If we want to know if fear is operating in our lives, we can ask this question: Has any person caused me to adjust my boundary lines without my agreement?
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown talks about the importance of setting boundaries.
“The most compassionate people that I’ve ever interviewed… happened to be the most boundaried. They had very, very clear boundaries about what they were willing to do, what they were not willing to do, what they were willing to take on, and what they were not willing to take on.”
Years ago, I was struggling with someone I had been very close to. Originally, it was based on mutuality and friendship. But over the years, I slowly lost control of how that relationship operated. By default, my boundary lines kept being moved until I had none. I was afraid to say no to anything. Disapproval was always the result of a “no,” and disapproval came with consequences.
The problem with these types of relationships is that they begin just like any other relationship, but over the course of time, one gradually gains power over the other. One degree at a time, so we really don’t notice what’s happening.
I wish I had known about boundaries back then. Maybe this next line would have grabbed me by the throat and made me come face to face with my role in that relationship:
“I need to have really clear boundaries. I need to set my boundaries, and not get involved to the degree where I lose control over how I feel about myself and what’s going on in that relationship. I think it is… much easier to be compassionate when we feel respected, and almost impossible to feel compassionate, and feel empathic for people when we feel like we’re being taken advantage of.”
A lot happened which caused this relationship to eventually end. I have done a lot of soul searching to understand the role of boundaries in my life, and the part I played in allowing the boundaries to be continually shifted. And fear was at the root of most of it. Fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fear of change. When it all ended, and I had a chance to step back as observer, I was shocked at how easily I gave my boundaries away.
If someone had asked me if this person ever caused me to move a boundary, maybe I would have said, “Oh hell yes. What have I been thinking?” But I don’t know. Maybe fear was still too prominent. There would have been significant consequences for bringing boundaries to the table.
But even in the face of big consequences, fear is never the answer. If our boundaries are being moved, we are the only ones who can stop the pushback. If we want to live with compassion toward others, we have to have compassion with ourselves. If we feel taken advantage of, if we feel we are having the life sucked out of us…we have nothing left to give.
Sometimes all we need is one life lesson to teach us about our never-agains. Our boundaries are about making sure we have life to give to those who need it. If we want compassion, love and kindness to be our life message, we must begin with ourselves. Boundaries are mandatory.