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Relationships and the Role of Boundaries

One of my favorite children’s stories is FREDERICK THE MOUSE by Leo Lionni. I probably have read it a thousand times and enjoy sharing it with children.

I think I found myself in the character of Frederick, even though I did the work and was not allowed to sit on a rock and watch. As winter approaches the mice are gathering all their stores to provide their needs. They are moving very fast and truly are determined. They are cross with Frederick who just seems to be sitting on a rock enjoying the sun. Even with all their efforts during the winter as it grows closer to spring they run out of their stores. Then they discover that Frederick was gathering STORIES, which now keeps them fortified until the winter passes and they can forage again.

Watching people, reading stories, and understanding emotions were the stores that I gathered all of my life. People and their actions and motivations fascinated me. By reading the stories of characters in novels and short stories, untold authors created even more scenarios for me to collect and enhance my warehouse. I often wished I had a “best” friend, but usually I was just on the outskirts of the group – listening. I shared with my friends about the characters in the books and how they had handled situations that were similar to their problems they were working on and most enjoyed my listening skills.

My chosen profession has huge ethical standards for relationships and boundaries. It is very isolating, because one cannot “need” the relationships that are expected to develop and the boundary lines are very finely woven. I have not found it possible to be friends with folks I am being a leader to and I have gone out of my way to find services (such as accounting and haircuts) from outside of my community.

Most of us have to learn the hard way by wandering outside of the boundaries and hopefully we have had our own personal boundaries in order to help us cope and bring us back in line.

My first year of being Campus Minister found me confronted by two students who thought they were my “best” friend and wished me to please let them know who the winner was. I was flattered that they enjoyed my class and subject matter so much, and that their enthusiasm extended to finding more students to participate in activities, and then truly had to exam which of my behaviors and actions was encouraging this standoff and competition. Fortunately early on I was able to find a mentor and a comrade to help me with the boundaries in crisis situations.
I had to be very careful of gifts along the way also. Students had very little in way of resources to share so I found myself on the receiving end of cookies or discount tickets to movies or lectures they had gotten. I had to carefully weigh the intention and the possible reciprocity expected in the gift. My usual suggestion was to ask them to put their best effort into writing the best project or paper they could and insisting that was the best gift of all.

Buddhist teachers get paid by gifts of money from their students. They need to report in to their teachers each gift and to make sure they do not give preference to students offering larger gifts. This practice provides a backup system for good boundaries. “Good fences make good neighbors”.

Clergy are want to say that if they have a handful of true friends in a life time that is a remarkable gift.
Most friends are not part of their community where they work. Most friends offer a time to relax and unwind – support- and they offer up listening and challenge – keeping us real and within the limits. There is mutuality and deep respect.

I will attend soon a picnic with a group of retired and active clergy who need to get together and check in – see how goes it, because we are all isolated in our individual communities. We will laugh out loud and get advice and hear some very good and “Old” stories. I am happy to say, this group has become accustomed to me and I am no longer the only woman in this neck of the wood.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing”, and I am thinking that maybe I would like to put together a board of directors for my blog. And yet I feel I still want control….it is my blog….or maybe I just need to find a way to get to a blogging conference? And a writer’s conference?

What do you think? Benefits? Problems? Suggestions? Why would you like this or not like this in your own activities? Are you a lone ranger?

Related posts:
Examining the Role and the Rules
Mending Fences
Book Review: Hats Off

11 Responses to “Relationships and the Role of Boundaries”

  1. Mark Says:

    What would be your expectations of a “Blog Board of Directors”? Do you see this a “brain trust” where you and the board could flesh out ideas and direction? I think a board or brain trust could be a great idea if the expectations are clear. Write more about this, flesh out the idea and your intent. My initial reaction to this idea is positive with some caution.

    Marks last blog post..Respect In Relationships

  2. J.D. Meier Says:

    I’m a fan of lone + team.

    I would keep your blog just you, that’s why your readers are here, but I might start a team blog or have a page that shares the collective.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Life Experiences and Leadership

  3. patricia Says:

    I do find myself having reservations, partly because I have been following others directions for most of my life and I am rather liking this lone ranger position of blogging. When you change the idea to a “brain trust” that gets more interesting. Good ideas to ponder, I thank you.

