Compassionate Boundaries: Friendship (First of Series)

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2013  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry 

Once upon a time, I had a friend.  It is only once upon a time because while I was ill and very needy, she drew few boundaries and burned-out. Then she was gone. 

Today I have another friend. I have this friend because though I have been ill and very needy in the past, she drew boundaries that included saying no to me.  She did not burn-out, and I still have a friend.

Boundaries are what we decide to do or not do. We cannot control another person. If Jane Doe asks to meet me and I say no, she could potentially show up at my door anyway. While I cannot stop her from standing there or being upset, my freedom is in refusing to allow her lack of boundaries to change mine.  

By meeting with her because of her insistence, something else has to go undone. Assuming my initial no was based on priorities, resentment may rise at the change of plans. What if I meet with her each time she stops by? Soon, my ‘no’ will have to be permanent. Jane likely will not understand the rejection. Her feelings will become truly hurt. 

It is kindness to draw boundaries.  Helping too much prevents loved ones or friends from learning how to cope. A call-me-if-you-need-me approach almost discourages them from finding support elsewhere. Without coping or support-finding skills, they truly are alone if burnout drives us away.

Boundaries are honest. Clearly, no one enjoys playing doormat, crushed by another person’s whims and commands. Yet we create our doormat status through dishonesty. Clarity about boundaries keeps people in the light. They know what to expect from us. This preserves dignity for an emotionally needy person because he or she knows to ask only what is possible. It keeps us safe from pretending, and ultimately saves the relationship.

Boundaries are invaluable. You see, once upon a time I too was a friend.  It is only once upon a time because while she was ill and very needy, I drew few boundaries and burned-out. Then I was gone.  

I want to be a better friend. Do you? The next few blogs will address how to draw and recognize healthy boundaries, and share practical ideas for how to say no.

Stay tuned.


Other posts in this series:  God’s Example (2) ; Values and Family (3) ; Self-Care (4) ;  How to Say No (5) ; Motives Beware! (6)Refuse Blame (7) ; Refer to Experts (8) ; How to say yes (9)




NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.


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