The backyard of the house behind us has a short chain link fence that reminds me of the neighborhoods of my childhood in California and makes me feel nostalgic for the days I used to walk as a child from my house to my Aunt’s house. She lived two neighborhoods away and I walked to her house a few times a week.
As I walked by the yards of the houses in between, I remember looking at how each home “marked their territory”. Some yards were surrounded by short red and white brick walls, some with a solid row of waist-high green bushes, and some had the short see-through chain link fences like the backyard behind us.
I remember imagining what it might be like to live in those homes, with those families and wondered about them. However, I knew that unless I was selling chocolate for a fundraiser, or they were friends that invited me in, I was not crossing those boundaries. I had no desire to enter the yards of strangers.
Just like the fences and walls that defined the yards in the neighborhoods of my childhood, we each have to learn what our personal boundary lines are. We must learn how to separate our feelings from other people’s feelings. Our feelings should not depend on other people’s thoughts, feelings, or moods. We each have permission to have our own feelings, and not to take on the burden of other people’s feelings. We are responsible for how we treat other people, but we are not responsible for their feelings.
Dr. Henry Cloud defines a boundary as, “a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not.”
People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavors: those who take too much responsibility for the emotions/actions of others and those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions/actions.
Our families of origin are a big part of what shapes our personal boundaries. It is where we learn our place and practice our “flavor”.
In my family I was the rescuer. I wanted to help, protect, and take care of the all the people in my family who were hurting whether it was emotional, physical, or mental. One of the problems with jumping and “rescuing” someone is that it prevents them from learning to rescue themselves. It stops them from taking responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Why would they when I would jump in and take responsibility for them?
As a young woman in counseling, one of the most important statements I was introduced to was, “I am only responsible for my own thoughts, feelings, and actions.”
There is a prayer in Psalm 16 that has always helped me remember that my personal boundary lines are not determined by the world around me or the family I was born into but they are defined by God Himself:
Psalm 16:5-8 NIV
I am created to be defined by God’s love and made to live in it. So are you. It is our “lot in life”. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, you and I have full access to the blessings and abundance of the boundaries of our eternal inheritance.
Each one of us is given boundary lines that are as unique as we are. God does not hand out cookie cutter boundaries. He meets us where we are and helps us grow in emotional and spiritual wholeness. As we learn them, affirm them and learn to thrive within them, we indeed are taking part in our delightful inheritance as daughters of God.
The challenge is when we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what our boundaries are.
Jesus provides the only true mirror reflecting who you have been created to be and how to live authentically in the truth of it.
With Him, you have full access to divine counsel, even at night when you can’t sleep.
As you lean into who God has created you to be and establish your unique personal boundaries, He will “hold your hand” so that you will stand strong when it is difficult (and it is always difficult to state, restate, and stand firm in your boundaries).
Boundaries are not there to keep people out, they exist to help us navigate healthy relationships with those who we invite in. Unlike fences around a yard, our personal boundaries are not permanent and immovable. They are living lines that mark those things which we are responsible (and those things which we are not) in the season of life we are currently in.
Your boundary lines need to change and grow as you change and grow. Each season of life brings new reasons for new boundaries or an adjustment to your current ones.
Give yourself permission to re-visit and reassess your personal boundaries as needed.
My friend, we are born into a very broken and hurting world. There is a void of worth deep inside that drives every person to prove their value, define their voice, and fight for survival. There is nothing wrong with this. Every human being has value, is created to have influence and is made to survive and more than that – they are created to thrive.
You are created to thrive. Look to the Lord for what you need today. Seek His face in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep – not as a way to help you escape the things happening around you but to help you process them in a healthy way. Reach out for the security of His love when you need it.
You are His beloved Daughter and you have permission to live like it.