Have you felt humiliated, silenced, manipulated or bullied? In today’s outrage culture, people often communicate devoid of civility, compassion or consideration. Self-unaware or manipulative people fail to understand an important principle Jesus practiced and taught—boundaries.
Discovering that Jesus not only maintained boundaries but encouraged them was revolutionary. Sadly, my first image of Jesus was as the quintessential door mat. How wrong I was!
As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Matt.12:46
I never really understood this encounter. Why didn’t Jesus go to His family? Later, I learned they came to save Jesus, thinking He was disillusioned or possibly insane!
Jesus knew who He was, whose He was and His mission, allowing nothing to deter Him. Not religious leaders, Roman soldiers, well-meaning disciples, or family.
What are boundaries, then, and why do we need them? Until I began counseling 3 years ago, I knew little of boundaries.
My counselor explained, “boundaries will never be instinctive for you because you grew up without them, but repetition strengthens your resolve, making it easier.”
Clearly, I’m not qualified to speak on boundaries; my counselor and the writings of Drs Henry Cloud and John Townsend taught me of their importance. So today, allow me to be your curator—one who researches content.
“In a psychological sense, boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others…
Many people struggle to discover, set and guard their personal boundaries. They truly cannot tell where they end and someone else begins. Dr. Henry Cloud
Let me stop here. The revelation I experienced reading this was profound. My counselor elaborated as she drew 2 properties, “Imagine this is your home and property, and next door is the person manipulating you.”
She then erased the fence between them. “You do not realize where you end and they begin, and whether knowingly or unknowingly, they exploit this.” Eureka!
“Thus, (people) suffer from lack of purpose, powerlessness, panic, identity loss, eating disorders, depression, irresponsibility… physical and emotional abuse…and a whole host of other problems, all of which lead to lack of real intimacy with others.” Dr. Cloud
By lacking or loosening boundaries, we take responsibility for someone we cannot control and ignore what we can control—ourselves.
There are multiple reasons we fail to develop or assert boundaries:
- Fear of hurting others
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of someone’s anger
- Fear of punishment
- Fear of being shamed
- Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
- Fear of being unspiritual
- Fear of one’s overstrict, critical conscience
(Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend)
I’ve experienced each one. Have you ever allowed these fears to roam the corridors of your conscience?
Historically, boundaries have suffered a bad reputation—especially for women—but thankfully, this is changing.
Patrick Doyle, Christian Counselor, specifically addresses women and boundaries. His work, along with Brene Brown’s viral TED Talk, Listening to Shame, were my first homework assignments from my counselor.
But the question remains, how do we develop healthy boundaries?
My journey began with counseling. Her resource recommendations below further helped me set boundaries in baby steps:
- Safe People, Drs Cloud and Townsend
- Necessary Endings, Dr. Cloud
- Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, Lysa Terkeurst
I also contemplated and journaled about:
- Honest thoughts about myself—the lies I believed
- My past and how it affects my present
- My worth in God’s eyes
- My identity in Christ
- My dreams and goals
- What healthy boundaries are for me
I’m learning to set boundaries around:
- Feelings – acknowledging but not allowing them to control me—HARD!
- Attitudes and beliefs – recognizing attitudes and false beliefs in myself and others
- Behaviors – limiting exposure to manipulation and checking my motives
- Choices – I have them!
- Values – discovering and respecting my values
- Limits– learning to say no
- Talents – embracing God-given talents
- Thoughts – discerning my thoughts and other’s influence over them
- Desires – healthy pursuit of God-given desires
(List taken from Boundaries.)
God revealed two important truths in my journey towards healing—
I am a daughter of the King, and as His daughter, I have access to all His resources. My counselor
Boundaries aren’t to push others away, they are to hold me together. Lysa Terkeurst
These truths unshackled me, navigating me towards healthy boundaries:
1. I discovered my place in God’s family—a beloved daughter—overcoming shame.
2. I identified my fear and false beliefs regarding boundaries:
- Only strong people have boundaries.
- Compliant people lack boundaries.
- Christians—and women—can’t have boundaries.
- Boundaries are selfish.
I now see how Jesus modeled boundaries, and how unselfish they are.
Boundaries are a kindness offered to ourselves and others—extending peace, clarifying truth and maintaining integrity.
Friend, my journey towards mental and spiritual health would be incomplete without understanding boundaries, and a series on relationships is remiss without broaching the subject.
If you struggle with people-pleasing, insecurity, fear, decision-making, anxiety, depression, anger or difficult relationships, you could lack healthy boundaries.
Please grab one of these resources and begin journeying towards a healthier you!
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6