What to Say When Setting Boundaries
Megan Owen Cox, MA, is a Pastoral Trauma Counselor, board certified in Crisis Counseling with Mountain City Christian Counseling
In my all time favorite book, Hind’s Feet on High Places, Much-Afraid must remove herself from the “Valley of Humiliation” and all of her “family members” who live there (Craven Fear, Pride, Self-Pity, etc) before she becomes strong enough to handle onslaughts of affliction. She takes a lengthy life-journey to be able to develop the strength that she needs, which consists of being removed from the attack (mostly) and clinging to her Shepherd. Women and men who have been in abusive situations are not always accustomed in handling those who oppress or those who are connected to those who are oppressing. Not yet.
Sweet sisters and brothers of mine, people are using you when they insult and criticize. They are using you when they get too personal and ask you questions of which you are not comfortable answering. People are using you when they yell at you, scream at you, make you feel bad about yourself, or abuse you in any way. People are using you because they need a scapegoat or they need to try to feel better about themselves. There are so many people who are not connected to themselves (inner Shalom) and must place their pain on SOMEONE. The truth is, you are probably gorgeous, sparkly and amazing. You may not know it, yet. But we do not allow people to use us. It is not the most loving choice for us or for them.
During that interim when you are learning of your intrinsic worth, here are some (hopefully) helpful words that aid in creating boundaries when you just don’t know what to say. Remember, set the bar high and expect others to meet you there:
When you need to go low-contact with someone who is friends with or is related to someone who is hurting you: “I am still healing and, while I appreciate your kindness, I am needing to take a break from relationships that remind me of the hurt I experienced. Thank you for understanding that I just need some time away. Things will probably change at some point. I appreciate your graciousness.”
When you need someone to stop meddling: “Thank you for wanting to help me. I know your heart is in the right place. But, I need you to allow me to handle this with my (people, parents, ex husband) and God alone. Thank you for understanding that I need you to just be my friend and not my counselor. I do not want to talk about this situation with you anymore.”
When you need to go no-contact: “Do not contact me again. Do not call, text, email me or message me on FB. If you do, I will get others involved.”
(Please note that we do not need to be polite with people who are harassing us or crossing over boundaries repeatedly. Sadly, people who do not respect you, nor your boundaries, do not understand being gracious. You must be clearer than clear.)
When people ask you personal questions: “I’m not comfortable answering that.” (repeat, as necessary)
When people push themselves onto your children: “I need you to not contact my children again in any way.” Period. Protect those littles! Remember, you are their parent and you know what is best for them.
You know that feeling you have after you have shared something that you did not mean to share and that made you uncomfortable? Pay attention to that. That means that healthy boundaries have been crossed and your self-respect has gone quite a bit down, which aids in a downward spiral. You know that feeling when you are resentful? That is how I know I have weak boundaries somewhere or someone is not respecting my boundaries. You do not have to allow this to happen, loved ones. Stand tall . . . . look people in the eye and say what needs to be said. Gentle and firm boundary-setting will aid in healing your self-respect. And you are to be respected, friends. You are so worth being respected.
Remember that if people do not respect your boundaries, they probably never will. And taking a “time out” from said people is not a bad thing. Take heart! You are getting stronger. And someday, you'll be teaching this to others!