Boundaries: Denying My Feelings & Carrying Other’s Burdens
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Callie. She tweets at @callandrarose. If you didn’t read the intro we posted to this month’s topic of Boundaries yesterday, please do so here! Oh – and have you checked out our new Community Board yet?! – Lauren
I’ve realized something about myself in the last few months: I have major boundary issues. My boundaries in my primary relationships are undefined or unattended to. This revelation explains my entire life.
Ten years ago, as I was entering my teenage years, my parents announced their separation, leaving me with a lot of emotions and a broken heart. For the last ten years, I have been denying any pain or scars from the divorce while managing the complex dynamics of having two families. I’ve straddled my two families, trying to please and give attention to both. I’ve adapted to the needs and feelings of family members, at the cost of my own. I’ve avoided conflict and confrontation. I’ve carried their burdens and taken on their responsibilities. My relationships with my family still consist of my being the one who sustains most of the relationships; I’m often the one making an effort, even in simple things like making conversation. I’ve been preoccupied with trying to maintain all my intricate relationships that I haven’t worked on some of my heartbreak that was caused by divorce and the family split.
Recently, I have realized how my relationships with my family impact my other relationships. I often find myself in friendships where I am the one managing the relationship. I have accepted the burdens of my friends, without recognizing that I am not the sole bearer of the weight. In one way or another, my friendships have consisted of me denying my feelings, over-concerning myself with their feelings and problems, being unable to say no, feeling guilty for emotions, and rationalizing why I go against my feelings.
To be honest, I don’t reveal my true feelings to others because I am afraid I will hurt them. I don’t tell others when they have overstepped a boundary of mine because I am afraid they will get angry or worse, ridicule me for them. I have consistently denied my own feelings and have over-concerned myself with the feelings of others because I’ve valued others and their feelings over myself and my feelings.
As a result, I’ve been so preoccupied with others’ emotions and issues that I haven’t attended to my own. At all. I couldn’t figure why I hadn’t been dealing with my heart issues because I had been consistently working on them with Jesus. I gave up talking to Jesus about my heart because I didn’t know what was holding me back. I had a hit a wall and I couldn’t explain what that wall was, let alone scale it.
The reason I haven’t worked on my heart issues is because all my emotional energy is spent on my primary relationships. Lately, all this energy has been devoted to one friend. I’m making sure they are alright, talking with them through their issues, thinking constantly about how they are doing and adapting myself to their needs. At the end of the day, I have no energy for myself. I’ve been ignoring my heart issues and Jesus because I literally feel too tired—physically and emotionally.
A few weeks ago, that friend’s burden was placed on me and it was one I could not bear. I was completely overwhelmed, pushed to my edge and I fell, hard. I couldn’t function anymore, not just in my friendship but also as a person. I couldn’t focus on my own tasks and responsibilities, control my own emotions or manage my own stress. Through all that, I realized that I am not called to carry these burdens all by myself. I am called to carry those burdens to Christ, to place them in His arms and trust in His faithfulness.
I’ve learned that positive boundaries aren’t selfish. In establishing good boundaries, I am protecting myself from becoming overwhelmed but also protecting the other from being the subject of my contempt. These boundaries give definition for where personal lines are crossed—in responsibility, emotions, or burdens—so that the relationship can be healthy. They help prevent emotions from being hidden and brewing deep down, waiting to explode. Ultimately, having good boundaries allows me to be a better friend because I am happier and freer.
I’m stepping into freedom and choosing to walk in grace. I am working on my relationships by establishing better boundaries. I am beginning to have revelations and heart healing because I am becoming free of the weight of these burdens. I am learning to speak up for myself and express my emotions.
As good women, we must stop taking on more than we are called to bear. We need to ask the Lord which burdens we are to rightly bear and give them to Him. We must not deny our feelings and hide them away anymore. Instead, we must digest our feelings with Jesus and those close confidants He’s placed in our lives. We need to ask, “What am I feeling?” and “Why?” Once we have figured out what we are feeling and why, we must own our own feelings and express them appropriately.
Because the truth is, my feelings – and your feelings – are as important as the feelings of others.
The truth is, we are not called to carry our burdens or anyone else’s all on our own.
God doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed by our relationships. He doesn’t want us to carry the burdens of others to a point of our harm. It is the desire of His heart for us to spend time with Him and to give Him the weight on our shoulders.
The truth is that good boundaries establish right relationships — ones that are aligned with heart of God, that give freedom and grace.
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