The B Word: Boundaries

In a world where everything from messaging to food to even sex is all “instant”, how do we draw our hypothetical lines in the sand? As young adults we’re encouraged to give our all. Whether it’s throwing ourselves full force into a relationship, working our fingers to the bone at a new job, or pulling that 4th all-nighter of the week for school our personal agency has officially been thrown out the window.

We’re supposed to give all of ourselves to everything we’re doing, but what happens when there’s just not anything left to give? We’re attached to our phones and computers like they are our oxygen, because God forbid we take longer than two minutes to respond to a text or email. Side Note: I always wondered why iPhones gave you that two minute alert for texts messages, now I understand it’s to create a sense of urgency. To make you feel like, “Hey, this person is waiting, you can’t leave them in the balance.”

Don’t even get me started on Christians in ministry. They are pummeled into believing that every part of their heart, soul and mind is reserved for the church. They’re made to believe that sacrificing time for themselves, with family, or with friends is #whatJesuswoulddo. But what if I told you, that’s not what Jesus would do? Shocking, I know. But before you come at me with your “heathen” stamps, why don’t you take a second look at your Gospel. Spoiler Alert: Jesus had boundaries.

Now I know you’re wondering how a guy who sacrificed himself for all of humanity had boundaries, but stick with me a minute. Before the cross, before the resurrection, Jesus was a minister and his ministry was people. He dined with them and healed them, but he also took breaks away from them. Jesus took naps (Mark 4:38), he took time for his friends (Mark 6:31-33), and he even made sure he had alone time to recharge (Matthew 14). So if Jesus really is supposed to be our role model, why are we leaving out the self-care part of his message?

Maybe Jesus isn’t your thing, maybe he’s some dude who did good things a couple thousand years ago, or maybe he’s the symbol of your hurt–I get it. I’ve also gleaned some important insights from Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” to me this says that before you can change the world, you have to change yourself. If you are an overextended, burned out, broken person how can you go out and help the world? And finally, my personal favorite, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” To me, this isn’t saying that people can’t hurt you ever, but that if you make clear to people what your boundaries are then they’ll have a much harder time taking advantage of you.

So cool, Jesus had boundaries and even Gandhi had them, but what does it look like for you to have them? I’m no expert as I’m still a recovering codependent, but here are a few things I’ve learned along this journey:

  1. Alone time is always an option. You don’t have to spend every second of every day with your partner, your family, or your friends. And you don’t even need a “good” reason. If that alone time means going and binging Netflix alone for a few hours, then so be it.
  2. You don’t have to respond right away. Unless it’s a true emergency (someone is on fire, sick, or dying) you do not have to respond right away. Even if you’re in the middle of a heated argument text-fest. You can take 5, 10, 50 minutes to respond; the world will not end.
  3. You don’t have to work late every night or volunteer for every single miscellaneous office job. Do the work you’ve been given well and let that speak to your work ethic.
  4. Same goes for college. You really don’t have to join every club or apply for all the internships. Your resume will not wither away and die if you actually have free time.
  5. In ministry, you don’t have to sing every song, work every camp or disciple every student. Get yourself your own accountability partner, someone who will just let you be poured into and rest. That’s what Jesus would do.
  6. Have patience for yourself.

All of this life is a learning experience, that includes figuring out what your boundaries are. Sometimes you will fail and someone will walk all over you, or you’ll burn yourself out. That’s ok, don’t give up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward. One day, it will all be ok.

Keep moving forward,

Ali