When I lived in Nashville, at the northeast corner of our backyard was a marker that designated our property line. The imaginary lines created by that marker separated my property from that of Mrs. Johnson who lived next door. When she would mow her grass, she would mow along that imaginary line, and when I mowed my grass I did the same. That property marker formed boundaries for our respective properties.
Have you established proper boundaries for your personal life? I can make this practical.
• Do you know someone who constantly gives unasked-for advice?
• Do you have someone in your life, say your mom, who tries to tell you where to spend your holidays, how to parent, or how to spend your money?
• Do you know an adult child who has moved in with his or her parents without their permission?
• Do you know someone who never can say “no” to other people’s requests?
• Do you know someone who attempts to “rescue” other people from their problems?
• Do you know someone who touches other people inappropriately?
• Or how about that person who breaks line in front of people?
• Do you know someone who is a people pleaser?
These are individuals without boundaries.
Boundaries and Your Emotional Health
Boundaries are like property lines that govern our lives, and they bring balance and emotional health to our lives. Here’s how.
• Boundaries help you maintain your separateness. They define who you are, and who you are not; what you are responsible for, and what you are not; and they define what you will allow, and what you will not.
• Boundaries build healthy relationships with others. If you are always complying with another’s wishes, that’s not healthy. If you are always being controlled and manipulated by others, that’s not healthy, either. If needy people are always taking advantage of you, then you need to set some boundaries in your life.
• Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us, and under what circumstances.
• Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own ideas and opinions.
• Emotional boundaries help us disengage from the manipulative actions of others.
• Spiritual boundaries help us distinguish God’s will from our own will.
God Is a Model for Setting Boundaries
Job 38:10-11 states, “When I [God] fixed limits I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther.’” God spoke these words about His creation of the land and the sea. He fixed boundaries for each.
But the concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. He defines Himself as unique, separate, and distinct. He said, “Your ways aren’t my ways” (see Isaiah 55:8). God takes responsibility for Himself by telling us what He likes and doesn’t like. By showing us what He feels, what He plans, and what He will and will not allow. God gives us the choice of saying yes to Him or no to Him, and He doesn’t manipulate us into saying either of those. God is a great model for boundaries.
How to Set Boundaries in Your Life
1. Be responsible for yourself and to others.—In regards to yourself, you are responsible for yourself. In regards to others you are only responsible to them. Those without boundaries live as though they are responsible for everyone else.
2. Accept that you have the freedom to decide what you will or will not do.—Persons without boundaries are compliant, not able to say no. They are afraid others will reject them or be mad at them so they always comply with others’ wishes.
3. Be accountable for your own choices. —Exercise your God-given freedom. Make your own choices. Just know that you are responsible for the choices you make. Don’t attempt to make others responsible for the choices you have made.
4. Meet your own needs.—Don’t operate as if your spouse, your friends, your pastor, or your boss are responsible for meeting all your needs. Need-meeting lies within your own boundaries.
Sometimes we focus so much on being loving, helpful, and unselfish that we forget our own limits and limitations. Boundaries prevent us from trying to control other people and from them trying to control us. And, best of all, boundaries bring more hope to your life.
**I was helped in writing this blog post by “Boundaries” the terrific book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s the best book on the subject you will find.