Would you believe that I’m almost half a century old and have only recently discovered that I’m a people pleaser? I mentioned this revelation to a few people I’m close to and they quickly said, “Well I could have told you that!!”. My response was, “Gee! Thanks for clueing me in!” haha!
I never thought of myself as a people pleaser. I actually thought of myself as exactly the opposite. A rebel who didn’t give a flying fig about what others thought. I now realize, though, that this was wishful thinking and that I’ve spent the better part of my life rebelling and in denial. I have overcompensated for the actual truth that I am indeed a people pleaser. Self-preservation runs deep through my veins.
I’ve realized that an issue for me is not having healthy boundaries. I either offer someone my complete focus or I completely close off my heart with fortress-like resolve. Neither of these has worked out well for me.
The concept of having healthy boundaries is fresh for me. It came by reading Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. With much counsel and prayer, I’ve implemented a few boundaries in my life that have been quite revolutionary. We live in houses for a reason. Walls protect us. The flip side of that is they can also keep us closed off. There’s a difference between isolation and insulation. Boundaries that are balanced can bring great freedom.
I’m still working through what other boundaries I need to set but here are five that are current works in progress.
Boundaries in my emotions.
I will only cry if I want to/need to. No one can make me cry or feel, for that matter, anything. How I feel and if I cry is solely up to me. I am in control of whether I’m mean or kind. I want to be kind. I’m not always kind. But I’m not always mean either. I’d love for kindness to weigh heavier on the scale. I’ve learned that I can’t give what I don’t have. This concept plays into many areas of my life. If I want to be like Jesus then I have to make sure I fill myself with him.
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
Boundaries in my choices.
I can say no… or yes. I will let myself off the hook more. I can be pretty hard on myself. I won’t feel guilty about doing what I love or what I’m called to do. It would be easy for this boundary to become a free for all on my end. I can’t do that. I have realized that my choices also bring my consequences. I have to live with the consequences of my choices.
What I say “yes” to will be a “no” to something else and vice versa. (tweet this)
There is wisdom seeking involved in carrying this one out. Freedom and protection sit together within the boundaries of healthy choices.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” ~Proverbs 2:6
Boundaries in the physical.
In the physical domain, I must practice wisdom with how I offer my time, my energy, my body. Sometimes these things can be given freely but sometimes they cannot. I pray for clear direction in this boundary. Having spent most of my life in self-protection mode, this is a tough one for me to find freedom in.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13
Boundaries with my time.
Finding balance in boundaries with my time has been a tough one for me. I get engrossed in doing what I love, usually writing, but the toilet still needs to be scrubbed or the dishwasher emptied or dinner cooked on occasion. This boundary also falls back to my choices boundary. I can be very selfish with how I spend my time. This boundary will easily trip me up if I’m not paying attention.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23
Boundaries in my finances.
After 27 years of marriage, we have managed our finances in a variety of ways. And all too often our finances managed us. We recently implemented a new plan that is working so well for me and my husband. It wouldn’t have worked for us 20 years ago but it does now. Putting this new plan in place came from a need for me to have some freedom when it came to how I spent money. This boundary has brought peace like I couldn’t have imagined. This boundary is working!
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, since no one will see God without it.” ~Hebrews 12:14 (The Voice)
I, in no way, want to convey that I’ve got this boundary-setting business down. At best, I’m stumbling forward. This people-pleasing revelation and my need for boundaries are new for me. I have much to learn.
I’ve been learning that grace and boundaries are a most delightful and tricky pairing. I haven’t figured out the best plate presentation yet but I’m working on it. I find myself grappling with how I can offer grace and maintain healthy boundaries. How can I be a grace giver and not be someone’s doormat? Jesus gives grace freely but that doesn’t mean that we get to do everything we want (Romans 6:1). He offers the free gift of grace to us within some established boundaries. Like the graceless Pharisee, I used to think that boundaries were hard fast rules to keep me alive. What I found is that those hard fast boundaries kept me from living. Life is beautiful when grace and boundaries coexist.
I can choose to live inside walls that keep me safe or inside walls that set me free.
Are you a recovering people pleaser? What boundaries work for you? I’d love to learn from you. Please share!
I too am a recovering people-pleaser. Mine came from fear . . . maybe most does, I’m not sure. But I’m gradually learning to set healthy boundaries and trust God more to handle the rest. It’s a slow process changing decades-long thinking and behavior. Blessings to you!
It sounds like you’ve got some great insight and steps in place. Yes, we all need grace in this area so much, because finding where those walls belong and where they need to give is hard for mere mortals, isn’t it?
I am absolutely a recovering people pleaser! Thank you so much for sharing some great ideas for helping to create the boundaries to work through that. I love that you showed how grace fits in with it all.
When I realized I needed boundaries I was very confused as to how grace fit in. Like I said, I haven’t got it all figured out but I know they belong on the same plate.
stumbling forward is still moving in the right direction!!!
Absolutely and THANK God!! I’m so good at stumbling forward.
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“Life is beautiful when grace and boundaries coexist.” I like that!
I wonder what we would discover on this subject if we studied the life of Jesus with this specific topic in mind. He had some boundaries, too, but He also offered much grace. And I think He sometimes let grace trump over the boundaries, like when He was trying to get away to get some rest, and the whole crowd followed Him and the disciples around the lake and were there when they disembarked from the boat. (You know, this could become an entire Bible Study….)
We have the Holy Spirit in us to give us wisdom and guidance. May we continue to be more and more like He wants us to be! 🙂
I LOVE, love, love the title. And I love the hope I see in you…welcome to the spring.
Well you know I gotta fill the plate. 🙂 May it be filled with grace. And yes, I’m kinda liking this season. Still lots of hard work to be done but hope is shining pretty bright.
Very beautifully written. I too am a people pleaser and can take a lot from your words. Thanks for the post! 🙂
Kori, I’m grateful you found some insight here. Thanks for stopping by. You are welcome anytime.
You touched on a principle for boundary setting here: boundaries change. From season to season (like your finances) and in different situations. It is good to have the boundaries as a general guideline, but they are not immovable. Thank you for sharing some personal things with us. I learn so much by watching you!
If I’ve learned anything in my almost half century, it’s that things change whether we want them to or not. “Man makes his plans, God guides his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
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Hi thank you for this great information. I knew I am a people pleaser however I never realized how boundries could co exist. Thank you Lesli