Learning to have boundaries is a hard thing for some people…and me. I have always struggled in this area of my life, and have been working extra hard in the art of saying “no” and understanding where my responsibilities and commitments need to stop.
I used to feel like I needed, or more appropriately ‘should’, do things for people when they asked. No thought, just a straight out “yes!”. I wasn’t lying as I really was determined to do as they asked….but at what price? I would say yes even if I knew I was over committing myself and biting off more than I could chew. I would say yes even if I knew I would suffer further down the track – time poor, lack of resources, emotional limits, etc. If I said no, I felt as though I would be letting people down and being unreliable or ‘unchristian’. Little did I know that the world would be able to function if I said no to a few things and got my priorities in order :)
The first thing I learnt was that everyone is responsible for themselves. Meaning we have property lines in our lives that we should be focussing on. Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me.
The book gives a perfect example of this when a father is struggling with his son who is lacking responsibility: “it is as if your son is your neighbour who never mows his lawn. But, whenever you turn on your sprinkler system, the water falls on his lawn. Your grass is turning brown and drying, but Bill looks down at his green grass and thinks to himself, ‘My yard is doing fine.’ That is how your son’s life is. He doesn’t study, or plan, or work, yet he has a nice place to live, plenty of money, and all the rights of a family member who is doing his part. If you would define the property lines a bit better, if you would fix the sprinkler system so that the water would fall on your lawn, and if he doesn’t water his own lawn, he would have to live in dirt. He might not like that after a while.’
The Bible clearly shows us that we are responsible to others and for ourselves. Galatians 6:2 ‘Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’. Verse 5 continues, ‘each one should carry his own load.’ The Greek word for ‘burden’ means excess burdens or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. The Greek word for ‘load’ means cargo, or daily toil. This is basically telling us that people may have ‘burdens’ that are too big for them to carry. They are lacking in strength, resources, or knowledge to carry it alone and they need help from others. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves as it would crush us! But we are expected to carry our own ‘load’. These loads are like backpacks that are possible to carry as they just everyday things we need to do in our lives. Problems arise when people behave as though their boulders are daily loads and they refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.
Boundaries are crucial to everyone whether used properly or improperly. They help us to “guard our heart with all our diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside; we need gates in our boundaries. Basically, boundaries help us keep in the good and keep the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt. 7:6) so that people will not steal them.
I have learnt over the past year to identify things that are damaging to me and need to be stopped, or when I have too much on my plate and the word ‘no’ should be my answer, or when my boulders are crushing me and I need to ask for help. It is hard, but definitely worth it!
Defending the Boundary Lines: Part 2 – ‘A man reaps what he sows.’ (Galatians 6:7-8) and why it IS Christian to have boundaries!