One of the Hardest Things About Being an Adult: Setting Boundaries

A new way of looking at self defense. Put limits on others’ evil towards you.


” You people make me so angry!”


This was a recurring phrase in my childhood and teenage years. People would just make me so angry! In fact, people were in control of most of my emotions. If I was jealous, it was because so-and-so made me. If I was mad, so-and-so was to blame. And if I were sad, so-and-so made me sad. They ruled over my frame of mind. But Dr. Henry Cloud (one of my favorite authors who is also a psychologist) introduced me to the concept BOUNDARIES. Thank God for them! Second to the Bible, this book (Changes That Heal) has impacted my life more than anything else that I can recall.


I realized that people were not always making me angry, but that I was actually giving myself permission to be angry. When God created people, He did not make them to have ultimate power over our emotions. He gave us rule over our emotions just as He gave mankind rule over the beasts of the field and the fowl of the air. But if we can’t control ourselves, how then can we expect to control things outside of ourselves?


For a period of time, I was VERY miserable at one of my old jobs. I blamed my company, my supervisor, my coworkers, and my clients for my misery. It was the company’s fault for making such awkward hours (16 CONSECUTIVE hours on Saturday with no breaks). It was the supervisor’s fault for not chastising the company or policy makers for making such stupid hours. It was my co-workers fault for tolerating it with me. And it was my clients’ fault for making the 16-hour day so long and difficult (whenever they would misbehave to the point that I’d have to break up fights, physical restrain them, or chase after a runaway). It was everyone’s fault but mine!


Then Dr. Cloud introduced me to the concept and necessity of boundaries in a book titled Changes That Heal. Without boundaries, we don’t know where we begin and where someone else ends. We don’t know when and how many times to say, “yes” or “no.” We don’t know when to say, “I’m not taking any more of this crap.” We don’t know who we are responsible for and who is responsible for us. God delivered that book to me at a crucial time in my life. I realized that I was not being forced to work there. I could leave at any second! No chains or fetters around my ankles. No armed guards at the gate. Not even someone telling me, “You can’t leave us.” Just my own thoughts telling me I shouldn’t leave. Telling me that I was responsible if the company was short-staffed and that I should feel guilt if the clients felt abandoned by yet another adult in their lives. Telling me that I shouldn’t create, establish, and maintain my boundaries.


Every person should set healthy boundaries. Women should have enough boundaries to tell their abusive boyfriends that they will not tolerate anymore abuse from them – physical or psychological. Husbands should have enough boundaries to tell their adulterous wives that they will not tolerate infidelity any longer. The Bible even gives them the right to do so! Parents should tell their adult children that they will put a limit on how they encourage their children’s immaturity by paying their cell phone bills and allowing them to live at home even after they have college degrees and are able to work a job.


At work, I had to learn to limit the amount of evil I would allow to come my way. I would let the kids curse at me without properly telling them that it would not be allowed. In my friendships, I would allow a friend to borrow an inordinate amount of money and would also allow her to pay me back LONG after the appointed date that we agreed upon. In my love life in college, I would allow “admirers” to call me at any time of night without any respect to my sleep schedule. But craziest of all, I thought I had the right to get angry with them for doing it!


Even if the clients would still curse at me after telling them that they would get consequences for it, they would at least still know that I wouldn’t take it from them without negative consequences. When it came to allowing a friend to borrow money, IT WAS UP TO ME to say, “No, So-and-so, I will not loan you that much money.” Or “No, So-and-so, you said you would pay me back on Friday, and now I need my money back even if you have to borrow it from someone else.” IT WAS UP TO ME to say, “So-and-so, it is 3:00 am. You should assume that I am asleep. Please call back later at a decent hour. Good night.”


Likewise, if your man is beating you upside your head, it is your responsibility, right, and reasonable response to say, “John, you know I love you very much, and I value our relationship. But I will no longer allow you to put your hands on me in a violent way. If you continue treating me in this way, I will be leaving you until you get some help. If you refuse to get help, then I will be moving on romantically.” If your boss is putting too much work on you, it is your responsibility to tell him or her, “Mr. Jackson, I’ve been working here for a while, and I really appreciate my job, but I feel as if I have to put my foot down about this. I have been working more hours than my job description has stated. I don’t mind being flexible every once in a while when the company needs help, but I am uncomfortable and refuse to continue working long after 5 o’ clock when my hours are only from 9 am to 5 pm.”


