Drawing Boundaries for Effective Leadership
by Susan Tolles, Certified Christian Life Coach Do you know how to say no?
As a servant leader with a generous heart, you probably say yes way too often out of obligation or guilt, filling your life with people and projects that do not align with your purpose. Instead of finding joy and meaning in your days, you experience resentment and anger. And instead of having time to devote to your ministry, your calendar is filled with activities that drain you.
Setting healthy boundaries is crucial to living a purpose-filled life. It may sound selfish, but boundaries are actually biblical! Proverbs 22:3 says “Sensible people foresee trouble and hide from it, but gullible people go ahead and suffer the consequence.” In 1 Corinthians, we read “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (v 15:33) And one of our best known, but least followed, verses says “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Here are four key areas to focus on as you contemplate drawing more distinct boundaries.
FAMILY. This is a tough one, because we are connected to family in ways that are hard to break. But if you have had an abusive past, or are in an abusive relationship now, you must say “no more.” Do not let guilt hold you in a situation that is destructive, and seek help right away. In less extreme circumstances, you may have a lack of communication, or misplaced priorities about “who’s on top” when it comes to discipline, allowing your children to rule the roost. You might be an empty nest mom who refuses to let go so your adult child can grow. Drawing clear boundaries in each of these instances will protect your intimate family unit, and will provide strong relationships in the future.
FRIENDS. We all know Negative Nellie, Dramatic Diane, Debbie Downer and Gossiping Greta, who drain the energy right out of us when we are around them. Difficult friendships must have been a problem for a very long time, because the book of Proverbs is full of verses that admonish us to choose carefully!
Proverbs 13:20 says “ Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” If there are people in your life who you dread spending time with, draw firm boundaries and let them go. Replace guilt and dread with inspiration and support from those who are true friends. Again, from Proverbs,” Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family.” (Prov 18:24, GW)
WORK. Do you take on the responsibilities of your co-workers out of obligation or guilt? Do you say yes to a role because someone things you would be a good fit and you don’t want to disappoint her? How about working long hours to complete a project, neglecting your personal obligations? Has your work become your identity? We’ve all been there, especially as generous-hearted people-pleasers who will do just about anything for anyone. You must draw clear boundaries around your work to be productive without exhaustion, and to honor God’s calling for your life. Remember, your work is not who you are, but what you do.
SELF. Lack of rest, an overbooked calendar, overeating, addiction to food, alcohol, drugs and social media….the list goes on and on. God commanded you to take care of your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. He told you to quiet down (rest, be still, leave white space on your calendar), guard your tongue (no gossip or sharp words) and be wise stewards of His gifts. Remember, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20) By drawing clear boundaries, you are showing obedience and reverence to the One who lovingly created you.
I look forward to seeing you at the November LeaderShare when we will take a deeper look at the boundaries you need in your life, and how to draw them with confidence and grace.
For in-depth study and tools for setting boundaries, I highly recommend Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.