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Not long ago I was introduced to the idea of boundaries. Truly, they were incredibly elusive and confusing to me, in any basic context.
There was a lot that I did not understand, and a lot that I knew I needed to learn. This was especially true for relationships and self-love.
The turning point for me happened last year. I knew I needed to get help for co-dependency (a.k.a. fear of man). I felt the Lord calling me to open my mouth and speak, even if it upset others. I was terrified.
So, I sought out a Christian counseling service. I spent the next 13 weeks connecting with a lovely woman to help me navigate my inner world.
When I Found My Voice, I Began to Practice Boundaries
You see, in my upbringing I was the quintessential people pleaser. I was the middle child of three and constantly worked to keep everyone happy. I was a peace keeper. I did not rock the boat, or at least I did not do so in a noticeable and obvious way.
I learned to keep quiet most of the time. Speaking up usually meant that someone was going to fight and get into an argument, and I hated that. I never saw anything profitable about such arguments, except added resentment, irritability, and another rung of misery hung on the face of the arguer.
Nope, I did not want that for myself.
But, as God would have it, my marriage was the place where I needed to learn to speak up. I had become a chronic enabler, which sadly simply meant that both my husband and I were in a perpetually static state. My fear of hurting him kept me quiet, and it was not serving either of us well.
I felt the Lord press my heart and say: it is my job to speak the Truth in love, and to let Him deal with the response of the other person.It is my job to speak the Truth in love, and to let our Abba deal with the response within the other person. Click To Tweet
The idea was foreign and took a long time to really sink in.
This was the beginning of my dance with boundaries.
So, What ARE Boundaries?
What I have come to understand about boundaries is that they are the greatest application of love in practice.
Practicing boundaries means practicing SELF control versus others control. It is putting a hedge around your SELF, instead of trying to reign someone else in in order to keep yourself calm.
This idea was truly an enigma to me at first until I began to see some examples in practice.
If my husband and I have a fight and I begin to feel too emotional and feel I might say or do something very horrible to him, it is my job to separate myself from the argument until I am under control again and can continue.
It is my greatest responsibility to practice self-control…period.
In the same sense, if the roles are reversed and my husband is losing control and saying yucky things but will not separate himself from the problem, it is my job to have the wherewithal to say, “I love you, but I won’t stand here while you speak to me that way. I’m heading to ________’s house and I will be back tomorrow. Hopefully by then you will be calm enough for us to talk” (These are just examples and not true to my personal situation, but I know plenty of couples who experience these difficulties).
It is my job as a parent to practice self-control when others act up, but to hold them accountable with appropriate consequences when they overstep a boundary.
A freak out yelling session is not an effective teacher. The best teacher IS an appropriate consequence for a misbehavior.
Consequences ARE the boundary line.
Why are boundaries necessary?
Boundaries boil down to love in action, and application of the Golden Rule:
Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
The hard part about this concept, though, is that many of us think so little of ourselves. We let others walk all over us and think that we are doing them a service.
The truth is, though, that this kind of acceptable victimization only serves to enable deviant misbehavior. It permits one person to act horribly and then minimize the value and respect deserved by another. This does nothing to add to brotherly love, which ultimately undermines the entire Body of Christ.
If we truly internalize our value in the eyes of our Abba, then we must stand up and speak the Truth in love.
There is nothing unloving about calmly and gently saying “NO.”
There is nothing unloving about kindly separating ourselves from dangerous or otherwise unacceptable behaviors and people who will not control themselves.
This IS love. This IS fellowship. This IS having healthy relationships that have opportunity for forgiveness and growth and acceptance and repentance.
Boundaries used to feel so scary to me. Now, though, they are the clearest thing ever that helps me to navigate the most tricky situations.
My Top Resource to Learn More on the Topic…
I am a huge fan of Henry St. Cloud’s books on the topic of boundaries, and this one is an excellent starting point (affiliate link, which means any purchases you make will provide me with a small commission) If you are anything like me, you are dying for something to simply help you navigate the murky waters of this unknown land called boundaries, and let me tell you this book is a great launching point! I HIGLY recommend it.
He has several other books that are more targeted in their application, such as boundaries with marriage and parenting, so definitely check out his other work, too.
Just keep looking up…
If our Abba sets the example through the boundaries of His Law and Universal principles that govern Himself, then we too are to practice self-government through the blessing of boundaries in love.
Continue to seek Him for wisdom as you practice love WITH boundaries, knowing that this IS the best kind of love, one that fosters mutual respect and consideration within the Body.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” ~ Eph. 4: 14
Stand firm and stay humble, sweet sisters. Trust Him as He leads.