Robin hears a knock at the door.
“Who’s knocking at the door. I’m not expecting anyone. I’m not ready for company. I’m not dressed. Look at my hair. Maybe, it’s just a salesman,” she said as she walked to the door trying to straighten her hair as she went.
“Just a minute,” she yells.
You remember Robin, right?
“Jerry, Hazel?” Robin said. “What…what can I help you with?”
“You gave us your card. We need your help so we thought we’d just come over,” Jerry said as they pushed past Robin to enter her house.
“Yes, I gave you my card. It has my contact info, but how did you get my address?”
“Oh, I cross-referenced it online,” Jerry said.
“I wasn’t expecting you. Actually, I have to be in class in a little while and as you can see I’m not ready to go to class. Can we make this another time?” Robin said.
“This won’t take long, trust me,” Jerry said as he and Hazel found a seat on her couch after moving stuff to the floor.
Jerry started telling about how he got started gambling. On his 21st birthday, his dad took him to a casino and taught him how to play poker with the “big boys.” Dad had taught him the game at home. They played all the time and Dad said he was ready.”
“That was the best birthday present ever. An expensive dinner out with just the two of us at the casino. We watch several of the games then dad said it was time to play. He got me set up with chips and picked the table for me and he went to a different table. I was on my own. I was so excited. My first big game. I did well for a while then I started to lose. Dad had told me I was good so I just knew I could turn it around. I kept playing.”
“Why did they let you keep playing?” Robin asked. “I’m sure it was obvious you were a beginner.”
“I didn’t even think about it. Later I discovered my Dad had set a $15,000 limit for each of us.”
“Wow. Is your Dad a millionaire or something?” Robin asked.
“No, but even when he loses, he wins enough to cover everything. He’s rarely in the hole.”
Jerry kept talking. Robin looked at her watch several times but didn’t say anything. She told herself that Jerry and Hazel really needed her help. She hoped the professor would understand, even though, he had said the only reasons you could miss this class were if you were in the hospital or the morgue. She squirmed in her chair, but neither of them seemed to notice. I’ll tell him the circumstances, that I was helping someone. He’ll understand. Robin managed to focus on Jerry’s story, again.
“Jerry, let me interrupt for a moment. How many times has he bailed you out of gambling debts?” Robin asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve lost track at this point. But, it’s been several years.”
“And he’s still bailing you out?”
Hazel spoke up, “We’ve been married now for a little over a year and I know he’s bailed Jerry out probably 8 to 10 times. Dad said this was the last. If he cuts Jerry off and Jerry keeps gambling we’re up a creek without a paddle. We won’t make it.”
Robin studied Hazel’s body language for a few minutes. She had been wringing her hands all the time she was talking. Tears started rolling down her face. She brushed them away with the back of her hand.
Boundaries? Why Do They Matter?
According to Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend in Boundaries, “boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for, gives me freedom.”
Prov 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
Having clear boundaries is essential for having a healthy, balanced life and relationships. But many people think that setting firm boundaries is being selfish and unloving.
When you know who you are, your values, needs and wants, you are protecting yourself both physically and mentally.
Boundaries also enables you to communicate with others about who you are, how you would and would not like to be treated. They also protect things that are valuable and important to you.
In essence, when you set your boundaries you are respecting yourself and believing that you are worth defending.
Boundary enforcement behaviors include, refusing to answer questions that make you feel uncomfortable, avoiding life threatening situations, moving away from sketchy situations, abiding by your personal values and beliefs, knowing that others don’t know what you want or need without you speaking up.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
- Appropriate trust. Move step by step into intimacy – emotionally and physically. Make people earn your trust. Don’t give it away. Don’t try to purchase affection or trade intimacy for commitment.
- Stay focused on your own personal growth.
- Maintain personal values despite what others want, say, or do.
- Notice and speak up when someone invades your boundaries.
- Trust your own decisions and don’t allow yourself to be talked out of them.
- Know who you are and what you want. Stick to it.
- Respect yourself – Do not put too much hope in someone else to behave in your best interest.
- Recognize that friends and family are not mindreaders. You have to speak up.
- Do not allow someone to take advantage of you and your generosity.
- Say “No” to food, gifts, touch, and sex that you do not want or are not in your best interest.
The first step in setting good boundaries is to identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limitations in all work and personal relationships. Being self-aware identifies your limitations, what you are comfortable with and what you are not. Write them down. Make sure you limitations are firmly set in your mind before trying to relay your boundaries to someone else.
