Setting boundaries with people can be very hard, but it is one of the keys to having a fulfilled life. We often are apt to help our loved ones, but they need to learn from their experience. I am not advocating not helping each other, but there are some scenarios where we need to let someone learn from their issue/problem. When we allow people to make their problem our problem, we are not helping them, but we are just enabling them.
Once we take their problem for them, all we’re doing is taking away their ability to solve it.
In his book, Boundaries, When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, Author Henry Cloud share a story that exemplifies robbing people of their problem:
The parents of a twenty-five-year-old man once came to see Henry. They wanted to “fix” their son. He asked them why they had not come with their son and they answered. “Oh, he didn’t want to come.”
“Why?” Henry asked.
“Well, he doesn’t think he has a problem,” they replied.
“Maybe he’s right,” he said, to their surprise. “Tell me about it.”
They recited a history of problems that had begun at a very young age. He had never been “quite up to snuff” in their eyes. In recent years he had exhibited problems with drugs and an inability to stay in school and find a career.
It was apparent that they loved their son very much and were heartbroken over the way he was living. They had tried everything they knew to get him to change and live a responsible life, but all had failed. He was still using drugs, avoiding responsibility, and keeping questionable company.
The parent said that they had always given him everything he needed. They supported him financially at school so “he wouldn’t have to work and he would have plenty of time for study and a social life.” When he flunked out of one school, or stopped going to classes, they were more than happy to do everything they could to get him into another school, where it might be better for him.
After listening to their story Henry said to the parents:
He doesn’t have a problem. You do
He can do pretty much whatever he wants, no problem. You pay, you fret, you worry, you plan, you exert energy to keep him going. He doesn’t have a problem because you have taken it from him. Those things should be his problem, but as it now stands, they are yours.
Henry then said: “Would you like for me to help you help him to have some problems?”
I think that the solution to this problem would be to clarify some boundaries so that his actions cause him problems and not you
To explain boundaries to the parents, henry shared the following metaphor with them:
Look at it this way. It is as if he’s your neighbor, who never waters his lawn. But whenever you turn on your sprinkler system, the water falls on his lawn. Your grass is turning brown and dying, but Joshua looks down at his green grass and thinks to himself, My yard is doing fine. That is how your son’s life is. He doesn’t study or plan or work, yet he has a nice place to live, plenty of money, and all the rights of a family member who is doing his part.
If you would define the property lines a little better, if you would fix the sprinkler system so that the water would fall on your lawn, and if he didn’t water his own lawn, he would have to live in dirt. He might not like that after a while. As it stands now, he is irresponsible and happy, and you are responsible and miserable. A little boundary clarification would do the trick. You need some fences to keep his problems out of your yard and in his, where they belong.
The above story shares a very important lesson on how you need to let people learn from their experience, take responsibility for their actions and setting clear boundaries with people.
GOD loves the sailor but he has to sail himself – French Proverb
Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.