I teach a healthy boundaries class for professional religious leaders. I am absolutely clear that healthy boundaries are the foundation of healthy ministry in all contexts; church, hospital, or non-profit. Healthy boundaries are also crucial with families and work.
But what are healthy boundaries? We like to think boundaries are either firm and can’t be crossed, like a wall, or there are no boundaries, like a wide-open door. Yet, boundaries are always being crossed. If we call someone, we’ve crossed a boundary. If we text someone or show up at their door or cubicle, we’ve crossed a boundary. If we’ve touched someone, with or without their permission, we’ve crossed a boundary.
Boundaries flex and move; they are dictated by culture and history, personal preference, and the need for safety. Most of all, they are dictated by what Brené Brown calls the determination of what is ok and what is not ok. A lot of people, particularly women, don’t like to set boundaries, or if we do have boundaries, we don’t clearly communicate them. Which creates a guessing game for others and a lot of pain for everyone.
If we’re guided by the desire to be liked, we’re less likely to set and communicate our boundaries for fear of being rejected. If we’re guided by fear of being rejected, we can’t take care of our heart, body, and soul, and ironically, we’re less likely to be liked. Knowing what is ok and what is not ok and then communicating it with love and clarity creates space for authentic relationships, abundance, and health.
We don’t always have to be sweet, says Brown, but we can always be loving, even when we set our boundaries, and then communicate clearly, directly, and with love what is okay and what is not ok.
Here is some more good wisdom from Brown: https://www.theworkofthepeople.com/boundaries
With Love, Rev. Kate