I’m learning. Still learning. And, one of the things I’m learning about is boundaries.
Boundaries exist no matter where we are. There are boundaries on the streets and highways we drive. Curbs. Shoulders. Islands between lanes of traffic. Barriers of concrete or cables draped between steel posts. Boundaries to keep me safe. Boundaries to keep others safe. Even in buildings there are boundaries. At the checkout line in grocery stores, there are boundaries filled with tempting snacks and drama-filled tabloids which are put there to entice us to add yet another item to our shopping carts.
The most essential boundaries are those which help us maintain our own good health – mental, physical, and even spiritual – and protect our hearts. They’re often less visible than the curbs and cables but much more necessary in today’s world.
I am beginning to think all problems between people are due, at their core, to boundary issues. I believe boundary issues are the single, most-evidenced issue affecting families, institutions, churches, countries, and corporations today. According to Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their book, Boundaries, we all need to have boundaries. Why? Because we do not exist in a vacuum. “You exist in relation to God and others. Your boundaries define you in relation to others.”
The two well-known psychologists go on to say our boundaries “need to be made visible to others and communicated to them in relationship.” To do so requires hard work. To do so means we have to prioritize. It often means we have to step out of our comfort zones to communicate and enforce these newfound boundaries, too. But our hard work results in freedom from the bonds of those with whom we share our space; those who would choose to dominate our world if it weren’t for those boundaries. It’s a worthwhile objective. Boundaries are made for our own good, but they’re ineffective if we ignore them, or choose not to enforce them. We get to make that choice every day.
Will we abide by the boundaries we’ve established, or will we continue to let others do as they will as we follow along and pick up the pieces of ourselves?