Monday, September 9, 2013


Interaction with one other person requires being aware of our boundaries. The lines that define our personhood and its physical containment may be invisible but never amorphous, moveable with limitations but ignored to our detriment and with disagreeable consequences.

The most useful documentation I have on my bookshelf is Boundaries, When to Say Yes, When to Say No To Take Control of Your Life. The authors are Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

Operating an adult family home demands that we delineate our boundaries. Because the subject is so important, Washington State DSHS has outlined rules for us in a hefty, continually revised missive affectionately called the WAC. For example, we wash our hands in the kitchen sink only when we are handling food. Any bathroom-type activity requires washing in the bathroom or the utility room.

Until you verbalize this boundary and think about the ramifications (contagious bugs) it may seem silly. It is a legitimate boundary. Like telling someone that they are hurting you when their handshake is too hearty. Like telling someone that you do not want telephone calls after a certain hour. Like telling a coworker that when they don’t come to work on time they are affecting your work.

Identifying a boundary to the people with whom we share this planet may require that we also identify consequences. (Rather than you call me after 10PM I will be happy to call you at 5AM when I get up.) And here comes the sticky wicket. Somewhere in our lifetime we were told that we need to be nice. If you are not nice then you must be horrible.

My dear father-in-law could draw out the “i” vowel and create a truly frightful sound. He forever ruined for me that pleasant word “nice.” Try it adding a whine while you smile into the “i.”

Legitimate boundaries will offend someone sometime, but you will remain intact, authentic, faithful, trustworthy, and perhaps even a bit nice.


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