Myths and the Truth about Christians and Boundaries

I want to be a woman who is known for her love of God, and because I know just how much a lack of boundaries can hurt us physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually, I have made it one of my professional and personal goals to establish some better boundaries in my life. This means figuring out the lies I believed about them, and what are the actual truths I now know. The road to boundary setting, both with my clients and in my life in general, has truly been an eye-opening journey. One that revealed that I was tolerating some very toxic behaviors in the “name of love,” that were not very loving, and only teaching others how to take advantage. Not to love at all.

Some of those myths I believed, and that you may to-I am hoping to dig into today. These are the most common that demonstrate how the call to love and show compassion can get oh so twisted.

Number 1:

We are to allow and tolerate all kinds of behavior in the name of love.

Forgive, turn the other cheek. This comment will be used to justify poor behavior, but Jesus has some clear directions when addressing poor behavior both in the church and outside of it.

Number 2:

You can’t block people on social media, or in general. That’s rude and mean

It’s mean if the intention behind it was to be mean. But if the intention was to create distance, to remove a lifestyle trigger, or maybe you did out of respect for someone else, then it’s not mean at all. It’s a personal boundary that needs no explanation.

Number 3:

If I say “No,” I am being disobedient.

Did you lie about your “No,” or did you just decide you didn’t feel like helping? Or were you truly busy? You CAN help later. That is acceptable.

Number 4:

Setting limits shows intolerance.

Setting limits is teaching them how to treat you with respect, dignity, honor, and with the values you have decided matter to you and your household. One of these limits will have to be your desire to serve God over the world, which means some people will have to go.

Listen to the full episode and my full thoughts on each of these myths in on Spotify! You don’t want to miss this one.

Boundaries: Getcha Some!

Well, it has been recorded. The first full length episode of Mental Health, the Church, and You, has dropped on Spotify

In the first episode, you will find an introduction to boundaries. Why did I choose boundaries for this first topic? Because unclear boundaries, or a lack of boundaries is believed to be at the core of many mental health issues, and also relationship struggles (source).

It is also a topic that can misunderstood among Christians, as it is often believed those who follow Christ should not set boundaries because it shows unforgiveness, is mean, or is not Christ-like at all.

Here are the three things Scripture teaches about boundaries that you will hear more about in this podcast episode:

Boundaries protect us from evil.

As indicated in Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Just as we erect physical fences around our yards to keep bad things out, God directs us to erect a protective shield around our hearts and minds.

It is OK to say “No.”

Jesus warned His followers in Matthew 5:37, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” He was making it clear that we allow people to determine and interpret our boundaries because we tend to be wishy-washy in our answers, especially when asked to do something. We don’t express our desires with definite answers. Just say “yes,” or “no.” “No” is OK, too…

God sets boundaries for us.

God sets limits. He sets borders. He decides what goes in and goes out. Teaches us how to keep evil out and let good in, and does so with love.

Listen to the full episode for more!

What now God: Part 2

Stories. For several years now, I have used this platform to tell stories. Taken a break for a time. Began again because there were some needing to be told. He placed a desire in me to tell stories. I know that about me. I celebrate that about me.

Our stories make us feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is a hot commodity. It’s been researched. It is said to be what leads to true authenticity. But it also leaves us wide open. When we make a decision to be vulnerable we are open ourselves up to attack. Think about most elite military arsenals who are waiting for their targets to be “vulnerable.” Defenseless. Susceptible. Without a means to protect oneself. Unguarded. Weak.

Enemies can prey on the weak and vulnerable.

I have shared stories. I have been vulnerable. And at times it has left me weak, raw, and open to attack.

In an effort to be authentic, I have traded transparency for safety. For approval. For the need to fit in and do the next big, cool, and accepted thing that seemed to make me appear “vulnerable.”

But I sacrificed me.

I love the author Brene Brown. She studied vulnerability and shame for many years, and this quote resonated with me as I read through many of her thoughts on the subject: “We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid that our truth isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing, and impressing.

We are not enough if we are not doing what they are doing. If our bells, and our whistles do not look and sound like their bells and their whistles. If we begin to do those things because we think we should, or because everyone else is; then we are definitely susceptible. Definitely under attack. Definitely unsafe. We are under attack from becoming someone we were never intended to be.

