A boundary is a limit, a marker or border. Boundaries are about protection, security and limits. We live and deal with boundaries every day, but many people have a hard time establishing healthy boundaries for themselves. We are finite beings limited to a human body and a certain number of days on this earth. If we are going to live a healthy and balanced life it is important to set boundaries. This article will explore the how and why of doing this. When it comes to boundaries, there are at least four components that help us know what boundaries to establish and why we set them.
God is the original Creator of boundaries. He told the oceans how far they could come on the land. He gave us the Ten Commandments to establish our limits in dealing with God and others. In creating the human body, he set our soul within the boundaries of time, space and physical limitations. When Christ came into this world, he became subject to these same limitations. He grew tired and hungry at times. He taught the disciples to come away from ministry and rest physically when appropriate. He showed us how to live within the reality of life’s limits instead of fighting them. Jesus accomplished his life purpose in 33 years and said, “It is finished.” He was never rushed, frustrated or stressed because of “so much to do and so little time.” This was all because he only let the Father set his boundaries; he never allowed others to do so.
If we are going to follow his example, we must do the same. God tells us to set the following boundaries in regard to our priorities in life:
First comes building an intimate relationship with him. God always wants to be first place in our life (Matthew 6:33). This is developed through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, scripture, worship, service, giving and meditation among others. Then comes developing loving relationships with those who matter the most: your spouse and family. Next comes your job and community. Other boundaries are established through God’s Word, such as morals, ethics, values and other such priorities.
A proper view of God and self
Why do people feel guilty about setting boundaries? Many people-pleasers have a hard time with this because they do not want to risk being rejected by others. Need for approval drives many people to violate healthy boundaries, resulting in an inner resentment towards those they say yes to. This need comes from an improper view of both self and God. They see themselves as unworthy, unlovable or defective in some way. They develop a conditional view of love in regard to significant people in their life and have transferred this view to God. God will only be pleased with me if I do _______(fill in the blank). To change their view of self, they need to change their view of God. Redemption means I am fully forgiven, completely accepted and forever loved by God. To truly believe this about God is the key to being set free from the performance trap. You can set a proper boundary; risk the rejection because you know you are fully loved by God!
God has made each of us individuals. There are no right or wrong personalities, only individual strengths and weaknesses. So individual personality will play a part in boundary-setting. Just as people have different pain thresholds, they will also have different boundary thresholds. Do not compare your boundary to another person’s, but ask God where he wants you to set your boundary.
God will always look out for your best interest and is fully aware of your uniqueness. Quit trying to please everyone and learn to live for an audience of one. If God is pleased, that is sufficient.
You may ask, “How can I know when I am pleasing God?” That answer lies in what we have discussed so far – have a thorough knowledge of scripture, a proper view of God and yourself according to the scriptures, and realize God has a unique design for your life. When you put all of this together and ask him in prayer to show you and approve a specific boundary, expect an answer. God will speak peace to your spirit when he approves a boundary (Philippians 4:6-7).
Balance is one of life’s most important words. We tend to live life at the extremes, out of balance and without boundaries. Shattered dreams cause many people to withdraw from life in self-imposed exile. Others have a god-complex and refuse to accept the reality of limits.
Boundaries are about re-establishing the balance to life. There is only one person you can look to to keep you in balance – God. You can trust him to help you set healthy boundaries as you follow his guidance.