What are boundaries and why are they important?
What are Boundaries?
Boundaries are a form of self-respect but can often be misunderstood.
They aren’t an excuse to be selfish, and shouldn’t be done out of guilt or fear. You aren’t a “bad Christian” if you have boundaries, nor are you a lousy spouse.
When done out of a pure heart, they really are healthy. Boundaries are worth implementing, and they set you up for success.
Having Jesus be the one who satisfies and refreshes your soul is of utmost importance. And having boundaries in your life and relationships can set you up to prevent burnout and keep your priorities in the forefront of your mind.
Boundaries are important because they give us the freedom to say yes to what we need to say yes to and no to things we need to say no to. It is clearly stating to others what you are and are not comfortable with or willing to do. It is taking responsibility for what is yours and saying no to what is not your responsibility.
Townsend and Cloud say it best, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows where I end, and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom…. Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what our responsibility is and what isn’t.” (Boundaries, Townsend & Cloud, p.27 & 31).
Another helpful quote for understanding boundaries as a believer is this:
"We are responsible to others and for ourselves. "Carry each other's burdens," says Galatians 6:2, "and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ." This verse shows our responsibility to one another.
Many times others have "burdens" that are too big to bear. They do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves, he saved us. This is being responsible "to."
On the other hand, Galatians 6:5 says that "each one should carry their own load." Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular "load" that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own "load"" (Boundaries, Townsend & Cloud, p. 32).
Differentiating between what we are accountable to and for gives us the freedom to love like Christ and fulfill our personal responsibility with integrity!
Here are some examples of different types of boundaries:
This is most commonly thought of when people use the word boundaries. It’s much more clear-cut and easy to understand.
Appropriate physical boundaries in a dating relationship, for example, would be to allow the physical aspects of the relationship to grow over time. Say for instance, maybe after you’ve had a couple of dates you hug after you say goodbye. As the relationship progresses over time that may turn into holding hands during a date. Later on, that turns into a first kiss and so on and so forth as the Lord leads you (I’m referring to further development in the context of marriage).
A sign you lack physical boundaries for yourself would be sleeping with someone after you the first date. You really have no idea who this person is, or if you want to continue to be in a relationship with them. Doing this gives the other person full access to yourself in a way that you may not be emotionally and spiritually ready for.
As previous stated, boundaries show what we are and are not okay with. And it’s difficult to set up limits and expect otherwise when we allow things to happen too quickly in a relationship.
"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." (Boundaries, Townsend & Cloud, p. 38).
Just like physical boundaries, emotional boundaries should build with time, too. You do not need to share with someone you just met what your deepest, darkest secrets are.
Just like the physical steps taken in a dating relationship should progress slowly, appropriate emotional boundaries means sharing vulnerable parts of your story over time. Build mutual trust before spilling your guts.
You can’t do all the things. You don’t have to say yes to every commitment you’re asked to do.
Engage with others. Care for others. And be willing to sacrifice your time, resources, and energy for others. But it’s also okay to say no to things that drain and suck the life out of you.
In fact, often someone who continuously says yes is the person who gets most regularly asked to do additional tasks. If someone knows you’ll easily to say yes to anything, you’re asked to do then why ask someone else?
Just like with all things, check your heart in this. Are you saying no because it’s inconvenient for you, but it’s the right thing to do? Because that isn’t the right motive. But continuously get asked to join someone’s IT WORKS team, and you have no interest, say no. You have no obligation to this person or the success of their business.
You don’t have to justify your boundaries, either. If something makes you uncomfortable, then that’s enough of a reason to say no.