Boundaries

Posted: 2011 06 15 by Chris Goforth in Biblical manhood, Challenge, Discipleship, Hardcore Christian Men, manhood, masculine, masculinity, Relationship

Boundaries exist all over the place and we probably don’t even realize it.  Boundaries are similar to rules or laws and are in place for a reason.  Most of the time it’s to protect us.  However often times people feel they don’t need to respect or follow them and that is when problems occur.

We try to teach kids about boundaries from the day they are born.  We tell them things like you can’t go here or touch this or do that.  I don’t allow my kids to go beyond the end of our cul-de-sac because there is a trail at the end and it’s filled with transients and homeless people and I know something very serious most likely will happen if were to venture out by themselves.  I also don’t let our toddlers out of our back yard because I know they wouldn’t pay attention to what they were doing and run out into the street and probably get hit by someone who wasn’t watching.  As they get older I know we can extend the boundaries to wider areas, but that also goes along with them proving they are trustworthy to handle the larger boundaries.

Most people have personal boundaries or a spacial distance that is a safe for them.  Usually this involves about an arm lengths distance.  If someone were to walk up to you and come into your personal space most people would want at least an arm’s length between them to feel comfortable.  Of course there are lots of different type of people and some are close talkers and huggers, which if you need an arm’s length between you and them makes it very difficult to feel comfortable talking with them.  For me it’s always been difficult allowing people to get physically close to me.  As someone who has survived being sexually abused I have never felt comfortable with people in my personal space.  I used to hate it when people came up and game me hugs, even at church I never liked this or felt comfortable with it.  A handshake was about as safe as it got for me.  This was difficult many times because I often felt like the underlying expectation at church was if someone hugged you, just accept it. This is church, hugs are expected all around and no one is going to hurt you.  How do you go about saying, “Uh, no thanks, no hugs for me, you see I don’t like them and they freak me out.” Especially to another guy who very much gets joy from hugging people.  I always found this to be strangely odd.  Now that I am older and have dealt with my own fears and issues about this, I find it easier to accept a hug from someone, even another guy, but I still always take a second to warm up to it and you can bet I am almost never the initiator of them.  So who’s up for a hug?

In our respective extended families my wife and I have seen boundaries not respected and deep scars because of this. Touching, hugging, saying hurtful things to others has happened repeatedly and left folks not wanting to be around others.  This often makes family gathering really difficult to get through.  As a result my wife and I have had to draw hard and fast lines with extended family members and not have them be part of our lives or put them in extended periods of “time outs” until their behaviors could change and they could treat us the way we needed to be treated.  It hasn’t been fun so say the least especially with folks who have never been required to tow the line. It makes it difficult for them to see why they are being treated like this.

I believe in boundaries and my rule of thumb is to always set hard and firm boundaries in the beginning and then over time as I see how things are going I can ease up.  It’s this way with my kids and it’s this way with people in general.  In having a family I believe as a man and the leader of your family you need to establish strong, firm boundaries across the board.  You will have to stand up to your family or friends, but once your married and start a family, that is the time when you put them first and define those boundaries so that your wife and kids know they are the priority in you life and the reason we do the things we do is because you are important.

This is especially difficult for “YES” people.  These types seem to be folks who are always saying yes and want to please others.  They have very difficult times saying no and establishing healthy safe boundaries.  In their attempt to make others happy they forget about their own needs and overlook putting boundaries in place for themselves.  This is a difficult place to be in, as people like this often get hurt and burnt out easily, yet I have seem them just continue to operate in the same patterns, but extremely frustrated with their life.

Part of lifestyle changes for me is calling people out on their stuff that I am not okay with and holding firm and tight boundaries in all areas of my life.  Maybe it’s because I am older and wiser, but I have seen so many damaging things occur to so many people across the board.  This leads me to believe it’s extremely difficult for people to set firm boundaries out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings.  For the sake of yourself, the best things you can do is put those boundaries in place, or pull back and enforce harder and firmer boundaries.  As a result of doing this from my experience you feel safer and more comfortable in your own skin.  They are to protect you so people can’t hurt you.  I believe everyone needs strong boundaries in place.  Let the other person know this is now how things are going to be and let them deal with their feelings.  It’s not up to you to worry about their feelings.  It’s up to you to take care of yourself and feel safe and secure.

As a real authentic man the best thing you can do for your life is ensure you have strong firm boundaries in place that will protect yourself, your wife and kids.  Putting those things in place in my life has helped me feel safe, as well as put my wife and kids first and establish with others I am not someone you mess with when it comes to boundaries.

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