Learning to say “NO” (for Pastor’s wives)
by: Sharon Turner
M.S., L.P.C., L.C.D.C.
ED. NOTE. In this column, Sis. Turner addresses Questions submitted to her during the Healing of the Handmaidens Seminars.
I am a pastor’s wife and I have a tremendous amount of responsibility. I am constantly under time pressure. I almost feel that I have lost control of my life. I know I need to say ‘no’ more, but I am afraid that I will be viewed as uncaring or ungodly. Can I say ‘no’ when demands are being made of me without seeming un-Christian?
Absolutely Nothing could be more ‘Christian’ than the setting and utilization of emotional boundaries. They help dictate what we are and what we are not, where we begin and where we end. Good boundaries help us define what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for. The concept of boundaries helps us to set our priorities, make our decisions, and, thus, have control over our lives.
Cloud and Townsend, in their book, Boundaries, When to Say Yes, When to Say No, state that ‘…the concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and He is responsible for Himself. He defines and takes responsibility for His personality by telling us what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes …. He defines Himself as separate from Creation and from us …. He says who He is and who He is not. God has very definite boundaries and expects the same behavior from His people.’
The authors discuss several myths about boundaries that have probably come from family and/or church tradition that cause us to set inappropriate boundaries or no boundaries at all. Here are two that seem to relate to the question above.
Myth # 1
If I Set Boundaries, I’m Being Selfish
Boundaries are for protection, so we will not be harmed by continuing to fail to take care of ourselves. Selfishness is constantly seeking only those things which promote our “own wishes and desires to the exclusion of our responsibility for others.” God loves us and has paid a high price so we could enter into His Kingdom. When we take care of ourselves, we are taking care of God’s investment in us. Sometimes that means saying “No.”.”
Boundaries Are a Sign of Disobedience
Because we want to appear ‘good,’ we often are compliant and say ‘yes’ even when we want or need to say ‘no.’ Failing to set boundaries because we are afraid we will appear disobedient paves the road to bitterness and resentment. Consider the life of Jesus. He set boundaries.’ No one ever had a more important job to do on this earth than He did, but He took time to rest, to pray, and to be alone. He never once said “yes” when He believed He should have said .no.’ And the Word explicitly tells us that ‘He was obedient, even unto death.’ Lack of appropriate boundaries is not necessarily a sign of disobedience to God, but often more a result of compliance because of the fear of the opinions of others.
The Bible is a book of boundaries and the Bible is the Mind of God. If we truly want to take on the ‘Mind of Christ,’ we may need to look at our boundary system, or perhaps more appropriately, our lack of boundaries, and consider our thinking and motives behind our actions.