Last week after the kids settled down, my husband and I went to Dairy Queen for a romantic getaway. Now I am revealing how cheap we are, but I do love an Oreo Blizzard; maybe because they come with one of those long handled spoons that make eating ice cream so much fun.
While we were sitting in the booth next to the lit up neon DQ sign, my husband asked me, “What would you tell the 18-year-old Emily?” Without missing a beat, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was, “I would tell her not to invite her abuser to her wedding.” I found it curious that this was my gut reaction, but the more I thought about it, I realized this response was about setting boundaries. Inviting my abuser to my wedding was a decision I let other people make for me.
I hear people talk about setting boundaries all the time, but what does that even mean? I am a sensitive person, so the idea of setting boundaries has always sounded kind of selfish to me because it makes me think of phrases carrying an attitude such as, “I don’t care what you think”, or “Don’t tell me what to do.” I actually do care what the people who love me think, and I want to listen to the guidance given by people I trust. So is it possible to set boundaries with people and still keep an open, loving, and humble heart?
God has boundaries set upon righteousness, “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31). Although, this boundary does not restrain His power, wisdom and knowledge. God sets boundaries with His children, they are called commandments. Yet, those boundaries will never limit His limitless love. The only thing that ebbs and flows with our ability to keep those commandments is our own happiness. So, as we are all striving to become closer to God, I would say that it is possible to set loving boundaries.
I have to preface with pointing out that this is something I am terrible at, which is why I have been spending so much time thinking about it, but the conclusion I have come to is that anytime we place our happiness in someone else’s hands, we have just crossed a boundary. Setting boundaries means making faith based decisions and not letting other people dictate your self-worth.
I would tell the 18 year old me, “Do not spend your precious energy on defining yourself upon other people’s limited perspective. Someday you will be whole, but that will come through the effort spent turning to God. He carries the blessing of rescue and healing.”
Do not let other people hijack your happiness!
I talked in previous posts about my desperate need to defend my story to people who will never understand. I have let too much happiness seep through my own hands waiting for other people to save me. I have let my relationships with people, be determined by my insecurities and fears. I have let gossip cause me to doubt the spiritual healing, promptings and answers given me from God. I have spent too much time worrying what other people think when I already know what God thinks of me. I already know He loves me and that He is proud of me. There is none other than the one who can see deep down into my soul—the soul He created, who can give the validation I need.
I’ve wondered if I would be like Job. If everything this world had to offer was taken from me, would I still be happy? Have I put conditions on my happiness? God’s love will never be taken away so if you set the conditions of your happiness upon Him, there will never be a need to fear what men can do. My path will no longer be a treacherous one. I don’t have to be afraid of having my happiness stripped away because it is nourished through an infinite power.
Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care about people, it means you are filled with Christ like love towards them, knowing the love that nourishes your own happiness extends to others. In every way setting healthy boundaries improves relationships because you can have an open heart without fear.
As I let God into my heart, I find boundaries of freedom, love, hope, and happiness. The world’s opinion of me is cast away and negative influences dwindle into nothingness. Recently I have been learning just how much power I have over my own happiness, and its reward—a greater and more constant sense of peace.
“He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me: he gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me. They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me…Not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure…Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high. My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God” (Job 16:9-10,17,19-20).