How to Set Boundaries


Law 1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping

  • You reap what you sow. In other words, this is the law of “cause and effect.” If you smoke, you are likely to develop lung cancer. If you overspend, you are likely to end up broke. On the other hand, if you have a balanced diet and exercise regularly, you will stay healthy. If you are wise with your money, then you will always have enough. There is a problem when we interrupt this law and step in to rescue irresponsible people, preventing them from facing the consequences of their behaviour. The rescuer faces the consequences of the irresponsible individual, and the individual will never change their behaviour.


Law 2: The Law of Responsibility

  • Take responsibility for your own life. You can love someone, but cannot be that person. You cannot think for that person. In the same way, other people cannot do that for you. Everybody has to grow for themselves, to make their own decisions.  


Law 3: The Law of Power

  • You have the power to confront the truth about your problems. You have the power to make amends with people you have hurt. You cannot change others, only yourself. You can only influence others. Since you cannot make others change, you must change your approach to them.


Law 4: The Law of Respect

  • We tend to judge the decisions of others, assuming that we know best how they ought to live or “help” us. We believe that they ought to give to us in a way that we want them to. Whenever we judge, we will be judged. Fear of being unpopular prevents us from setting boundaries. Once we learn to respect other people’s “no,” they begin to respect our “no.” We should accept others’ right to freedom of choice.


Law 5: The Law of Motivation

  • What motivates your giving? What motivates your generosity? Is it fear of abandonment, making someone angry, loneliness or guilt? Do you seek approval or expect something in return? Freedom should be put first, and service second. When you serve to get rid of fear, you are doomed to fail.


Law 6: The Law of Evaluation

  • We must separate hurt from harm. It is possible for things to hurt but not harm us. Actually, sometimes these things can even be good for us. An example of this is when a dentist drills into your tooth to remove a cavity. The dentist made you feel better but did not harm you. In addition, things that feel good can be harmful to us. When you eat sugar, it does not hurt, but it can cause harm. You have to evaluate the effects of setting boundaries, but that does not mean you need to stop setting boundaries if others respond with frustration or hurt. Boundaries help us live a purposeful life.


Law 7: The Law of Proactivity

  • Be careful to establish proactive boundaries instead of reactive boundaries. Reactive individuals are known for what they stand “against,” but proactive people do not demand rights – they live them out. Power is something to be expressed, not demanded or deserved. You need to practice assertiveness. Proactive people are known for what they want, love and what they stand for.


Law 8: The Law of Envy

  • Envy says that what is good is something that you do not possess and you should hate the good that you have because it is not enough. We should not necessarily stop wanting what we do not have, however envy focusses outside of our boundaries, onto other people. Without boundaries, you can feel empty and unfulfilled. When we are envious our own actions are neglected and we are left comparing ourselves to others, deep in our resentment. Boundaries allow us to appreciate what we have and pursue what we desire, as long as it is not at the expense of others.


Law 9: The Law of Activity

  • We need to be active and assertive in setting our boundaries. Being passive can be destructive, as we do not define and preserve ourselves. When a baby bird is ready to hatch, it must be left to break the egg on its own. This “workout” strengthens the bird, preparing it for life in the outside world. When it is denied of its own responsibility, it dies. Boundaries can only be created through an aggressive and active “pecking” process – by knocking, seeking and asking.


Law 10: The Law of Exposure

  • Your boundaries need to be made clear to others. Fear can make us want to hide our boundaries, but this causes us to passively withdraw and prevents us from communicating honestly with ones we love. We often endure the pain of others’ irresponsibility, instead of telling them how this behaviour affects us. If boundaries are not communicated honestly, they will be communicated indirectly or by manipulating one another. When our boundaries are put out in the open, we begin to form relationships based on trust, appreciation and devotion.


To learn more, check out “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

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