    Wow another good idea to contemplate. Thank you. WOW I am truly mulling these ideas over…

  4. Sara Says:


    I can see how what you do requires monitoring boundaries. I imagine the upcoming conference is a chance to really relax with people who have the same concerns. I hope it will go very well for you.

    Regarding the blog board of directors, I’m not sure what you mean by this. I love what you write because it comes from you and is in your unique voice:~)

    Saras last blog post..It’s okay to ask for help!

  5. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for your good comments. The gathering was a good time with colleagues but not enough discussion or substance on this idea.

    I really like the independence my blog gives me and that I can write on my own as most of my writing is so monitored…and having good editors can really make a book fabulous…I am still debating these ideas

  6. Liara Covert Says:

    Boundaries are an issue that captures attention especially when a lesson is pending. This is like a friendly nudge to be alert.

    I am familiar with a group of retired clergy who get together periodically to reconnect. Alhough their interests evolve, the comaraderie remains. It is not what people do that keeps them together, but a timless sense of connectedness they are slowly learning to acknowledge, appreciate and decipher.

    When you choose to be yourself, that is all that matters.

    Liara Coverts last blog post..10 Reminders the Intuition Age is Now

  7. Patricia Says:

    “When you choose to be yourself, that is all that matters.” Yes I think this is most true.
    The gathering was good and a nice event, but they could not help me with what I want to do…it was all the retired folks and only a few of the active folks and it was nice but not helpful. That just opened the door to me just working on the issue myself.

    Nice to be with other people just for the fun of it!

  8. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    As an introvert, I find I’m often a lone ranger, but I do let others in. It’s always good to get amongst our peers, share stories and laughs, and those good ‘ole day stories.

    Re: your blog. I love it just the way it is. Your writing is a joy to read as you always speak from the heart.

    As for collaborating, maybe guest posters?

  9. Dot Says:

    I’m not one to give advice on making friends. I’m too much of a loner and, with my disabilities, it’s hard to get out and meet people.

    My therapist teaches ethics for psychotherapists, so I’ve heard a great deal about why they’re so important. However, since she’s involved with other therapists in teaching at a major university, as well as serving on committees in the APA and being elected to numerous offices, she’s not lonely. Objective supervision is essential and required, at least for psychotherapists in my state.

    Having had a therapist who violated quite a few of the boundaries, I can see why they’re there. This person wanted to be a white knight and swoop in to “save” his patients. He set me up with a job working for one of his other clients. It was a disaster. The guy I worked for told me, after only 6 months, that I was the cause of everything that was wrong with his company, and then fired me. All because the therapist should not have linked up two of his clients.

    It must be difficult if you have to consider your entire community as off-limits. Isn’t it possible to form a friendship outside of the counseling, and then make sure that if the person requires counseling, they go elsewhere to avoid the ethical conflict?

    Dots last blog post..April Showers and May Flowers

  10. Patricia Says:

    I was hoping the marriage writing contests would give me some guest posting folks, but not yet. thank you for you kind words about my blog and it was very fun to get together with the retired folks in my district and enjoy their travel pictures and adventures.

    I do like the blog as it is….I don’t want to make much change but some more support in person would be good for me also I think?

  11. Patricia Says:

    Wow what good thoughts and ideas – thank you for your thoughtful comments. I do participate in counseling on line with women in the military (Afghanistan and Iraq) most who have been raped during their service time in the war zones. I have a number of PTSD folks also…and several Parents of Special Needs kids…I have to maintain my counseling license and not have them into my blog writing….how to do that…since my clients come to me via word of mouth via my blog….I don’t really want to write another blog.

    Isn’t it awful when a therapist violates the ethical boundaries. I am so sorry you experienced that….I am afraid I see it too often with children…I repeat how it saddens me when someone is abused in this way.

    Supervision is required in my state also….I have several friends now but being out of circulation for awhile has made it hard to find new acquaintances and connections. I am similar to many folks…I now get to try on this hat!