I mentioned in my last post I stopped doing videos for silly reasons, yet I wonder if they were truly “silly.” Or if the underlying reason was because doing them was just not me. It isn’t in my makeup. It’s not at my core. To sit behind a video screen, watch myself on camera, and monitor how my arms flail, and my eyelids dart about. I don’t like video screens. I am not made for those. That is not authentically me. That bell and whistle is for someone else. Someone else for whom that form of “voice” is made.

Me? My authentic voice is the pen. I write. I have since I was little. I do it all the time now. Notebooks stored in drawers, purses, bags, all with thoughts and words that are all jumbled up in my mind until pen hits paper. It is the place where vulnerability meets my genuine voice. It is the place where vulnerability meets truth. It is the place where vulnerability shares raw, real, and honest stories. It is the place where vulnerability seeks to be courageous, though still very flawed. It is me-nothing but me.

“The core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and to set boundaries.” Brene Brown

So, I told you mental health, the church, and an some initial lessons on boundaries was what you would get-and you will. Just from my authentic place. Pen, paper (well, computer). My voice. My authentic voice. The place where vulnerability meets truth and courage. Not with the bells and whistles that suit everyone else.

That is your first lesson on boundaries (the “meat” comes next week!).

DO NOT apologize for being you. Find your authentic voice, your niche, your bell and whistle, and OWN it.

Your craft will not be like anyone else’s. Your gift will not be like any others. If God intended it to be this way, He would have made us all the same, and we would all be doing and walking in the same purpose. He didn’t. He made us all different. Gave us a variety of gifts, and many ways to use them. Some are for you. Some are not. You do not need to apologize for not using those that are not for you. Ever.

Find and stay around people who encourage you in using your authentic craft.

You will not be for everyone, and that is OK. You do not have to light yourself on fire for them if you are terrified of fire. Those who love you, accept you, and know your dreams and desires will support the unique ways in which you choose to use your voice. Allow them to be your cheerleaders and your guiding lights. You remain light and love to those others, while staying authentic to who you are!

Staying truly connected

One of the things we all crave is connection. We are all looking for someone with whom we can feel we can share our lives. Our secrets. Our dreams. Our hearts. We want connection. 

Connection also requires vulnerability. Vulnerability requires us to bear all. Bearing all causes hurt. When we become hurt, we retreat, and the one thing we want to do most of all is disconnect. 

In an effort to avoid the same pain. The same judgment. The same wounds. The same abandonment. The same rejections. The same patterns.

I realize in my effort to avoid hurt, I became a staunch advocate for disconnection. Some of it was for good. I learned some good things from my time of burying my head in the sand so to speak.

But I also learned that disconnecting is not always the answer.

It keeps us from hearing about the ways in which we can be a healer in a hurting world.

For instance, as I sat listening to the story of my fellow sister in Christ tell of a dying daughter, stuck in her native land of Liberia; I researched other missions in Liberia. I found so many things that I knew nothing of; simply because my hurt had caused me to disconnect. In my selfishness. In my focus on myself, I had shut out the voices of the needy around me.

I learned that some of the very people that had encouraged me in the past, I had shut out simply because I had shut off some of the noise of some who hurt me.

Case in point, when I heard the voice mail. I heard a voice of a woman who adored me. She missed me. Even if it was through a post. An encouraging message. When I saw another in the church cafe, I realized I hadn’t seen her in months, but she remembered me, because I had an encouraging word to speak. She was a partner in my ministry, and I had shut her out, simply because I wanted and needed to silence one or two negative voices. Because I focused on a few who had hurt or caused harm.

But I did learn some valuable lessons. Disconnection revealed that sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader. That you have to dig down deep to find the core of who you desire yourself to be. Because when you disconnect. You find there are not that many people cheering you on any longer.

That the one ones who do are often not the ones who live in the same area code as you. Even share the same family tree. When social media connections are cut, so are the connections and conversations. And no one comes looking for you. No one is cheering on your accomplishments. Or wishing you well on your next big test except those who have still been burning up the phone lines. You learn that some are actually willing to still come looking for you. Drop off goodies at your job. Swing by just to say hello. Check on you when you have been silent for a while.

