We need to talk.
I invite you to take a seat in this moment. Get cozy. Bring a blanket, some coffee—or tea!—and settle in. Pillows are provided, excuses are to be left outside, please.
Today, we’re going to learn about boundaries.
Boundaries: a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
For our purposes, I will use the ‘emotional’ definition of the word, as used by the great Brene Brown.
Boundaries: knowing what is okay and what is not okay.
It’s my favorite topic to discuss and the hardest to practice. There are many ways in which we create and destroy boundaries. We create boundaries when we know the difference between a resounding yes and a “meh” yes. We destroy boundaries when we don’t align behavior with our values.
No one can uphold our values and beliefs for us. No one forces us to strip away boundaries. We do this to ourselves.
Boundaries come up in Torah a lot. They are the birthplace of sensitivity, empathy, creativity, compassion, light.
Modesty, shabbat, kosher, clean speech, family purity….need I go on?
In Parshat Balak, when Bilam shouts out “Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov” he was commenting on the strategic placement of the Israelites’ tents. Every tent was positioned as such to avoid the door of their neighbors. Complete privacy. A boundary!
Boundaries are built in self-care.
Here’s the problem: Our self-care gauges are way, way off.
I think it’s time to readjust.
Go with me on this.
I am a YES person. I say yes to every opportunity, every request, every everything. You can always rely on me to be there.
Until you can’t rely on me. Eventually—when the asks pile up and become too much to bear—I, like most other people, turn to resentment in the sound of a strong, aggressive NO. Or, even worse, I say yes and make everyone around me feel bad for asking. My follow through is often weak and fueled by frustration.
The fuel to fan the fire of connectivity does not lie in frustration. (Try saying that five times fast!)
Our world has become one of “say yes to everything, and figure it out later.” We’re a society that is hungry for connection, identity, compassion, growth and opportunity. We fuel all of these desires by giving and giving and giving and giving and…we’re running out of things to give.
My dears, you are better than that. We are better than that. Where’s the self-care here?
We often think that boundaries are constraining…especially when it comes to guidelines listed in Torah. We view rules and regulations as the prison cell keeping us from freedom. Is it really so?
What if we flip the narrative? What if we look at life through the Torah lense as a lesson in being our best selves?
It’s difficult to do anything in a world with no balance. How can you give without filling your own glass? Boundaries—Torah based and otherwise—are measures to help us find that balance.
When you say no, you give space to say YES to the things that drive and move you. When you define what is okay for you and not okay for you, you give space for the YES things to fill you.
Boundaries offer us an opportunity to reflect, take stock, protect ourselves from becoming slaves to our ego’s desires and other’s needs.
Artistry begins on a blank canvas. Novels take shape and come to life with only an empty sheet of paper to start. They are both parameters in which worlds are created. The black and white’s of the world offer us a springboard. Our boundaries set the rules for freedom—they guide us.
Set your limits. Know where you stand. Find the perimeters of your canvas. And now: create.
Next time on Gesher…How to create real boundaries and what to do when they (inevitably) fade.