Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Sky is NOT My Limit: Setting and Enforcing Boundaries

Many of us allow others to treat us in ways that are uncomfortable, unhealthy or disrespectful. We remain silent rather than address our disdain for fear of retribution: what will happen if I speak up? Will I lose my job? Will my best friend get angry with me? Will my family choose to no longer speak to me? Will someone argue with me and tell me I'm wrong for feeling the way I do? There are risks involved whenever we voice our feelings and expect change. Not everyone is eager to accommodate our new requests. Some will argue, coerce or try to manipulate us back into our old patterns. But if we are unhappy and remain silent, we run the risk of becoming angry, bitter, resentful, and possibly explosive. The relationship will suffer and possibly disintegrate unless someone takes action. 

All healthy relationships contain guidelines and rules. Boundaries are designed to enable each party to be treated in a way that is comfortable and acceptable to them. We all seek to be treated with dignity and respect. However, those words may have distinctly different meanings to different people. How can one fully know how to treat someone unless that individual tells them? My husband smokes. I do not. I needed to tell him that I did not want him to smoke near me. How could he have known how offensive the smell is to me or my concerns for my health had I not voiced my feelings? He chose to honor my request and in seventeen years it has never been an issue between us.

We each have certain rights and responsibilities when setting and enforcing boundaries.

1. Each party has a right to be treated in a manner suitable for them, however different from that of others.
2. One must be crystal clear as to how they expect to be treated.
3. Make certain what you are seeking is fair and reasonable. If not, reconsider your position.
4. As soon as possible, clearly express your boundaries to the other party. Let them know exactly how you want to be treated, and the actions you will take should they choose not to accommodate your request.
5. Be prepared to enforce the consequences and follow through in a timely manner. Expect results. It may take a few reminders but persistence pays off.
6. Respect the boundaries of all parties involved however dissimilar from yours.
The benefits to setting and enforcing healthy guidelines in relationships is that both parties are treated with the dignity and respect that suits them. Unhealthy interactions are limited or removed, stress and anger are mitigated, and there is greater opportunity to simply enjoy one another's company.  Boundaries make for healthier relationships in all areas of life.

For more on boundaries, read The Secret Side of Anger available @

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Free Speech: We Can't Afford the High Price Tag

America, despite all of her current woes, still remains the greatest country in the world. One of our ultimate freedoms is the right to openly express ourselves without fear of retribution. Journalists, reporters and news broadcasters are all guaranteed protection under the Constitution.
Free speech isn't as free as some believe. With it comes an expectation of great responsibility and respect for the rights of others and a strong moral code of behavior. Within our own families we often blurt out whatever we want without regard to how the other party may feel upon hearing it. We can be rude, hurtful, mean-spirited, and hateful. "It's a free country. I can say whatever I want and if they can't deal with it, oh well! Too bad! That's not my problem." This arrogant attitude reeks of selfishness and disrespect. The cost of "free speech" can be wounded self-esteem, fractured relationships, alienation, damaged reputations, and in cases such as the Journal, putting others in harm's way.

While I fully support the First Amendment and encourage open and honest expression of one's feelings, I also believe we have a responsibility to take great care in the way we exercise our right. My rights do not supersede the rights of others. So before speaking, consider the following questions:

  • Is what I'm about to say or do kind?
  • Does it emanate from a place of love for all parties?
  • Is it based on truth rather than speculation, lies, jealousies or  my own insecurities?
  • Does it care for the well-being of all those concerned?
  • Does it take into consideration the feelings and needs of the other?
  • Is it absolutely the best choice I can make at this time?
  • Will it achieve long-lasting and far-reaching benefits for all those concerned?*
In all areas of life we have options as to how we handle ourselves. Let us vow to always make choices that are life-affirming and beneficial to all of humanity.

*The Great Truth @

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ten Ways to Get Along With Family Members You Don't Like

We all have them: the obnoxious siblings, the drama queen mother, the trouble-maker cousin, the gossip monger, know-it-alls, rude, selfish, and even mean-spirited family members. We try to avoid them yet fate often intervenes and brings us face-to-face with our nemesis.  We dread family gatherings and holidays are preceded by weeks of anxiety and fabricated excuses for absenteeism. "I like my friends much better. You can choose them and if they get on your nerves you just cancel your subscription. I don't have to put up with their nonsense. But you're stuck with relatives forever!"

While severing familiar relationships is an option for some and a necessity for others, it is a drastic step not everyone needs to take. There are other alternatives which allow us to maintain a somewhat workable rapport even with those we are not particularly fond of.

Consider the following suggestions:

1. Remember they are family and you share dna, other relatives, and a history. Each component has value.
2. Put everything into perspective. If the issue is minor, excuse it. If it's critical address it.
3. Examine why you allow this person to bother you. What issues are they triggering within you? Examine and heal those first.
4. Keep in mind they are probably loved by someone you love. Treat them kindly out of respect for the other party.
5. Find something about them you admire, like or respect. (Everyone has something.) Remind yourself before, during, and after your encounter with them. Your thoughts generate how you feel and ultimately how you treat them.
6. Remind yourself that everyone has personal issues that are reflected in their behavior. Be understanding and compassionate of them.
7. Set boundaries when appropriate. Be firm and fair.
8. Keep things neutral. Avoid instigating their bad behavior with inflammatory statements, hot topics or sensitive issues.
9. Always try to bring out the best in all whom you encounter, especially those who present your greatest challenges. Be the example of kindness for them to follow.
10. Limit the amount of time spent together. Less can prevent a buildup of tension and hostility.

And here's a bonus suggestion from my favorite doctor, Bernie Siegel: "Keep saying 'I love you' for three months. Then stop. They will call you." ("Repeated acts of kindness will eventually affect and reshape a relationship."*)

While many would prefer to simply avoid those family members they don't care for, it is oftentimes not possible. But more importantly, you will miss an opportunity of being a vehicle for personal growth healing. One person, one time, can open another's eyes, mind or heart which allows them to begin the journey to wholeness.

*The Orchids of Gateway Lane" by Janet Pfeiffer available @