In my all time favorite book, Hind’s Feet on High Places, Much-Afraid must remove herself from the “Valley of Humiliation” and all of her “family members” who live there (Craven Fear, Pride, Self-Pity, etc) before she becomes strong enough to handle onslaughts of affliction. She takes a lengthy life-journey to be able to develop the strength that she needs, which consists of being removed from the attack (mostly) and clinging to her Shepherd. Women who have been in abusive situations are not strong enough (in every aspect of the word — physically strong, mentally strong, emotionally strong, etc.) to handle those who oppress or those who are connected to those who are oppressing. Not yet. For so long, former targets of abuse are “yes women”. They have not developed the skills it takes to set boundaries or to speak up when they recognize that they are being hurt or used or played.
Sweet sisters and brothers of mine, people are using you when they cut you down or when they try to dissect you. They are using you when they get too personal and ask you questions of which you are not comfortable answering. People are using you when they yell at you, scream at you, make you feel bad about yourself, etc. People are using you because they need a scapegoat or they need to try to feel better about themselves. The truth is, you are probably gorgeous, sparkly and amazing. You just don’t know it, yet. But we do not allow people to use us. It is not the most loving choice for us or for them. And it does not teach the Gospel. Christ willingly laid down his life (John 10:18). For a purpose. We must make sure that, when we self-sacrifice, it is for a worthy cause.
During that interim when you are learning of your intrinsic worth as a child of God, created in His image, here are some (hopefully) helpful words that aid in creating boundaries when you just don’t know what to say. I know that, at times, I just didn’t know what to say. I knew I needed as much toxicity out of my life as possible but I lacked the words. If you struggle with this, as well, read on:
When you need to go low-contact with someone who is friends with or is related to someone who is hurting you: “I am still healing and, while I appreciate your kindness, I am needing to take a break from relationships that remind me of the hurt that I experienced. Thank you for understanding that I just need some time away. Things will probably change at some point. I appreciate your graciousness.”
When you need someone to stop meddling: “Thank you for wanting to help me. I know your heart is in the right place. But, I need you to allow me to handle this with my (church, parents, ex husband) and God alone. Thank you for understanding that I need you to just be my friend and not my counselor. I do not want to talk about this (abusive) situation with you anymore.”
When you need to go no-contact: “Do not contact me again. Do not call, text, email me or message me on FB.”
(Please note that we do not need to be polite with people who are harassing us or crossing over boundaries repeatedly. Sadly, people who do not respect you, nor your boundaries, do not understand being gracious. You must be clearer than clear.)
When people ask you personal questions: “I’m not comfortable answering that.” (repeat, as necessary)
When people push themselves onto your children: “Please do not contact my children again in any way.” Period. Protect those little lambs! Remember, God has made you to be their mother and you and God know what is best for them.
You know that feeling you have after you have shared something that you did not mean to share and made you uncomfortable? Pay attention to that. That means that healthy boundaries have been crossed and your self-respect has gone quite a bit down, which aids in a downward spiral. You do not have to allow this to happen, loved ones. Stand tall . . . . look people in the eye and say what needs to be said. Gentle and firm boundary-setting will aid in healing your self-respect. And you are to be respected, friends. You are so worth being respected.
Brothers and sisters . . . . remember that if people do not respect your boundaries, they probably never will. And taking a “time out” from said people is not sinful. Take heart! Someday, you will be asked to go back down to minister to people who are hurting and who have been hurtful but you will be strong in the Lord by that time. You will be able to bear the insults and pain, eventually. And it won’t matter, anymore. Because your worth will be defined by your Shepherd, the Lover of Your Soul. But, until then . . . boundaries.