Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of the book Boundaries, say that boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me 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. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our thoughts and clarify distorted thinking
I think this description helps us understand better the use and importance of setting boundaries in our relationships. We may wrongly assume that boundaries are walls we put to keep others out, thus causing harm or pain in our relationships. But this is not the case.
On the contrary, having boundaries helps us live a more authentic and meaningful life.
God has created each one of us unique with a unique personality, which means that our thoughts, emotions, what we like, and dislike are our own and may differ from others. But they should not be rejected, ignored, dismissed, or denied. We need to acknowledge them, accept that they are part of who we are, and become responsible for handling them.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” To guard means to protect and take care of. So, each of us is in charge of managing our hearts- emotions, feelings, and thoughts. And we do that by determining what we will let in (the good) and what we will keep out (the bad). We decide what is right for us, our values, our priorities, our limits, and the kind of behaviors and attitudes we will allow.
Even God tells us what He dislikes. Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “there are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
Healthy boundaries help us maintain our personal integrity, make better decisions, and live our lives without feeling used and taken for granted. They involve separating our feelings from others, not letting their emotions dictate our choices and actions, nor take responsibility for what they feel and do. It implies that we are not responsible for other people’s happiness and choices. Galatians 6:5 says that each one should carry their own load.
This is especially true when we want to show our care for people and help carry their burdens. It is easy to feel drained, exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed because we forget our own physical and emotional needs. With proper limits, we can maintain our mental health. Even Jesus, during his time on earth, took personal time to be with his Father.
When setting boundaries, it is essential to know that God loves you, and you matter. Your ‘no’ may disappoint others but saying yes when you want to say no will only result in resentment, negative feelings, and feeling like a victim. And you are not being selfish. A selfish person always expects his desires to come first and always needs to have things done his way regardless of how others are affected (mentally or emotionally) and makes them look bad when his desires are not met.
Romans 13:9 says to love your neighbor as yourself. So, you need to love you first before you can love others. You can’t give what you don’t have. Otherwise, all your actions will come from wrong motives.
Loving ourselves as God does is crucial to living a purposeful and fulfilling life. And our boundaries make sure that we are a good steward of the gift that God has given us- our life.
If you want to set some healthy boundaries in your relationships, I’d love to connect with you. Feel free to contact me at Cindy@anewforpurpose.com