Establishing Beneficial Boundaries | Part 1



This can be a touchy subject for some, an impossible ideal for others, especially if boundaries were not modeled by your family of origin.

My family life as a child was a little rough, but I was good at hiding it. Even for those who have been closest to me, this may come as a surprise.

And much of this centers around choices my mom made. She passed away 8 years ago, and I do not want to disrespect her. I know that she had her own things to deal with and I do not write any of this to soil her memory, but simply to understand how our choices can impact those around us.

My dad was a career Navy man and was gone much of the first 8 years of my life. I was left at home with an older sister and mom who didn’t cope well with him being gone. She often drank to excess and was not at her optimum. She was not a nice intoxicated person, often angry, often mentally abusive, sometimes physically abusive, and negligent.

Through these early experiences, I took on the role of chief enabler. My job was to keep everything balanced and fix the problems of the family. When mom was upset, I rushed in to smooth it all out, calm her down. I was the go-between in my parent’s relationship relaying information and trying to calm the storms. I felt my responsibility was to protect her by whatever means.

Dad retired from the military when I was 8, but the stability of him being home was not enough to offset the instability of my mom’s illness. She exhibited compulsive behavior in many areas of her life, from drinking to cleaning, she often lived in excess.

When I was 5 years old my parents sent me to church with my much older sister.

It was scary.

The preacher yelled a lot.

And I asked my parents to not send me there anymore.

Although my first church experiences were frightening, to say the least, all through my childhood I prayed.

As a child, I felt alone and was sure there were no other families like mine. I remember in Junior High School, being assigned a book to read in language arts. It was a book about a girl living in an alcoholic family.

I could have written that book. It was the first time I realized I might not be alone.

Being a part of a family-like this created within me a real desire to please others and a real problem with boundaries. As a teenager, I was eager to have people like me and I was willing to do whatever it took to make them like me. I began exhibiting extreme behavior.

I needed stability and an example to follow.

And then God met me where I was.

When I was 19 years old, I met my husband who introduced me to the God I had been praying to all those years.

And this God had so much to offer me! He offered me things that no other human had or could offer me. Things such as unconditional love, kindness, peace, joy, patience, gentleness, goodness, and boundaries.

Yes, boundaries.

Let me be clear here, becoming a child of God’s was not the end of this journey. He did not hand me boundaries in a neatly packaged gift, and then take my hand and skip down the golden path of no-more-boundary troubles. But He did open the door for me so that I could learn and struggle to develop them in my life.

I am grateful that He did that for me and want to encourage you, if you need help in the area of boundaries, don’t wait, Grace has an amazing spiritual care team that would love to help you identify your next step in boundary development!

About the Author

Karen Denaro

Karen Denaro is the Spiritual Care director at Grace Community Church. She works to help those with deep spiritual needs grow closer to Jesus, and grow in their faith in God.

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