How do you know that millions of people the world over love the game of soccer? The evidence is clearly seen when teams from across the globe gather every four years for the World Cup soccer tournaments. But how is it that people from different continents and cultures who speak different languages can come together and enjoy this popular sport? How can two teams of 11 players each–who can’t verbally communicate–play a sport as fast-paced as soccer without there being utter calamity? The answer: boundaries.
Imagine trying to play a game of soccer with no boundary lines marked on the field. Players would clash … tempers would flare … spectators would boo. To bring order and avoid chaos, everyone has to acknowledge the boundary lines … and agree to play by a standard set of rules.
In life, as in sports, boundaries keep us “in line.” They clarify where we end and another person begins and define the parameters in our relationships. Boundaries make it possible for us to enjoy the mutual give-and-take of healthy relationships, thus allowing us to give love out of freedom–rather than out of fear, shame or obligation.
What is a boundary?
Boundaries are established limits–lines that are not to be crossed. Relationship boundaries can be built around repercussions and rewards. When a friend crosses the line with you by using angry, inappropriate and explosive words, you respond by enacting a repercussion … you disengage and leave. The reward for respectful behavior is found in continuing a positive and enjoyable relationship. Ultimately, since the reward or repercussion is determined by your friend’s behavior, it’s your friend who decides.
Boundaries are about us … not about controlling another person. They require us to take responsibility for our own attitudes and beliefs, thoughts and choices, feelings and needs, time and talents–ours … no one else’s.
To become all God created us to be, we need boundaries with firm and fair repercussions and rewards. God defines these boundaries in His Word so that we don’t have to wonder, feel guilty or struggle to figure them out. His will for each of us is to …
- Be respectful.
“Show proper respect to everyone …” (1 Peter 2:17).
- Be a good listener.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak …” (James 1:19).
- Express anger appropriately toward one another–when justified.
“Be angry and do not sin …” (Ephesians 4:26 ESV).
- Engage others with mutual submission.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
- Speak truthfully from our hearts and listen as others speak truthfully from theirs.
“Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor …” (Ephesians 4:25).
- Be allowed to make mistakes and then take responsibility for them, and live with the grace that allows others to do the same. Even the apostle Paul recognized his own imperfection, “Not that I have already obtained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12 NKJV).
- Refuse to do things that violate our conscience.
“I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16).
We form boundaries with our words, our actions and sometimes with the help of other people. Boundaries help us to be clear about what we’re for and against … and what we will and won’t tolerate in our relationships. When we love people, we are certainly for them (on their side), but we are to set our boundaries against hurtful or dangerous behavior.
People with healthy boundaries understand that although we are separate and unique individuals, God made us to be in relationship with each other. And we succeed at being both separate and together through healthy boundaries.
Realize that healthy boundaries are to be modeled in our families, developed in our closest relationships and rooted in God’s perfect will for us. They provide safety, security and confidence in who we are, and they give us the ability to say no to others without guilt or fear. Healthy boundaries are “fences” that protect us, not imprison us.
It’s been said that “good fences make good neighbors.” A good fence is designed to keep out unwanted intrusions and to form a protective shield of safety for those inside. A fence without a gate becomes a prison when it isolates us from everyone and everything, but a gate opens the door to give and receive all that is good. A gate allows access and admittance when open, but continues to shield and protect when closed.
Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
“How do you know if you have a problem with boundaries?”
Consider this: Is your life really your own, or is it controlled by someone else? Do you find yourself easily taken advantage of by others? Do you think everyone else’s needs are yours to meet? If your response to any of these questions is, “That’s me!” then my prayer is that you will listen and respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and grow in your ability to set and keep healthy boundaries.
Let the Good Shepherd be the Gatekeeper of your life … for your good and His glory.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
When life gets messy it’s usually a good time to check our boundaries. All too often when we let our guard down . . . and bypass our boundaries … the result is chaos and disorder. Focused on finding biblical answers, the Biblical Counseling Keys on Boundaries: How to Set Them–How to Keep Them will help you make some changes to bring more order to your life. Our new president and CEO, Dr. Bob Reccord, recently shared, “Nothing changes lives like seeing lives changed.” With that thought in mind, we are taking this opportunity to share testimonials with you about lives being changed thanks to your generous support.
Hope For The Heart has helped me since 1998 when I desperately needed guidance and hope. I was in an abusive marriage, but through it all, I’m now able to stand and speak about my experience and how the Lord led me through the valley and set my feet on the mountain. Thank you, Hope For The Heart, for your ministry. I now use many of your resources to help others. – Diana J.
What a blessing your ministry is to our family! Thanks for sharing the wisdom of God’s Word and applying it to everyday needs. We’ve found strength for so many of our life situations and are excited about your ministry around the world. – Larry & Dorothy F.
Every time God uses Hope For The Heart to help transform a life, a ministry partner like you has helped make it possible with your financial support. We are truly thankful for your generosity.
Thankful for you,
Director of Donor Relations
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!