My last post mentioned how crucial it is to keep contaminants out of our “fuel tanks”. I was asked, “How do you do that if the problem is a person, especially one hard to keep out like family?”
My answer: Read the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. This book has sold over 2 million copies for a reason. Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend are psychiatrists with a Christian worldview. So get ready for a mix of practical psychology (e.g. the family you grew up in is key to understanding your current boundaries) and scripture (e.g. Galatians 6 on the law of sowing and reaping). Bottom line: this book helps you get clear on what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for, and how to talk to others about honoring each others’ boundaries.
For example, speaking only what edifies others is my responsibility (Ephesians 4.29). How someone else feels about what I say is their responsibility. Again, their feelings are not my responsibility. And many, many of us have been taught that it is our responsibility to keep the other person happy—or that it’s their fault if I feel bad. It’s not. It’s my job to manage my own emotions.
Another example is the danger of trying to help our kids (especially older kids) by shielding them from the bad consequences of bad decisions. By taking on too much of the responsibility for fixing their problems we rob them of the ability to take responsibility for their own life. We teach them that they can do what they want and others will handle the fallout.
Leaders not only need to manage their personal boundaries, but the organization’s boundaries. Some customer requests you have to say no to, even if there’s money to be made doing it. That’s not what your company has decided to be about. And healthy organizational boundaries won’t happen if the senior leader makes all the decisions. The boss can’t be directly responsible for it all and have fully empowered staff.
This book brings clarity to one of the most confusing aspects of life. I highly recommend this book. It’s on my short list of best books of all time.