I used to think that having boundaries would make my world smaller and less free. I thought that it would distance me from others and I would have to make difficult decisions. But what I am finding is that boundaries are giving me more freedom and more peace than I thought I could have in stressful situations. Let me explain.
It all started a couple of months ago when I “stumbled” on the writings of Brene Brown. You may know her from her wildly famous TED talks on vulnerability and shame. I had seen those talks but never read her books. As the Lord usually does with me, I believe He led me to her work on boundaries to prepare me for a season of conflict He knew I had coming. And a season of conflict it has been. Without going into the details, let me say that there are personal relationships that I have that are requiring me to be strong and make tough decisions. The unprepared me would have been squashed and defeated. Let me share some of the lessons I am learning these days.
Boundaries communicate value.
When I was in Paris, I was able to see the Mona Lisa displayed at the Louvre Museum. You can’t get very close to it. It’s not only under glass, but there is more than one rail that keeps the crowd about 10 feet away. Why? The Mona Lisa is valuable. The other paintings of the Louvre don’t get this treatment, and the crowds show it. People walk right by the others, but the crowds around Mona are deep. My life and time are valuable. I deserve a safe boundary.
Boundaries help me choose momentary discomfort over lasting resentment.
When I realized this, life changed. My old pattern was to let my boundary slide because I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint someone. I believed the lie that the loving thing was to do what they asked. The problem was that I was then stuck with that decision and began to resent either the situation or the person. Yuck! Being okay with an uncomfortable moment (something I’ve learned on my yoga mat), and taking the risk that I might make someone else unhappy has paid off. The funny thing is that it usually is something that doesn’t mean a lot to the other person, but it was putting me out, shifting my priorities, and making my life hard. Often the person was asking me to make their problem my problem. No more. I am no longer willing to work harder on someone’s problem than they are.
Firm boundaries in place, I have the freedom to love you with my whole heart.
With my boundaries intact I no longer feel resentful or frustrated. My time is spent doing what I choose, not what I have to. When I am there for family and friends, I can be completely engaged. My boundaries also empower others to own their challenges. Our relationship can be one of support and encouragement. Healthy boundaries are good for everyone involved. Keeping my boundaries reminds me not to cross other’s boundaries. Mutual respect is the goal.
It hasn’t been an easy road, but I am learning. This season of intense conflict is making me stronger than ever. I can never go back. I have found such freedom, white space, and ease in my days when I practice this. My “to-do” list isn’t weighing me down. Like any practice, the more you do it, the easier it gets!
I believe this is part of the maturity Paul is talking about in Ephesians 4:14-16,
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Keeping healthy boundaries communicates worth, promotes peace of mind, and gives freedom to love wholeheartedly. Jesus modeled boundaries perfectly. Look for it as you read through the gospels. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor. Firm boundaries will change your life.
Grace and peace,