I am messaged all the time about boundaries, and often one of the major sources of confusion is from believers who feel conflicted. Aren’t we asked to be forgiving? Aren’t we called to extend grace? Then how does boundary work come into play as a follower of Jesus?
I remember when I first stumbled across Dr. Cloud’s book Boundaries, and how it opened my eyes to the fact that boundary work is actually God work. Yep, you read that right. I wasn’t going against His desires for my life, nor was I neglecting my relationships. Instead, boundary work is how I ensure my divine gifts, talents + treasures are used for His good. They are also how my relationships flourish and not flounder. Still not convinced? Continue reading.
Scripture: So what does the Bible say about boundaries? Well, a lot!
I think the major confusion comes in from this verse, where we feel instructed to carry the burdens of others: “Carry each other’s burdens, in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” However, if you dive a bit deeper into the meaning, you will learn that God is asking us to help others carry their own burden. Imagine, someone carrying a load of groceries to their car, and you kindly help them do so? THAT is boundary work in action. What often happens however, is someone is NOT doing their part. Instead they are perhaps complaining, avoiding, numbing etc. We then step in to save the day, and this is where we get into trouble. Galatians 6:5 says “each one should carry his own load.” We are not the Savior.
Scripture also details how we are to confront with love. He does not ask us to people please, be a doormat, or roll over for the sake of others. He says to be clear and kind about your communication! In Matthew we read a lot about limitations: “Let your yes be a yes, and your no be a no” and “tell someone when they sin against you, confront them.” Our words are the way in which we communicate our loving limits. This ensures that everyone is clear on where we stand, our responsibilities, and what we are able to do and not do.
We also learn about natural consequence in scripture. Once again we are advised to help others, but not to step in and save the day, even if that means painfully watching someone we love suffer. “A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7-8). An addict in your life may change if and when they are willing to suffer from the consequence of their own actions. A child will learn limits when we allow them to safely test them, make mistakes, and even fail. A friend or family member who disrespects your boundaries time and time again, will suffer the consequences when they lose time or a relationship with you. The Bible asks that we separate ourselves from people who are acting destructively. Not because we don’t love them, but because we DO. Boundaries help us protect the relationship because we are boldly taking a stand not against the person who is destructive, but against the ACT of destruction.
Protection: Boundaries are what we use to keep our marriages safe. We utilize boundaries to keep the bad out (like social media, temptation, and distraction) and thus build up a love for our partner that sustains. Boundaries also keep a family marriage centered, and not child centered. Often well intentional parents place children at the heart of their house. God asks that He is first, your partner, then your children. There is a reason for this! Finally, boundaries allow us to protect ourselves, from ourselves. This can include how we think and talk about ourselves, how we manage our time and money, and how we turn to the Word for guidance over the rise of fleshly emotions.
Heart work: Boundaries actually allow us to extend love, grace + forgiveness, without losing ourselves. They are the framework that keep resentments, guilt + anger at bay. I don’t know about you, but anytime I over extend myself, or do not speak up about my limits, I feel ungodly things creeping up inside… things like irritations, exhaustion + judgement. Boundaries are actually what allows us to show up with light, joy + energy -and are the container to which we can love on those around us. Boundaries are not walls that keep people out; they are gates that adjust, open and close.
If this isn’t enough to get you on board with boundaries, then maybe reading about how Jesus used boundaries in His own life will. He was amazing at self care!
He withdrew from crowds often to pray.
He expressed His thoughts and anger upon the nations.
He spoke up about sinful natures and confronted it.
He advised against false prophets.
He set a boundary with the sea so that the waters would not surpass His command over land.
*I invite you to do your own research here. You will be astounded by the amount of boundaries in scripture!
In the end, I believe God desires for us to use boundaries so that we can stay close to Him, love others, and live out the calling He has on our lives with focus + intention. If this has you wanting more, you are in luck! Very soon, I am launching a 6 week course on Boundary work. It will be exclusive for only a few registrants, and will offer one on one intimate support with me, along with weekly resources, LIVE workshops, and authentic accountability from the members of our group.
Yours in healing,