Boundaries sometimes get a bad rap. Some people don't understand or like when you say no, or when you live by a calendar. Saying "no" or "not now" is taken as personal rejection, "You don't like me or value me enough to spend time with me." But that's not always the case.
Some of the most Kingdom successful and productive people I know set and defend firm boundaries to protect time and energy. They know what their life is to be about, and therefore say no much more often than they say yes. They live by the maxim Gordon MacDonald made famous in Ordering Your Private World "If you don't schedule your time, others will be glad to schedule it for you."
What got me thinking about this? Two things: 1. Clarification of boundaries between professional time and personal time with a friend who also employs me as a Leadership Coach for his business, and 2. Desire and determination to finish a book to teach as many couples as possible how to coach their own marriage.
First, the former. Do you know why some counselors avoid telling people on seatmates on airplanes what they do for a living? Because we will inevitably be told about their problems as if they are doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to work a little bit more. No thanks. Believe it or not, asking, listening, conceptualizing, diagnosing and treatment planning are energy intensive, and those services deserve to be compensated. But, I'll admit that when led by the Holy Spirit to answer directly about what I do, I will be truthful. The rest of the time I say, "I work in healthcare." All but the persistent and insensitive passengers get the point, "He doesn't want to talk." Not the best 24/7 witness, I know, but this blog is Raw Reflections so I'm trying to keep it real. When it comes to friendship, I want to relax in reciprocal relationship and not be "on duty" to access my psychological or Leadership Coaching database of experience to perform these professional functions.
The second reason I've been thinking about and identifying and setting boundaries was the impetus for this blog entry; protecting time and energy needed to fulfill some of my life purpose through a portion of Jill and my mission: To inspire and equip as many Christian Marriages as possible to have a pleasurable, hopeful and purposeful marriage for the Kingdom of God and to help them to help others to have the same. One means of doing this is in writing, and we've had a book "in the works" for way too long. It bothers me every day that it isn't yet in the hands of couples who don't know what they don't know about essential skills and attitudes they need to heal, strengthen and protect their marriage and to help other couples do the same.
The point? Since we live in time and space, there are a finite number of hours in a day that we can be productive; yea, a finite number of hours left to live this life, and to fulfill our God-given purpose before we hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
So, boundaries are good, not bad. They protect people and purpose. They define how much of us we give to others, and when we give that. Since time and energy are in limited supply each day, stewardship demands that I judiciously parcel these out to the people and purposes that God puts on my path. So, if you hear me say "no", or "not now", it doesn't necessarily mean that I don't care about you, or that I don't value an endeavor in which you are involved. It means that I'm continuing to do my best to do my best with the purposes that God designed me to fulfill, and the people He's given me to love and care for.
Hmmm. Back to work!
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