If you all are like how I was, it feels as if it is rude to be assertive. Instead of saying, “Pass me that cup over there please,” I would only feel comfortable saying, “Hey, Ashley. If you’re not busy, would you mind passing me that cup over there? If you don’t want to, that’s fine. Thanks.” Had I said, “pass me that cup please,” most people wouldn’t think, “Wow, she’s bossy! How rude!” They would simply pass me the cup and appreciate that I said “please.” But I was very passive and felt as if I was inconveniencing someone if I asked them to do something for me. It was fine when they told me to do something for them, but I felt so wrong and controlling if I said it. God said, “Let there be light!” He didn’t say, “If you have the time and don’t mind, could you please cut on the light? I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks.” God has authority that He’s not afraid to use. We should get like God and act the same! It’s okay to have and to utilize your authority!


Parents who don’t properly enforce their authority over their children will undoubtedly have children with a lack of respect for them. God expects us to train and control our children. You shouldn’t be too hard on them because that can lead to other issues, but you should have no problem telling your children to do chores, come home by 8 pm, and to say “ma’am” if you so desire for them to. Children will not die under these terms. Children with authoritative parents fare better than children of permissive parents and authoritarian parents. Permissive parents have children on Maury talk show screaming at an audience of adults with, “You don’t know me! You don’t run me! Shut up!” Authoritarian parents have children who grow up to rebel against authority because of their resentment toward authoritarian parents. They usually grow up to break many laws, live rebellious lives upon going to college, and they may even develop an anxiety disorder because they feel as if every mistake they make is noticed and shamed. But children of authoritative parents grow up to be mentally healthy, mature, responsible, happy, and boundary-establishing adults.


You should not feel guilty for establishing boundaries. Maybe you had parents that made you feel as if saying no was selfish and inconsiderate. If you wanted to hang out with your best friend one Friday instead of hanging at home with your family, they might have said, “You’re so wrong for that. You know we want to spend time with you tonight.” But you need to develop and exercise your “no muscle.” You work out this “no muscle” as a child in your family of orientation (your immediate family). If you can’t say no to mom who wants you to spend every Friday night with her or to wear your hair a certain way, you will have problems saying no to college buddies who want you to drink and party every day. If you have problems saying no to daddy who always tells you to play a certain sport or to study in a particular major to grow up to be just like him, you’ll have problems telling your girlfriend or boyfriend no when they ask you to have sex with them. WORK YOUR NO-MUSCLE. Better yet, let’s call it a CHOICE-MUSCLE. Don’t stay at a job that makes you miserable just because you feel as if your coworkers or boss will be mad at you. Be an adult with a choice and take the responsibility to go apply elsewhere.


If you want to quit your job, you can do that because it is your adult choice. Or if you like the job and just not a certain aspect of it, be an adult and choose to take responsibility to talk in private with your boss and tell him or her what you want. They may not do it, but you’ll feel better knowing that you tried before you quit. Stop being such a wimp! Be an adult! Make a choice! Make a decision! Take responsibility!


If you have a friend who seems to be taking advantage of you, you need to be an adult and tell him or her, “I value our friendship, but I feel as if you are using me for my money/image/networking, and I don’t like it. We need to work on this.” It’s simply the adult thing to do. Don’t be a push over. I promise you that when you make an adult decision in spite of what others think, it is ONE OF THE MOST FREEING EXPERIENCES YOU WILL EVER FEEL! At first you might feel guilty for not thinking and acting as others think you should, but after the initial guilt, it feels AWESOME (if you’re a person who is not used to it).


