The word “boundary” has received an undeserved bum rap because we live in a civilization that screams “accumulate more,” and “if it feels good—do it, buy it, and allow it access into your life.” Who wants to be told there are limits? Despite what the world around us tries to coerce us to buy into, (pun intended), boundaries are crucial and desperately needed.
If we want to see the effects of the removal of boundaries, all we need to do is take a look around. We are a society obsessed with excess, bent on outdoing one another, overrun by stuff, up to our eyeballs in debt, overburdened with obligations, and overworked to the point of exhaustion. We rarely, if ever, deny ourselves anything, regardless of what it costs, physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually, and still, we are not satisfied. We can’t get enough, yet we have way too much.
Setting firm boundaries in six areas common to us all and using S.T.E.A.D.Y. as an easy-to-remember guide will help rein in uncontrolled behavior and keep us focused on the path to a minimal, peace-filled life.
We’ve all left home with the best of intentions, made our way to Walmart or the shopping mall, and completely lost every ounce of the “just-buy-what-you-need” resolve we had when we walked out the door. Marketers are strategic and inventive. It’s certain that we will never leave a store without having noticed things we had never seen or heard of, and far too often, having bought more than we intended to or needed. The power of allurement into consumerism’s cleverly-laid trap is something to which we can all attest, but the good news is, knowledge is power.
The key is to turn that knowledge and experience into firm boundaries and refuse to be entrapped again. Leave your debit card at home and take only a sufficient amount of cash. Be aware of what has led you off-course in the past, and disarm temptation by entering the store with a made-up mind and limited resources.
Make a list of everything in your life that requires moments of your day. Ask yourself pointed questions like why am I doing this? Am I only doing this to please others? Is this conducive to peace, or does it spawn anxiety? Who is being negatively affected by my continuance of this?
As you work through the list, follow your heart. Remove all guilt-induced behavior. Condense that list into only two categories—what is necessary and what brings you peace. Remove every other thing. Using your newly-edited list, prioritize what remains, allowing “what matters most” to be your guide.
Recently, while sitting in a restaurant with my family, we noticed a family of four sitting at a nearby table. The members of the foursome were together, yes—but simultaneously they were worlds apart.
None of them were talking to or looking at each other. Each of them was holding their own handheld device, staring into them, totally engrossed, and completely ignoring the loved ones sitting beside and across from them. “That is really, sad, Mama,” my son commented. I agreed. In fact, tears came to my eyes as I thought of how much I would give to be able to go back and sit across from my parents and eat a meal together one more time. It occurred to me that we can be somewhere without actually being there. We can be present in body but absent in energy.
We can physically sit with the ones we love, but our heart can be pouring itself into an electronic, bottomless abyss of faces and “friends” we may never see or meet. While our children cry out for a face to face encounter and heart to heart talk, we can push them aside in favor of accumulating the applause, “likes,” and “shares” of those who hold no important place in our lives. All the while, our children are growing up, our parents are growing old, and one day neither of them will be in front of us. How will we feel when we look back and realize we chose empty, unsatiable self-promotion over the ones with whom we had the deepest bonds and loved the most? Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!” I couldn’t agree more.
At the end of the day, what will we take with us when we leave this life? How much do we really need while passing through? During our minimizing journey, we found it necessary to stay in a small space for six weeks after selling our home and while waiting for our rental to become available.
We took only the things we needed to survive on a daily basis, and we found it was enough. We found that even though we had let go of so much, we were still encumbered with excess. Enormous peace is found when we reach a place of being fully content will only what we need.
Making a decision as to whether or not they would live within their means was a choice our ancestors never had to make. The option of whipping out a 3.370 ×2.125 inch plastic card to pay for their purchases at the general store was something they never envisioned. They, for the most part, lived off the land, making purchases only when necessary, and when they did buy something, it was bought with cash they had on hand. Borrowing was rare, and only in extreme circumstances. Just look how far we’ve come!
Today, we are rarely made to wait for anything, credit flows lavishly, and we are continually tempted to buy things we cannot afford, with money we haven’t yet earned. It all comes down to how bad we really want to get debt-free. A simple but fool-proof solution is to sell what we have to pay what we owe.
A yearning is defined as a feeling of intense longing for something. It all starts in the heart, doesn’t it? If we could ever reach a place of gaining control over our inmost desires, victory wouldn’t be far behind. True contentment is reached when we yearn for nothing other than what we already have.
Setting and staying within boundaries in our Spending, Time, Energy, Assets, Debt, and Yearnings will reduce future regret and help us make the most of our time on earth.