Latter-day Saint Life

What the Savior's example teaches about setting personal boundaries


Jesus Christ is commonly depicted as the quintessence of selflessness: tirelessly seeking out the one and performing miracles wherever needed. We cherish His incredible ability to put others first, no matter the inconvenience or cost. Even so, the Savior’s life is also decorated with intentional moments of solace, reflection, and rest.

In an article for the Ensign, Kevin Keovongsa, a licensed clinical social worker, suggests we can become like Him not only through service but also through setting appropriate personal boundaries. He recognizes it is normal to feel cautious or uncomfortable to set boundaries regarding emotions, relationships, and spirituality. But with practice, our personal boundaries can give us strength regardless of our circumstances.

Keovongsa acknowledges that we sometimes feel ashamed to admit our emotional and mental limits. We don’t want others to feel as though they can’t come to us for help. With these noble intentions, we sometimes try to give more than our all. Setting emotional boundaries is a powerful protection from becoming mentally exhausted.

► You may also like: Ask a Latter-day Saint therapist: Does following Jesus and being kind mean getting walked on?

Likewise, communicating our boundaries in relationships is not easy. The path of least resistance is to avoid contention, but that often comes at the price of building resentment instead. Feeling bothered or distressed in relationships does not make us terrible people or disciples. Rather, Keovongsa suggests that these are warning signs one of our boundaries has been crossed. Establishing and maintaining boundaries in relationships can increase our ability to love one another.

While boundaries in relationships seem natural to set, setting spiritual boundaries can often seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t increased spirituality the answer to life’s challenges? As Keovongsa puts it, “It is a mistake to think that if we focus only on spirituality, the other aspects of our lives will automatically be strong.” All aspects of our lives require proper time and attention. There is certainly no substitute for communing with God through religious practices like prayer and scripture study, but these practices are not meant to completely take over our lives. Balance brings blessings.

► You may also like: Elder Holland on taking the time to be alone like the Savior did

Read Kevin’s article in the September 2020 issue of the Ensignto find even more insights about setting and keeping personal boundaries. He also gives practical examples of how to articulate boundaries to others, especially in situations where it might be easy to feel guilty.

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