“Where there is an abundance of chaos, there usually is a lack of boundaries”
Our daughter, who is attending the United States Military Academy Prep School, called us the day she would be catching her flight home for the holidays to ask us if it would be okay if one of her classmates came home with her.
He literally had nowhere to go for Christmas. (There are so many cadet candidates in a similar situation.)
In the past, I would have said, “Yes, of course!” right away without hesitation, because that is, after all, the Christian way, right? Christians love first and then think about it later, right?
However, after many years into this thing called life, I have realized that that’s not the Christian way. Choosing that way of responding is a way that can lead to resentment, stress, regret and, as mentioned above, chaos.
This is how I used to think a Christian loved, especially when I would hear people try to manipulate my emotions by saying things like, “Oh, but I thought you were a Christian.” Or, “That’s not what a Christian would do.” Or, “You are their last resort.”
I am learning that saying yes to a need without having a plan or setting up the proper boundary to process the reality of what that plan will turn into, is not love and it is not the Christian way.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have taken something on because I felt I was their last “Lord and Savior,” only to find out later that God had a better plan. I didn’t need to save what truly didn’t need saving.
So, I took a moment to process what that would mean for our family and for our holidays and what that would mean for this young cadet as well.
In the past, I allowed guilt to keep me in unhealthy and unsafe environments, with people who did not have my best interest at heart.
I have even handed money over to someone who has hurt me and betrayed my trust, all because I lacked boundaries and would allow the “good Christian guilt” to take over. Or I would doubt knowing what was true because I so badly wanted people to like me or approve of me.
In the past, I would have felt guilty that I didn’t say yes right away, but I have learned that responding with a “No, that won’t work for me right now” doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me a healthy person.
And if my words aren’t enough to convince you that boundaries are Christian, and that they are good, just go to the book of Genesis!
One of the first conversations that God had with Adam, was about what…? Yes! Boundaries. He could eat from all of the trees except for one. Reading this recently was my Alleluia moment!
Eventually, I responded to our daughter and let her know that this cadet absolutely had a place at our home but not without first taking the time to fully process what that yes would mean.
And you know what? Once I said yes, I felt at peace because I freely chose this decision. I was proud of myself. I had completely accepted the good and the hard that would come with it—not out of guilt, or manipulation, or for the need to be or look like a good person, or to be loved, but because I honestly wanted to welcome him into our home.
Taking a moment to process what his presence would mean for our holiday and our family time didn’t make me a wretched person, it made me a responsible person.
To try and steer clear of the chaos, set good boundaries for yourself now. As someone told me years ago, healthy boundaries are love for yourself and for those you love.
Join the conversation. Send your thoughts to the editor Jon Sweeney.
A reflection on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Lætitia
"As a vocation, also fatherhood calls us beyond our children"