Some even in different zip codes. That’s true connection.

You often learn that mere strangers can encourage you far more than those you thought actually “knew” you.

You learn about “connection” when you disconnect.

You learn that some were around just to keep up. Small towns are like this. We connect to see if you were really who “you used to be.” We all do it, and really, unless it’s for the reasons I’ll mention below, and we are not seeking a connection in order to have gossip worthy tea for girls night out to talk about the “boujee” pastor (wink, wink) or to make ourselves feel good for whatever reason…then just disconnect.

Disconnection isn’t always good. But reconnecting in the same ole way isn’t what’s best either. Why? Because our way of connection is a facade. Connection is simply that. Connecting. Not putting on a false face or persona that we hope to portray for the outside world in the hopes that someone will resonate with it. We connect by reaching out to others in our broken down places. And I mean reaching. Not for our smart phones through a media app. I disconnected from over 500 Facebook friends for almost a year, and I felt more connected than ever. What’s that say?

Connection is acts of mercy. Connection is seeking justice. Connection is loving the lost. Connection is showing love to the unloveable.

Connection is encouragement. Building someone up. Showing support for someones accomplishment.

Connection is choosing to accept someone who may be different than you, and being willing to at least LISTEN to their perspective.

Connection is coming to the realization that we all grow, and instead of standing in crowds and gossiping about it, we can stand in awe and applaud someone’s growth together.

Connection is raw, emotional, honest, true, intentional, genuine, and too often rare. In these days of darkness and despair, it is what we all desire and crave, and even with these apps at our fingertips it’s really what we have the least of.

You want to be connected to me? Be a little less like that connected troll calling out that all the wayward ways of everyone’s past from high school in small towns, and be a little more like the connected qualities listed above. Otherwise, don’t be offended if your request is declined. I promise I’m not being “boujee,” just selective.

What happened when I deleted Facebook

If you have been around for a while, or ever seen my YouTube videos, you know I deleted Facebook about 8 or so months ago. I had my various reasons why; some that had to do with my overall well-being. Regardless of those reasons, stepping away from the ever-popular app has had benefits, and has been eye-opening.

First, I am going to take a queue from Paul here and mention, “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 1 Corinthians 10:23. You may have no problem with Facebook. You may be able to scroll and it not affect you. Let me just say-it was not beneficial for me.

Here are the various things that have been good for me. Things I learned and have gained since my Facebook exit:

I didn’t miss the 100 or more obligatory Happy Birthday posts.

No, I really didn’t. I had maybe 10 instead. All sent to the place where meaningful connections usually take place. To my actual phone number. I didn’t miss the birthday wishes that only came because an app reminded someone to do it. Instead, I enjoyed those from the people who actually remember my born day (Shout out to those who do!). Called. Sent meaningful, heartfelt wishes, and I love you’s. Simply because they know. They may need a calendar to tell them it’s my special day. But they don’t need a social media notification to do so.

I began to engage in meaningful conversation.

Think about it. How many of your conversations center around what you saw or read on Facebook. I’ll admit for a while I had a little bit of FOMO. “I didn’t see it, you know…deleted Facebook.” Thought I was missing the latest and greatest. But after a while, I noticed I engaged less with those who spent all their time trolling, and commenting on social media concerns, and more time having real-time, face-to-face conversations with people. Learned more about them, and who they were beyond their latest post.

I turned off the “noise.”

And for a while even the news. No, I didn’t bury my head in the sand, and pretend the world wasn’t still spinning in utter chaos…I just chose to engage in reputable sources. Those without comments from people arguing back and forth. I read and formed my own opinion, without all the “noise” in the comments section; or from the news feed convincing me how I should think.

I turned off the “noise” in my own head.

As I mentioned in my video about my decision, Facebook left me anxious. It provided me with a very negative mindset. It also allowed me to judge people in ways they may not be, simply because they posted or “liked” something. It left me in a constant state of comparison to others “highlights,” and left me feeling like my life was empty and meaningless. I questioned motives. I questioned intentions. It was bad for my headspace. For me. That’s my personal experience. Yours could be very different.