You need to put a limit on evil or bad behavior. If you are married to someone who is an alcoholic or drug abuser, you cannot control their using. It would be as if you are infringing upon THEIR boundaries. But you CAN LIMIT THE AFFECT THEIR USING HAS ON YOU AND/OR YOUR CHILDREN. Drinkers and drug addicts don’t quit because they ought to; it is an illness that they often struggle with for years or for life. So if you’re not willing to live that life for years or decades, you better learn to limit the amount of harm or evil they allow on you, your emotions, your children, your finances, and your future.


You can find out what your boundaries are by what you stand up for or stand against. I stand for Christ and love; and I stand against abortions and the devil. Therefore, people who know me should know where I stand on these issues. Hypothetically speaking, if I am against abortion (and I am) and were to get pregnant and my lover tells me “get rid of the baby; I’m not ready to be a father,” I should stand for my boundaries and say, “I won’t do it. You can leave if you want, but I’m going to have this baby. I am pro-life.”

People with poorly-established boundaries who are pro-life will say, “Well, I really don’t want to, but I will if you want me to.” This kind of person will probably end up being resentful and bitter for their entire life if they go against their boundaries. Your lover won’t be like, “I admire that she got rid of the baby for me. She’s such a ride-or-die chick. He’ll more than likely think, “She’ll do whatever I say.” Subsequently, he’ll begin to think of you as not being an adult who chooses what she will do or who she will love; he’ll see you as someone who just has love taken from them against their will. If you don’t make choices, then you’ll have poor relationships because you are not an adult who exercises her or her choice muscle. Adults have better relationships than children. If you don’t stand up for your boundaries, you are basically a child in an adult’s body who just lets people take bits and pieces of you by making demands of you. You don’t love (which is a choice); you just let people tell you what to do, what to believe, and what to feel.


When I was in college, I had poorly-established boundaries, so when the temptation and the peer pressure arose, I lowered my standards/boundaries and did what was against my beliefs. But as I got older, I took back my adult right to say no without fear of what my friends would say. If you say whatever people want you to say, they will undoubtedly lose respect for you because of your passivity (your “pushover-ability”). Respected leaders make their own path and their own decisions. When people disrespect me, I respectfully put them back within their boundaries and outside of mine. I make examples out of people because others see how they talk to me, and they see that I don’t take a lot of mistreatment. I’m not a disrespectful, aggressive person, but I am a person with a boundary that God has placed around me. Just as I will bind the devil when He gets out of place, I will “bind” a disrespectful person too. God doesn’t tell us to let demons torment us; He tells us to bind, rebuke, and cast them out. So if I meet a young man who says he is interested in me and then he begins “infringing on my property”, I will cast him out too!


So in summary:

◦People do not control your emotions, but you allow them to.

◦Use your choice muscle. It is perfectly fine to say “no” to your parents and subsequently other people in authority over your life when they are disrespecting your boundaries.

◦You are not bossy or rude if you ask someone for something.

◦Put a limit on how much evil you will allow in your life. Confront people who are hurting you and give them an ultimatum without infringing upon their choice muscle and boundaries.

◦Adults utilize their authority over what God has placed under them.

◦Establish boundaries to create healthy relationships that will not be unnecessarily painful for you.

◦Don’t let people encourage you to lower your standards. They will think less of you and will think you are childlike.

◦You can choose to leave at any time.


Respect yourself enough to not let people disrespect you more than once. Except for when you are at work where “the customer is always right” you can always tell them what your boundaries are and walk away if they don’t want to respect you. Remember that we are all under the authority of God and that we must respect him and honor our mother and father. But we are not told to let our mother and father control every aspect and decision of our life after we are adults. The bible says that when you marry, you leave your parents. It is now time for you to become an adult just as your parents are adults. Remember, your parents are peers of other adults in their workplace regardless of the ages there. Your mother and father are on the same level as 18 year olds at their job, and you are on the same level as 50 + year olds at your job. So while you must always respect your parents, you don’t have to do everything they tell you to do. In a sense, you are a peer to your parents when it comes to making decisions about what you will do with your life. However, be respectful. I pray that my adult readers will realize that they are adults and will act accordingly!


One thought on “One of the Hardest Things About Being an Adult: Setting Boundaries

  1. I also am a christian who had to divorce an abusive husband. I found myself all throughout your beautiful and insightful writings. Thank you.

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