us and our people (whether they agree or not– better a boundary than bitterness). They also allow us to bring glory to God as we say “yes” to His assignments and “no” to the rest.
And as we persevere, we grow and learn. Our feelings start to follow our faithful decisions. Sure, there are mistakes and misunderstandings along the way, but peace is our goal. Let’s keep our eyes on that priceless prize!
Time to Boss Me Around… (Please leave your brutally honest answers in the comments or email me.)
- Do you like to read these posts or would you stick with me if there were videos here instead?
- If there were captions on the videos or a transcript, would that make a difference to you, or would you still move on?
- If you’d stay for more videos, would you prefer captions or transcripts?