I learned who was really down. Who would reach farther than the social media messenger function.

Look…I’m just being real. I’ve had the same phone number for 16 plus years. It’s been inactive only when I’ve been out of the country, which was no more than 14 days in those last 16 years. Social media is not my only connection to the outside world. I have unlimited texts and phone calls, and I can count on my two hands how many have used this method to still keep in touch. Those would be the “loyal” circle. If social media kept you in the “circle,” and now you have cut that“circle” off…my dear, I’m fine with a smaller one. Harsh? Possibly, but it’s the straight up truth. Connections with people should go much deeper than a random Facebook comment, or “thumbs-up” here and there.

I realized…lives are not often a true reflection of what is posted.

Don’t let social media fool you. Since I have had more time to really talk outside of apps, I have learned that marriages that look the happiest aren’t. That the people that look their “best,” are struggling with their self-esteem. That the houses that look the “cleanest,” have dirty corners no one dares mention. The family on that dream vacation has been at each other’s throat the entire time. No one shares these moments. What you are seeing on Facebook is highly curated posts and updates only highlighting what is good. Stop comparing yourself to what in most cases is a false representation of the people behind the “happy” smiles. There is truth to that often referenced quote: “People are not always what they post to be.”

I had more time to do things I had put off for so long.

Without the desire to check on likes, statuses, messages, and post every single moment, I created space to update my “read” list (books that is). Write AND publish a devotional instead of a Facebook worthy post. Study for an exam I had to put off. Focus on my mental health. Actually enjoy family dinner without phones. I had time to declutter. Time with friends. Time with God first thing in the morning, and not my news feed. And none of this newfound time and connection involved scrolling through endless media chatter.

I found solace in a more private life.

A media hacking may have forced me into the need for privacy, but I found that when I shut off the app, my desire to post every single detail about my life also shut down. I still share. But my kids are no longer the subject. My grandchildren are for me (and their parents) to enjoy and raise. My private moments, are well…private. I now blog my deeper thoughts. Journal. Or just say nothing, and I realize that the more people know about you; know what you are doing, where you are going, who you are with, what cause you are supporting, what moves you are making; the more they can use against you. When I stopped posting every little thing, I learned to move and accomplish things with the support of my biggest (physically present) cheerleaders, and not the constant peering of a social media “crowd.”

I don’t even miss it!

Look. I get it. It’s hard to pull the plug. You want to keep your distant relatives posted with cute pics of your kids. You want to see what your “friends” from high school are up to. But could a photo sharing app accomplish the first? Could a birthday phone call do the trick? And about that high school acquaintance…well, is there a reason they need to keep up with you? Or are you secretly hoping your life looks better than theirs? Or even better than it did in high school?

What now?

Personally, I don’t miss it. One single bit. Really. Why? Because my life was full of negativity and uncertainty with it. Most especially my worth. Now? Well, my life is just full. And I don’t have to tell all my 500 plus “friends” it is so.

Not ready to pull the plug completely yet? Try it for a month. Then tell me if your experience is anything like mine. I’d love to hear all about it…just not on Facebook, of course (see the Get Social Page for alternatives).

You can go here, but not there…

There is something about being at the beach that seems to bring about the idea that life really does make sense. Maybe it’s the salty air. The sounds. Or the fact that our ever moving minds and bodies are truly in “vacation” mode. But here…I hear His Spirit once again and it revives me.

As I took one of my long morning walks along the shoreline, I took note of the pattern and rythym of the waves and thought of their movement. How do they know where to stop? The waves that is. How do they know how to get to shore, and know they can only go but so far?

I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. Jeremiah 5:22

They can only go but so far. God created boundaries so the earth would not be covered by the sea. As we walk along beaches we trust in the one who demands the wind and waves obey. Knowing they cannot cross His boundaries.

But what about those boundaries he sets for us? What happens when he tells us “You can only go this far?”

Do we listen? Or do we venture out on our own into territory He hasn’t set out for us?

Just like He commands the seas to stop at a certain point. Tells them you can go here, but not there-he sets the boundaries of right living for us as well. “You can go here, but only this far. Going any further without my guidance, against my better judgment will consume you.”

