Boundaries 101 Rule 3

Last week was the third installment of our blog series on boundaries and healthy relationships. If you’re not caught up on the story, I suggest going back and reading the prior two posts first. This next piece of the story may be difficult to follow without that background.

After we purged Hoa’s home of her belongings, I was left with the larger problem of finding her housing accommodations for the next week. The lease on her new home wouldn’t start for another seven days, and Hoa and her four family members would be homeless for the week in between. It’s worth noting here that my wife had expressed her own concerns, in addition to my former roommates, that I was taking too much responsibility for Hoa’s well-being.

I found a shelter across town and told Hoa that we needed to leave soon, or they would shut the doors, and she would have nowhere to stay. She responded and said she was 71 years old and had made it this far on her own. “I won’t die,” she said defiantly. I knew she wouldn’t budge once she made up her mind, so I left.

Late that night, I got a phone call from Hoa, “My friend who I wanted to stay with won’t answer her phone. Can I come stay with you?”

I couldn’t believe it. “Why did she not go to the shelter when it was open?” Letting her stay could jeopardize my lease and create a rift in my marriage. How am I supposed to help her if I’m having to keep my own life together?” And most significantly, “Is she going to be okay if I don't let her in?”

It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made, but I had to say “no.” Which leads to my third rule for boundaries:

Rule 3: Sometimes you have to say “no,” so that you can later say “yes.”

Saying “no” to someone can be extremely difficult, especially when it is someone you care about. But when we exhaust our resources helping someone, whether they be emotional, financial, physical, etc., it prevents us from coming back again to the table to serve. This happens frequently to pastors, nurses, caretakers, therapists, and those in similar roles where people carry the burdens of others. We call this burnout.

When you create and hold boundaries, you’re playing the long game. Boundaries are a strategic way of ensuring your capacity to work and serve for years to come, rather than exhausting yourself in a brief season of time.

Practically speaking, it’s also more efficient to have boundaries. Which is more profitable: working at 65% capacity 7 days a week, or working at 80% capacity 6 days a week? The former nets you a 455% output, the latter 480%. In other words, you get less done although you’ve worked longer hours. When you set boundaries and allow yourself to rest, you work and serve more efficiently and get more accomplished.

It became clear to me that if I said “yes” this time to Hoa, it would significantly diminish my capacity to say “yes” later down the road. So my “no” to letting Hoa stay in the home wasn’t selfish, but a means of protecting my capacity to say “yes” to helping her later on. Because of that decision, my friendship with Hoa was able to continue.

Where are you giving too much? Are you working too many hours? Is the amount of time spent helping another keeping you from healthy life rhythms (paying bills, sleeping, exercise, etc.)? Are you sacrificing your own sanity because another has so many problems? If you’d like help establishing and maintaining healthy life rhythms and boundaries, check out our resource for you called Rhythms or schedule an appointment at The Well Clinic with one of our clinicians. Come back next week for our final blog on boundaries.