I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries lately. It started when I read the book Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Since reading it I have been more aware of all the areas in my life where I have been lacking boundaries, and I am slowly but surely working to correct that.
It was once suggested that you should write out your boundaries for dating relationships to make sure they are established before hand, which in theory, will make you less likely to move the boundaries later. Growing up, whenever anyone talked about boundaries, my mind immediately went to the physical aspect. So when I recently decided to put some boundaries on paper, I started with the physical, which was not difficult because I had my past experiences to work off of. Spiritual and social boundaries were a little more difficult to set, because I love getting to know people, and that usually means I want to spend a lot of time with them and encourage them to grow spiritually. Once I got to emotional boundaries, I was completely stumped. I had never before thought about healthy emotional boundaries, and looking back at previous relationships, it is very obvious. That is when it hit me:
THIS is what they mean when they talk about “guarding your heart.”
Growing up in the church, I heard that phrase thrown around, but I could not for the life of me figure out what it meant. But I get it now. It means you shouldn’t stay up all night divulging every last detail of your broken life to a guy you just met. It means not planning your wedding and picking baby names after a first date. Guarding your heart means setting emotional boundaries, not just physical ones.
It seems very fitting that the day I would sit down to write this would also be the day I show up at Foundations (a class for high school girls about healthy relationships) to find we are talking about boundaries. I am thrilled that these girls are being taught these things now- I definitely could’ve benefited from learning this information 10 years ago. I loved the explanation given in the curriculum: “Personal boundaries define who you are and what you will and will not accept. It’s like having a fence around your yard. Everything on your side of the fence is your responsibility and everything on the other side of the fence is the other person’s responsibility.”
We talked about “relaters”- the type of people who love to fix things and sometimes jump over the fence to try to fix another person’s problem and then jump back over the fence to their own side. I admitted that I am guilty of this, and sadly I look back and see that many times I have trespassed in order to “help” others, but have ended up ruining relationships. The thing I like about the fence analogy is that most fences have gates. We get to choose to let people in when we feel it is healthy and appropriate.
I guess I need to work on waiting patiently at the gate.
And I need to remember that the best thing I can do is pray for people. Because the only way we can change is if our heart’s change, and God is the only one capable of that work.