Speaking Up Assertively
Step two is assertively telling others about your boundaries. Assertiveness is not negative, as it is so often viewed. Assertive communication means you are expressing your message in a clear and direct manner, while still respecting yourself and others.
Assertive communication helps minimize conflicts, control anger, meet your needs in a healthier manner, and have more positive relationships.
People often confuse assertiveness with aggression, but they are different.
Tips for Speaking Up Assertively:
- Set your intention as mentioned in a previous post.
- If you are new to assertive communication, write down what you plan to say so you can state your point of view clearly.
- State your feelings as honestly as possible.
- Regulate Your Emotions. Stay calm and be firm.
- Use active listening when the other person is speaking.
- Monitor your vocal elements: tone of voice, volume, pitch.
- Speak in a normal conversation volume, don’t whisper.
- Make sure your body language matches your words.
- Make good eye contact.
- Don’t use exaggerting words like, always, never.
- Focus on the facts. Address behaviors not motives.
- Use “I” statements, NOT “you” statements.
- Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!
Jerry Learns About Boundaries
As Robin listened to both Jerry and Hazel she recognized one problem. A problem she too was having at that very moment – no boundaries. She looked at her watch again. She still had time to make class on time. Jerry kept talking as if these were just the most amazing stories, stories about how much he’d lost in gambling, how many times his Dad had bailed him out.
Jenny held up her hand for silence.
“Jerry, it sounds to me like we all have a particular problem here – boundaries. You come into my house without calling first or even asking if I have time to talk to you. If I allow this to continue I have a problem with setting boundaries.”
“Hazel, you said Jerry’s Dad said this was the last time. Is that correct?”
“But…” Jerry tried to interrupt.
Jenny held up her hand for silence. Jerry slumped back into his chair with a pout on his face as he pulled his jacket collar up around his face.
“Hazel, I want you to talk to his Dad and make sure he does what he says. The reason he’s out so much money is because he keeps relaxing the boundaries. Boundaries must be firm.”
“But…” Jerry tried again.
“No, Jerry,” Hazel said. “I like what I’m hearing. I’m so tired of the gambling and all the mess that goes with it.”
“Good,” Robin said. “Now, Hazel, what boundaries are you going to set?”
Everyone was quiet, so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
“Well, actually, I’ve been thinking about it. I want a family, but I don’t want to bring a baby into this mess. I don’t want to be in this mess either.”
She turned to Jerry, “I love you very much, but I, honestly, can’t take this any more. I’m glad we came to see Robin. I now know what I need to do. You must adhere to all of the requirements your Dad has set forth – Gambler’s Anonymous, Counseling, Pay your Dad back. If you don’t I’m going to go stay with my parents until you get your act together. I’m also going to talk to your Dad. He won’t back down this time. If he does back down and/or if you don’t follow through, I’m gone for good.”
“No buts about it,” Hazel said. “One more thing…she paused…I’m pregnant and I’m not bringing a baby into this mess. Now, it’s time for us to get out of here so Robin can get to class.”
Hazel stood up and pulled Jerry up by his jacket collar.
“Thank you, Robin. I really needed the moral support. You really helped.”
“Thank you. You are welcome, Hazel and you have my card. Call me and leave a message if I’m not available to answer. And, Jerry, next time call first.”
Jerry didn’t respond. He walked out the door like a little kid who’d got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Setting healthy boundaries and assertively communicating them to others shows respect for yourself. Not enforcing boundaries is like trying to protect and care for your yard when you don’t know where the property lines are.
When we bought our house seven years ago we were sure where the property line was. There were two sheds in the back yard, one was painted the same color as our deck, so we assumed it was our shed.
Within the last year we discovered that the shed belonged to the neighbor and 90% of the side yard also belonged to the neighbor. It’s very confusing. If we didn’t get along well with our neighbors it could be potentially dangerous.
It’s important to know where your boundaries are. It helps you develop more self-worth and be confident and secure.
God designed us to be responsible for everything that makes up “us.” God created us to be responsible for what is in our soul. Boundaries help us define what we are responsible for. Too many times, our family, life, or circumstances confuse us about where our boundaries, parameters, are. We don’t know where our property lines are. Therefore, don’t maintain our property.
Remember, boundaries also show us what is not ours, what we are not responsible for. We are not responsible for others. Everybody is responsible for their own property, their own soul.
Boundaries also protect you from being unfairly burdened with responsibilities that others should be handling for themselves.
When our life is over here on this earth, we will have to give an accounting for how we maintained our property – our soul and our life.