(This post is a snapshot of some of the material presented in the book Boundaries. All quotes are taken from this book.)
“Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries.” In fact many “clinical psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, addictions, impulsive disorders, guilt problems, shame issues, panic disorders, and marital and relational struggles, find their root in conflicts with boundaries.”
What are boundaries?
Personal boundaries are compared to the physical property lines around a person’s house. Just like physical boundaries, you also need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for your life to help you distinguish what is your responsibility and what isn’t. These boundaries are harder to see than physical boundaries but just as important, if not more important.
Boundaries define you. They will help define your soul, guard it, and maintain it. But they are not walls. They are permeable. They don’t isolate you from others.
They define what is you and what isn’t you. They define your responsibility. They help you see that you are responsible to others and for yourself. You have responsibility to others as you love people and help carry burdens as Jesus taught.
At the same time each person has responsibilities they can only carry for themselves. They must take responsibility for these and work them out. Not you.
Boundaries define your heart. They help you to guard your heart by keeping the good in and the bad out. They are like fences. And these “fences need gates in them”. You need to open your gates and let the good in to your heart and life. And get the bad out.
But don’t think of setting boundaries as setting limits on others. “Setting limits on others is a misnomer.” You can’t do that. You can set your limits on your own exposure to people who are behaving poorly. But you can’t change them or make them behave right.
One of the push-backs to responses like this and to boundaries is that you might worry about being a loving person. Setting boundaries is not being unloving nor is it about being selfish. Rather, setting boundaries separate you from the unhealthy behaviors of other people. Boundaries actually protects love because you “are taking a stand against things that destroy love.”
5 boundaries you need to have to maintain healthy relationships in your life.
You can create good protective boundaries around your life with your words. The “most basic boundary setting word is no. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you. Being clear about your no-and your yes-is a theme that runs throughout the Bible.”
“People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes real needs of others. They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of “self-control”.”
An example of using your words to create a boundary is by saying, “I don’t like it when you yell at me!” This will “give people a clear message about how you conduct relationships and let them know the “rules of your yard.”
“Knowing the truth about God and his property puts limits on you and shows you his boundaries. Realizing the truth of his unchangeable reality helps you to define yourself in relation to him. To be in touch with God’s truth is to be in touch with reality, and to live in accord with that reality makes for a better life. There is always safety in the truth, whether it be knowing God’s truth or knowing the truth about yourself.”
3. Geographical distance.
“Sometimes physical removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit, as Jesus often did.”
“Or, you can remove yourself to get away from danger and put limits on evil. The Bible urges us to separate from those who continue to hurt us and create a safe place for ourselves. Removing yourself from the situation will also cause the one who is left behind to experience a loss of fellowship that may lead to changed behavior. (Matthew 18:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13)”
“Taking time off from a person, or a project, can be a way of regaining ownership over some out-of-control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set.”
5. Emotional Distance.
“Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living.”
“If you have been in abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and until real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back. Many people are too quick to trust someone in the name of forgiveness and not make sure that the other is producing “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). To continue to open yourself up emotionally to an abusive or addicted person without seeing true change is foolish. Forgive, but guard your heart until you see sustained change.”
You need to take responsibility for your own heart and life. No one else can do this for you. Unhealthy relationships can be toxic. They will drain your energy.
Healthy boundaries and relationships will replenish your energy. They fill your tank. Make no mistake, setting boundaries and maintaining them is hard work. But the rewards of a healthy mind, soul, and heart make it more than worthwhile.
Also, here is an overview of the 10 boundaries from the book