Day #9: Boundary Setting

“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing isn’t good. 18 You will end up totally wearing yourself out, both you and these people who are with you. The work is too difficult for you. You can’t do it alone.”
-Exodus 18:17-18

The first time I had the pleasure of quitting my job, I walked into the small corporate yogurt shop and announced it was my last shift. My supervisor said, “Would you mind working out your two weeks’ notice?” and I replied, “I don’t think you’re paying me enough for that.” I felt a twinge of guilt as I spoke, but I’d made my decision. I knew I was on the edge of collapse and the functioning of a low-traffic minimum-wage-paying froyo shop needed to be a lower priority than my sanity. Moses has a more crucial job doing dispute resolution, but it’s untenable and he needs to set a boundary. It’s his father-in-law who realizes this first (an outsider and, interestingly, not among the Hebrew people Moses escorted out of Egypt). Moses is on the road to burnout, which is eroding his capacity as a leader. He needs to adjust his leadership style for the health of the community. Resilient people anticipate their limits. They know when the community begins to rely too much on one person and they shift their commitments to extend their energy and impact. A resilient leader knows they are not the answer to every problem—part of their work is to empower the community to find other solutions.  Resilient people say no, and they learn to delegate.

Takeaway: Say no to that one thing: that positions or role you are more than capable of doing, but cannot do without draining all your energy. It could be serving on the PTA event planning committee; the church volunteer position you do because no one else will; an obligatory but exhausting social commitment. Say no. If you’re doing it because “I’m the only one who can do it,” then you are not obligated to do it—you are obligated to help the community find alternative ways to function that do not require draining the life out of you. You don’t have to stay at the froyo shop. If you’re the only one keeping the doors open, maybe the community doesn’t actually need froyo.


Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

One thought on “Day #9: Boundary Setting

  1. Pingback: Day #12: Improvisation | gathering the stones

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s