It’s important, but not enough, to set standards for yourself. You also have to set boundaries for others. Boundaries are imaginary lines that protect your well being from the words and actions of others. Sometimes you have to just say no in order to be your very best in the world. This Provision will help you do that.
The revelation came to me while I was sitting in church. It doesn’t always happen that way, but this time it did. The pastor was reading from the book of Nehemiah • one of the great books in the Jewish / Christian scriptural tradition.
Nehemiah was a Jew living in Persia when he heard about the desolation of Jerusalem. Filled with compassion and community pride, he requests and receives a royal commission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Nehemiah leaves Persia with a job to do. He has a plan and a strategy that fills him with energy and life.
As Nehemiah works on rebuilding Jerusalem, his work comes to the attention of three local governors. They are not happy about the prospect of restoring the capital of the Jewish community. They are not happy about dividing their meager pie into any smaller slices. This was the point, as I heard the story read aloud, at which the revelation came to me. Allow the scriptures, and Nehemiah, to speak for themselves:
“(One of the governors) sent me a message, ‘Come and meet us in the Valley of Ono.’ Now they intended some harm to me. So I sent messengers to them to say, •I am engaged in a great undertaking and so cannot come down. The work would come to a halt if I left it to come down to you.’ Four times they sent me the same invitation and four times I made them the same reply.” (Nehemiah 6:2-4).
Four times Nehemiah just said no to meet the governor in the Valley of Ono. The alliteration certainly helped to make the point. Four times Nehemiah just said no to being distracted, pulled away, and sidetracked from his strategy and plan. Four times he just said no because he knew it would do him and the work harm. That was the revelation.
Coaches do a lot of work with their clients around the issues of standards and boundaries. Standards are behaviors to which you hold yourself because they reflect you in positive ways. Boundaries are behaviors to which you hold others because they impact you in negative ways. Nehemiah had standards and boundaries. Rebuilding Jerusalem grew out of his standards of compassion and community pride. Saying no grew out of his boundaries for the project and for himself.
Do you have clear standards and boundaries? They’re both equally important. Standards reflect who you are. They are not moral absolutes. They are personal attributes. For one person, it may be impeccable honesty. For another, it may be heartfelt compassion. For a third, it may be empowering organization. For a fourth, it may be good, clean living. There are many standards, and it’s OK to have more than one. The key is to know what they are and to live accordingly. The challenge is to raise them high without overextending or having to be hyper vigilant in the process.
Boundaries are critical to maintaining your standards. You can’t be who you are if you allow other people and things to constantly pull you away. That can be hard when you’re facing the crisis of the moment or responding to a request from your spouse or boss. Indeed, many people will compromise their strategies, standards, and even themselves if someone in authority over or relationship with them pushes the right button. But that is not the way of honor and peace. Just say no when you get asked to do something that takes you off course. Say it four times, if need be, but be sure to say it.
Set high standards and strong boundaries. Tell others about them. And see what a difference that makes.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
LifeTrek Coaching International
121 Will Scarlet Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043