Setting healthy boundaries is about knowing when to say “yes,” when to say “no,” when to say “Let me think about it,” and when to say nothing at all. And once we make that choice, boundaries help us not to feel guilty. Rather than limiting us, boundaries free us to do things that really matter. They help us avoid wasting our time, talents, and energies. Boundaries also protect our hearts from relationships that can be emotionally harmful. Being a Christian woman doesn’t make you a doormat for everyone to use, abuse, and misuse. In fact, Proverbs 4:23 cautions, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (New Living Translation). As a result, we must control what we allow (and don’t allow) into our lives. Setting boundaries isn’t about controlling other people. It’s about being very clear about our own limits, and being able to back up these standards with consistency. It’s about behaving in a manner that protects our hearts, brings glory to God, and builds our self-respect. It’s about not relying on people to validate our decision to say “no.”
When to Say “No”
- Say “NO” when someone or something hurts you.
- Say “NO” when something goes against the will of God.
- Say “NO” when your conscience disagrees with a request.
- Say “NO” when you don’t feel at peace about saying “yes.”
Know the Difference
There’s a big difference between helping and enabling someone. Helping is doing something for someone that they can’t do themselves. Enabling is doing something for someone that they can (and should) be doing themselves.
Unfortunately, many women are approaching burnout (some are already there!) because they’re living multiple lives – their own, their children’s, their friends’, their coworkers’, their husbands’, and the list goes on. However, it’s impossible for you to answer your calling, if you’re too busy doing things that waste your time. In their book (Boundaries), Henry Cloud and John Townsend offer this warning:
“We were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job, and what isn’t. People who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will eventually burn out. It takes wisdom to know what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t. We can’t do everything.”
Ask Yourself these Questions, and Answer them Honestly:
1. Do you find yourself doing things for people that you know they should be doing for themselves?
2. Do you do things so others will approve of you?
3. Are you desperate to hold on to someone’s affections – so much that you compromise your principles?
4. Do you do things because you’re afraid of someone not being in your life?
5. When you say “yes,” do you later feel stressed?
6. Do you say “yes” because of your insecurities, voids, and a need to be needed?
7. When you say “no,” do you feel guilty?
If you answered “yes” to any of those seven questions, you need an action plan! People are pretty good at sweet-talking, whining, and begging. But, with practice, you can become even better at saying “no” – without feeling guilty.
When a friend asks you to bake your incredible cupcakes for her child’s birthday party (and you don’t have the time, heart, or energy to take on the project), say something like this:
“Although I’m unable to bake the cupcakes this time, I can give you the recipe. It’s simple, and I know that you can do a great job.”
If someone at church asks you to take on another project (and your plate is already full), try this:
“Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m unable to take this project on. Maybe you should make an announcement, and give someone else an opportunity to get involved.”
If a friend asks you to attend a function (but you’re exhausted, or you just don’t feel at peace about going), say this:
“I really can’t make it. But, if you find someone else to go with you, please let me know that you made it home safely.”
If someone asks you to borrow money (that you can’t lose, or don’t feel led to give), respond with this:
“I’m working hard toward certain financial goals. So, although I hope you find a solution, I’m unable to give or loan you the money.”
It’s important to be prepared! Therefore, write down – and rehearse – ways to say “no” to common requests that cause stress and chaos in your life. Don’t be caught off guard, and never feel guilty about protecting your heart, health, and life’s purpose. You’re not called to be the solution to everyone’s problem – that’s God’s job.
If You Mean It, Say It
If you’re serious about setting boundaries, and becoming everything God has called you to be, recite this commitment:
I cannot change someone else’s life; but I can change myself, and the choices I make. Beginning today, I am going to consistently focus on making intentional choices based on my life’s purpose – not guilt, fear, anger, or insecurities. Beginning today, I will not be afraid to set boundaries.
Allison Bottke is an award-winning, best selling inspirational author of 29 published non-fiction and fiction books, including the acclaimed Setting Boundaries® series from Harvest House Publishers. She is also the founder and general editor of over a dozen volumes in the popular God Allows U-Turns® anthology. A frequent guest on national radio and TV programs, including Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, Family Talk, TBN, and Good Morning Texas, Allison also has a passion to help writers achieve their dreams, and she has served on the faculty at many national writing conferences, such as Jerry B. Jenkins Writing for the Soul, Blue Ridge Christian Writers, Roaring Lambs, Seattle Pacific, and others. To find out more about the popular Setting Boundaries® book series.