The greatest act of love can be creating boundaries and definition. The most loving relationships can fall apart without exercising boundaries and definition. We cannot succeed at anything in life without exercising self-control, boundaries, limitations, and definition.
The greatest act of love is creating definition. And this is the reason why sometimes the most loving relationships fall apart because boundaries are not being set.
Any person who has succeeded at anything definitely exercised setting boundaries and limitations, definitely exercised self-control and definition, defining who they are. And definition means by defining who I am, I am also defining who I am not. Anyone who has ever been very successful at anything has definitely been focused. Focused means that I am putting my attention on this and I am not putting my attention on that.
And the reason why setting boundaries and limitations, exercising self-control, defining ourselves, all of these things are not so common or not as common as they should be is that, A, self-control is difficult. We all know that. It’s very difficult to exercise self-control. But it is a must. And, secondly, setting boundaries often doesn’t appear nice in our superficial world. It seems harsh, even though it isn’t. Sometimes it’s the greatest act of kindness when we actually set a boundary or exercise self-control or we define things, that it’s going to work this way and it’s not going to work that way. But it has the appearance of something harsh.
That’s the reason why when a parent is in the supermarket with their child and the child is demanding something, they want a candy or whatever it is, it’s much harder for the parent to tell the child no when other people are around because we have the fear of judgment from others that we’re being a harsh parent.
In reality, though, restricting our children from many different things is the best thing we can do for them. It’s that superficial appearance that sometimes frightens us. And so in front of others, it may be hard.
And sometimes we ourselves have built this stigma within ourselves that when I ‑‑ whenever I say no or whenever I a create a limit, that I am doing something which is not nice. And that is 100 percent false. There’s nothing further from the truth.
Very often by saying no we are doing a tremendous act of kindness. When our spouse asks us if it’s okay to do whatever it may be and it’s not okay for us, by answering no, it’s not okay for us, we are actually doing an act of kindness towards our relationship. By saying it’s fine, we all know it’s only a matter of time until this leads to a much greater outburst and damages the relationship even more.
So pleasing other people, while it may in the short‑term be very sweet and very nice, it’s actually much harsher to the relationship than when we actually take the strength and the courage to set boundaries and limitations, to exercise self control with ourselves, to define to others who we are and what works for us and to focus our lives on saying, this is what I’m going to be doing, that is what I am not going to do.
Of course, it’s much easier to please. And this goes back to a principle which, hopefully, you’re very clear on now, that the shorter longer way is always longer; the longer shorter way is always shorter. Meaning that when people are short up front, we make it easier in the short‑term, it will always be more difficult in the long‑term; when we take the more difficult step in the short‑term, it always leads to much more ease later on. And that’s why we always need to take the longer shorter path.
Definition and boundaries are one of those things that create discomfort, but it’s working through the immediate discomfort that’s going to lead us to long‑term comfort. And the reality is that all people love boundaries. When we create boundaries between ourselves and others ‑‑ and when I say between, it’s not necessarily between. Boundaries don’t need to separate us, they only define the context within which our relationship can work.
People know where they stand with us. We know where we stand with others. It brings tremendous clarity and definition for everyone and, therefore, it actually makes it easier for people. And that’s the reason, actually, why children love when parents set boundaries for them. Because they actually know the structure of the environment and how things can work and how things cannot work in their home.
And this is the reason why a laser beam is so powerful. This is the power of a laser beam. Its focus and the reason why it’s so intensely powerful is because it’s focused on one thing. It’s not dealing with a lot of things. It’s not having a broad affect, but it’s having a very powerful, focused affect. And that’s because when we can focus our energy in a particular direction, and the only way we can do that is when we set boundaries for ourselves, then we can actually be very effective.
And that’s why sometimes, as I mentioned earlier, the greatest act of love is creating definition. And this is the reason why sometimes the most loving relationships fall apart because boundaries are not being set.
And this is why we have a term called tough love. Tough love is doing something which appears tough but it’s actually very loving. It’s loving to the relationship, it’s loving to ourselves, it’s loving to the other person because it’s in the best interest of everyone and creates an environment where love can thrive.
Now, you must be prepared. Because whenever you stand for something which is defining yourself, I believe in this or I stand for this, you will have opposition. And you will have people accusing you of doing things which are wrong or being a harsh person, of creating division. Because boundaries create an impression of there being a division. But the reality is, what you’re creating is something very effective because you are actually standing for a position. When we don’t stand for a position, we cannot be effective at all. When we do stand for something, even though not everyone will like it, but when we stand for it, we can actually have an impact on the world, which is what our lives are all about.
Of course, we need to do it in a proper context and not in a way where we’re beating other people down. But we are raising ourselves up by standing in a particular place.
We’ve all seen organizations, leaders who live in the fear of setting boundaries, of defining exactly what their organization is or standing up for the right cause because of whatever fears they have in setting boundaries or in defining themselves. And those leaders always remain weak and those organizations always remain relatively ineffective. Because the only way we can have an impact is when we focus and we actually set boundaries.
And so I leave you with this very simple question: What is the next boundary that you need to set in your life to make yourself a more effective person?