Have you ever struggled with finding workplace boundaries? Have there been times in your life when your job has consumed you? If you are like me and many others, the answer is a resounding “YES”. I would like to share with you some important nuggets of truth that helped me over 10 years ago.
Lack of Boundaries
In 2009 I was pastoring at a church in Fort Myers, Florida. My wife, Shelly, and I had six kids at the time. I also owned my own business and coached multiple high school athletic teams. At this point you are probably wondering, “what in the world was this guy thinking?” It was at this stage in my life that I began to lose control of most of the areas in my life, especially my family. I had never been good at establishing boundaries, especially when it came to work in regards to my family.
To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. What man would admit or confess that? After all, we must be superheroes to our family and anyone else in need. I was driven to “fix” or “help” others. What I did not realize is I needed help myself. The realization that my kids were slipping away from not only me, but God Himself, came through the conversation with a counselor. He asked me this question, “How is your relationship with your kids and how do they feel about all the time you spend working”? I wanted to respond with “this is an area I’m great at and we are healthy as a family” but that was so far from the truth.
Discovering the Need for Boundaries
As I began to dig deeper, God revealed to me that my life was out of order. Often the word “balance” is used to express one's idea of what a healthy life should look like. However, balance actually conveys the idea that everything in our lives should receive equal time and attention, including God. Isn’t that contrary to God’s word?
In Matt. 22:37 Jesus proclaims these words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. When we establish God at the center of our life and He becomes our top priority, we can better understand what A.W. Tozer said, “As God is exalted to the right place in our lives, a thousand problems are all solved at once”.
Within thirty days of understanding this revelation, I laid down my job as a pastor. I didn’t lay down the call but the job. It’s important that we understand the difference. My life was out of order and unhealthy. The only way for me to get it back in alignment was to take a sabbatical. I resigned my position and used the next two years to invest in my family and reorder and realign my life. I’m not saying this is the first step for everyone but it is what was needed in my life. I was not able to instill boundaries around my work and family while being pulled in so many directions. It was drastic and what my family and I needed.
I have often used the phrase “I laid down my Issac '' to describe the transition. When Abraham ascended the mount with Issac to offer him as a sacrifice I have often wondered what he must have been thinking and feeling. But one thing we do know is that he trusted God for the outcome. His faith in God was immeasurable. I wondered for months whether or not God would allow me to pursue the call once again, to pick up my Issac. He eventually did. I am still a work in progress in setting healthy boundaries.
Things I’ve Learned Concerning Boundaries
Let me share a couple of things I have learned along the way and in my journey that I pray will be helpful to you:
- Pray and ask God if there is anything in your life that you have placed before Him, specifically as it pertains to your work
- As God reveals His heart concerning the need to place boundaries, understand that those boundaries are not walls to keep people out, but doorways for deciding how and when you let people in.
- Establish time frames that you will use as a guide for when you will take calls. Calendar time that you will not take calls.
- Create accountability in your workplace for how and when you communicate with the opposite sex. I have included my wife in texts or emails when possible, but I make sure she knows who I’m communicating with when it’s a female.
- With your spouse, identify and develop the three circles of people in your life: the first circle being immediate family and friends who are like family, the second are people who you consider more than acquaintances and are of importance in your life, and third is everyone else. Together, define who goes in what circle, and how much access you allow them.
- It’s important to define what is an emergency. Screen situations and you decide how urgent the response needs to be.
- Learn to include your spouse with your time management and boundaries. This may be difficult in some cases but remember the goal is to help you become healthier in ALL relationships. This is an area that as “two that have become one”, just work together.
The Importance of Boundaries
Your life is like your automobile. If your auto is out of alignment, it can cause you serious issues, like a blowout of a front tire because of uneven tread wear. If you do not give it the proper attention and maintenance required you will not be safe as you travel down the road. In life, you can be zooming right along and suddenly have a blowout all because you never paid attention to the warning signs all around you.
I encourage you to dig a little deeper, maybe even ask a friend or someone close to you if they see anything out of alignment and where you need to implement boundaries concerning your work. Boundaries keep you aligned and healthy boundaries can lead to healthier relationships.
Check out our podcast on this topic here!