He provides us direction and boundaries because His way is always far better than ours. The direction we want to take isn’t always the one God intended. So in an effort to ensure we are not tossed by the waves, or consumed by the waters of the sea, He tells us, sends us as far as He is willing to let us go.

His boundaries are to protect not to harm. His boundaries are set to keep us safe, not to stifle us. His boundaries are set because His ways are higher than our ways.

Are we going to trust His judgment? Or are we going to stray too far away? Are we going to keep pushing boundaries until we are taken under?

What boundary are you pushing that is keeping you from going where God intends for you to go? Maybe it’s time to let Him direct you, and finally listen when He says, “You can go here, but there? I am not sending you there.”

Reflections on “self-love”

There’s a misconception that to love oneself, you are not surrendering yourself to God. I read somewhere recently in fact that indicated that loving oneself was wrong, and unbiblical. Selfish, is the word the writer used; stating it takes our eyes off God. That the only way to truly love oneself is to love others without boundaries.

It was on the internet. There were tons of comments. I didn’t rant underneath it. I didn’t unfollow. I agreed to disagree, moved on, and looked in the Bible instead. To what God has revealed to me over a number of months.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

As yourselves.

So the question: How do we truly love our neighbor if we hate ourselves? Shouldn’t we know how immensely God loves us and embrace that first?

Yes. Because I have loved without boundaries, and it has left me feeling useless, unworthy, and forgotten. Totally unloveable. I didn’t know the first thing about love (I talk about that journey here and here), and I took the time to talk to God about it.

Love others as you love yourself. Love yourself. As God has loved you. Know His love, accept His love, and wear it like a crown, so you can show His love to others.

That’s what He revealed to me. And knowing whose you are, and who you are; and loving that is not selfish. Love is God’s tool for us to use to light the world, but never to the point we begin to doubt His love for us. That’s not love. Not healthy love, anyway.

Through that time I also wrote a personal mission statement. A statement to remain in His love, and honor the love He has given me, so I would never question my worth. I am here to tell you: If you don’t know the love of God, you won’t truly know what it means to love others as yourself.

Personal Manifesto

I will embrace forgiveness and grace from my Heavenly Father, and forgive myself for the mistakes I have made. I may walk with a limp, but that limp tells the story of a woman so dependant on her Father for survival, of a woman so blessed. So beautiful. Broken, but made new and whole.

I will not look to this world for approval. I will embrace the fact that I am already approved, set apart, and made great by my Maker.

I can not control the thoughts and actions of others. Only they can.

I cannot fix people. Make them nicer. Make them more respectful. Make their lives better. Only God can.

I will continue to be kind, despite unkindness. Because it’s what Jesus would do.

I will, however, honor myself and my well-being by choosing not to be in the presence any longer of people who treat others with hate. Choosing to pray for changed hearts instead.

I can choose to stay away from toxic people. Those who consistently tear down and suck the life out of me. Realizing my kindness may never make a difference in some cases. Choosing to pray for changed hearts instead.

I can and will put my needs first when it’s necessary. My desire to foster positive and healthy physical, mental and spiritual health is not at all selfish. It’s mandatory.

I can and will set boundaries around my heart. Choosing to let go of people who consistently reject and abuse them.

I will decide not to be defined by the world’s standards of success. Knowing that riches fade, but kind, loving souls and hearts don’t.

I will not lose hope. I will realize that bad things exist. People mistreat people. But there is also good in the world. I will make a point to look for the good.

I will honor who I am in Him through my words, my thoughts, and my actions. Teach others how to treat me, and model to the world what love truly is. Love for God, love of the person He has made me to be, and love for others. Even those that are unloveable.

I will be me. Unapologetically.

It’s not selfish to honor this daily. To practice habits that demonstrate your value and your worth. To care for and love yourself. These steps give us the capacity to love others in ways we never have before. Without any agenda. Without any motive. With only the love of God. That love He so freely has given to us.

Offered to all. Unselfish as He is. Worthy to be celebrated and honored in the person you were made to be! As magnificent as he/she is.

Claim it. Own it. Put your personal “stamp” on your mission to “love yourself” as He loves you!