musings on life, love and laughter from my spoken heart to yours

Setting boundaries…


“I WANT to help people and to be HAPPY about it, so what the heck?!” my friend lamented to me, regarding a situation that had started as a genuine desire to help and now seemed to be spiralling into a cycle of being taken advantage of.

“There is a difference between helping people and being used” I replied.

So how do we determine just where to draw the line? How do we decide when enough is enough? How do we help others without feeling like a doormat and without being used? Funny that this would be the post to follow the one on compassion…

But it is so easy to find ourselves in a situation where we are feeling used and abused, when that was never our intention. Our intention was to provide genuine help for a friend, family member, or acquaintance in need; to extend compassion to our fellow human beings. Yet once the situation has gone from well intended help to resentful usery, how do we tactfully draw the line in the sand and set boundaries saying “no more”? Especially when we are hitting the point where we are depleted, ready to explode and just want to tell the offending party to fuck themselves.

Sadly I am writing this blog with absolutely no idea what the answers to the questions are. I mean seriously, how does one go about diplomatically telling some-one “you are using me and I am ready to lose it, so enough is enough!” Hhhmmmm… maybe that is exactly how, to just state it as it is and refuse to be used any longer. This is where I must confess that conflict and confrontation are my two biggest weaknesses (I could almost go so far as to say my biggest fears), I DO NOT deal well with them at all, and will try to avoid them at all cost which is why I sometimes find myself in this situation. Sadly I WILL wait till I have had enough and then resort to telling the offender to fuck right off. Tactful, huh?

So do we set boundaries right away when the help process begins? And are those boundaries something set between ourselves, private and not stated to the other person, invisibly drawn in the sand? Do we use avoidance tactics hoping that they will get the hint? Or do we say right at the beginning “I am helping you with this one situation and then you are on your own”? That feels so harsh.

Is there a way to determine ahead of time which people will take a mile once given an inch? Can one establish who the genuine ones in need are? I don’t think so. Sadly just as some people are natural givers, some people are natural users they will take anything you are willing to give and always ask for more, never satisfied, sucking your very life energy from you, and they always seem so shocked when you’ve had enough and pull the plug. But how do we judge this? I know no man’s heart; I cannot determine where they have been or where they are coming from just by looking at them. I have no way of knowing if they are in need because they have had a shitty go of things or if it is because they refuse to help themselves and so are there by choice.

I suppose all one can do is weigh each situation separately. Taking each opportunity to help at a time, knowing we will win some, and loose some. Being prepared to have to set boundaries with some people, knowing we will never need them with others. And always keeping a positive outlook, understanding that what goes around truly does come around.

Well I suppose that is my rant for the day…


Author: myspokenheart

Blogger, life lover, silly-hearted daydreamer...

20 thoughts on “Setting boundaries…

  1. Good post! Thought provoking, for sure. My personal feeling is that the fact that one is willing to help/give already implies that one cares about the other person, which makes it way more difficult to even figure out where this “line in the sand” is. Just to add balance to this, from the other perspective, the person who is accepting the help may in some cases not even realize they’re going beyond this line. Tricky situation, indeed.


    • Thanks… and yea it is a real balancing act. Some people are active takers, whereas some are just naive receivers… and it can be really hard to determine which is which…

      I suppose that is where setting our own boundaries comes to play and of course having the strength to enforce them…


  2. I am reminded of a parable frm The Richest Man In Babylon. The one about the mule and the oxen. Essentially, “help” is a tricky thing and one should never take on the burden of another in thinking they are “helping”, Nicely written. Thank you! This certainly is a topic worth considering.


  3. Always set clear boundaries , keep the rest open for possibilities , Good Luck with you blog !


  4. I am adding.. I am really enjoying your blogs, the depth and the questions you raise. 🙂


  5. This hits home. Being a giver I encounter this often. Being trained helps. There is a point where you draw the line. Firmly. But with care. At first you give, instill a trust in your relationship, when you truly want to help someone. You listen, poke and prod. You have to get down to the basis of someones problem, concern, torment, it often isn’t what they thought it was. To find this trust is needed. Then solutions are offered. Suggestions. Recommendations.

    The point is reached where they need to stand on their own. supporting them, holding them up after this is detrimental. It is time to tell them this, gently, with continued support and compassion. you must make them realize you have done all you can do. Honesty. A conversation that is without judgement or confrontation, but firmly. You have no more to offer, if what you have told them is not enough, they need to seek other help. If it is. then they should act upon it. It is time.

    Avoidance is the first reaction, instinct. It doesn’t work. If the person figures out why you are avoiding.. they are offended. Not what you wanted.

    It is hard to do sometimes. But it must be so. With all things though, an honest dialogue goes farther than you think. Tell them it is time.

    does that help?


  6. This IS an interesting blog given yesterdays. But it also sort of goes hand-in-hand with it nod nods.

    Feck. You ask some hard questions. I am so much like you I think … regarding the fear of conflict and confrontations.

    I need to think on this some. I think what you said towards the end might be how it is though. At least for people with certain personalities. Some could surely set boundaries and not feel anxieties over it. Some could do it in a positive way too I am sure.

    And … I didn’t think it was a rant so much as some serious reflection on the matter.


Talk to me...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s