What Are Your Guardrails?
Are you planning to mess up your life? In a big way? And in the process, mess up the lives of those around you?
Of course, everyone’s answer is, “No”.
Nobody plans to mess up their lives. And that’s why we need guardrails.
A guardrail on a road is designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas. It is there to protect us. The guardrail itself isn’t usually located in a dangerous part of the road. It is positioned to protect us from what is on the other side. The other side might be a cliff, the edge of a bridge or even oncoming traffic. If it wasn’t there, you could drive where a guardrail was located. But there needs to be a margin for error from the danger. There is less damage to you and your car if you hit the guardrail than if you go into the area beyond the guardrail. So everyone accepts that it’s OK to create a small amount of damage to yourself or your car, instead of driving off a cliff or into oncoming traffic. Some damage is better than disaster.
We can, and I suggest that we should, have personal guardrails in several areas of our lives such as our marriage, our finances, and our friendships.
Andy Stanley gives an excellent definition of a personal guardrail:
“A personal standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience. It is a standard of behavior that you are so committed to, that when you violate it, it bothers your conscience.”
When you bump up against your personal guardrail, your internal warning lights flash, bells go off, and red flags go up. This is a warning that a big mistake is close. If you blast through the guardrail, you may live the rest of your life with regret. You may lose your marriage, family, friends, finances, or reputation.
You can probably imagine what some of these guardrails may be for you. A simple example is a decision to never stay late at work alone with an attractive coworker. You may not think you would be tempted to cross that line, but in a moment of weakness anything can happen. We all know people that have fallen in similar ways. If you had this guardrail in place and saw the situation unfolding during the latter part of your workday, your conscience should sound the alarm to tell you to make alternate arrangements so you are not in this situation. That’s a guardrail.
Our human tendency is to flirt as close as we can to the edge of disaster. We need to stop deceiving ourselves, thinking we are strong enough, skilled enough, or smart enough to not fall over the cliff. While some guardrails make sense for most people, they should be individualized to match your life. And remember, we all have blind spots so it is best to involve a trusted friend who knows your tendencies and can be brutally honest with you. Some may think your guardrails are old-fashioned and conservative, or that you are over-reacting. Others may think you are just plain crazy. But guardrails are put in place to preserve the important, even sacred areas of your life. If they help prevent disaster in my life, then please call me crazy.
“No one has ever regretted establishing a guardrail, but there are plenty of people that look back on life and wish they had.” – Andy Stanley
I challenge you to begin thinking about guardrails for your marriage, finances and friendships. Over the next three months, I’ll dive deeper and give you (and your kids, believe it or not) examples of guardrails you may want to consider in your life.
This article was adapted from the Andy Stanley Series “Guardrails”. To view this message: http://yourmove.is/episode/ep1-direct-and-protect