When boundaries are not adequately defined and maintained, it leads to conflict with families, friends, spouse, children, at work, with God and with oneself.
Good people struggle with tremendous confusion about healthy boundaries and question:
Is it legitimacy to have boundaries?
Can one still be a loving Christian when limits are set?
What if someone is hurt and upset by one having boundaries?
Is it right to set boundaries when someone wants your time, love, energy, or money?
How can boundaries be right when you feel guilty or afraid when you consider setting boundaries?
Are boundaries selfish?
Why is it so difficult to hear “NO” from other people?
Why is it that someone wants to control other people when he/she do not get what they want?
Just as countries, landowners, businesses, and houses have boundaries to define what belongs within the limit and whatnot, to determine responsibility accurately. So, to the borders of South Africa, (used to), set the responsibility of South Africa and what is not South Africa’s responsibility, and let say where does Mozambique’s responsibility start – in the same way, that particular business’ responsibility is defined and what is not the responsibility of business. A great country will have a wall around its borders, and other countries will have hap hazardous fencing, and so will there be fences around farms and security walls around homes to keep guest that do not belong there, out. In the same way, we need to set spiritual, mental, emotional and physical boundaries for our lives to assist us in distinguishing what our responsibilities are and what are not. Not setting appropriate boundaries can be severely destructive.
Unfortunately, some Christians through “cherry-picking” verses from the Bible, are easily misinformed about boundaries and being misled about what the Bible says about boundaries can also be very destructive. To counter this, one should not primarily rely upon “cherry-pick” the Bible. Still, one should also study it contextually, not only on the topic of boundaries but also other aspects of life. It is also essential to understand what boundaries are, how they are developed, how one can be injured when one does not have healthy boundaries, how to repair boundaries, and how to use them soundly.
What is the purpose of boundaries? Why should we have healthy boundaries? What is God’s take on boundaries?
In the Bible, we learn that the idea of boundaries comes from the very nature of God, who defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself. He identifies, defines, explains and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, will or will nor allow and likes. (The Holy Bible)
He is separate from us and his creation and articulate to us who He is and who He is not. He says he is light and love and not darkness, (1 John 4:16 & 1 John 1:6). God the Trinity is God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit and as God, the Trinity united in one, but at the same time distinct persons each with their boundaries. Each has his personhood and responsibilities, and yet at the same time, each one has a link and love for one another, (John 17:21).
God limits what He will allow. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behaviour. He guards his property and will not allow evil things to go to this property. Jesus invites people in who loves him back and lets his love flow outwards to these people who lives him at the same time. God’s “entrances” for His boundaries open and close appropriately.
He gave as his “likeness” to be like Him, (Genesis 1:26), and then He gave us responsibilities within specific limits as He wants us to rule and conquer the earth and to be responsible supervisors over the life He has given us on earth. For us to be accountable stewards as God intents us to be, we need to develop and sustain boundaries so that we can be responsible and answerable in delivering our part.
These boundaries then define us. It distinguishes between what is a person and what is not. It shows where it ends and where someone else begins – pointing towards a sense of ownership. Because knowing what one is to own and take responsibility for gives one freedom. When one knows where one’s area of responsibility starts and ends, one is free to do with it what one like. God tells us what our property is and what we need to guard and protect because He specifies the boundaries of that that He holds us responsible for so that there will be no confusion on our part. With our responsibility being made clear opens up many different options in which one can live one’s life, knowing that if one does not take ownership of one’s life, one’s choices and options become very limited.
God created a world where we all live within ourselves as we inhibit our souls, and we are responsible for our spirit, our soul and our body – all the components of us. We have to deal with our area of responsibility as each of our hearts knows of our bitterness, (Proverbs 14:10), and boundaries help us define what is ours and what is not. When one does not cherry-pick the Bible, it tells us clearly what our boundaries are and how to protect them. However, often our family, (especially in dysfunctional families), past relationships, toxic religion and sick churches confuse us about our boundaries. Then sadly, boundaries become undefined, and when we do not clearly articulate our boundaries, we end up becoming emotionally, spiritually confused and end up physical suffering depression, anxiety and other illnesses.
Defining boundaries and then setting and applying it helps one to shows what one is responsible for, what is not one’s property and what is not one’s responsibility. For example, we are Biblically not responsible for other people – The Bible teaches us that we should help one another but not to take over someone else’s responsibilities and that although we spent a lot of time and energy trying to control others, not to control other. We, therefore, must have boundaries because the Bible teaches us so!
The Bible teaches us in Galatians 6:2 that we are responsible to others for helping one another carry each other’s burdens and in doing so, fulfil the law of Christ. Many times, as others do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry their load by themselves and need help as they have difficulties with that burdens that are too big for them to bear, denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves, (helping them to carry their load and not taking on the full load for them), is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. – similar to what Christ did for us as he did what we could not do for ourselves when He saved us. With this in mind Galatians 6:5 states that because everybody has responsibilities that only one can carry, those things that are one’s particular load that one needs to take daily responsibility for and work out ourselves no one can do this thing for you, because one has to bear (be equal to understanding and calmly receive) one’s load. (Galatians 6:5) We have to take responsibility for our load. Doing so leads to the fruit of self-control (Galatians 5:23) Furthermore Paul is very serious when he states that should anyone not want to work, that you then do not feed them (2 Thessalonians 3:10). God does not enable irresponsible behaviour, and hunger is a consequence of laziness (Proverbs 16:26). From these verses, the Bible teaches us that we are to carry our load. Doctors Cloud and Townsend write that one must deal with one’s grief, one’s own emotions, feelings, attitudes and behaviours, as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us, even though it takes effort. To avoid being stuck in pain or becoming irresponsible, it is vital to determine what is “yours”, where your boundary of responsibility is and where someone else’s begins.
Boundaries help us to mark our property so that we can take care of it. Boundaries help us safeguard our hearts with all persistence so that we can keep things that will support us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside – boundaries help us hold the good in and the bad out, (Matthews 7:6 teaches us not to give that which is holy (the sacred thing) to the dogs, and not to throw our pearls before pigs, lest they trample upon them with their feet and turn and tear you in pieces) – So, keep the pearls inside, and the pigs outside.
In John 17:12, Jesus states that He safeguarded that which God the Father gave Him. Sometimes we have the bad on the inside of our boundaries and the good on the outside – someone suffering unresolved hurt keeping it buried deep inside experience that one is unloved, unimportant, nobody cares for one, being in an abusive relationship where abuse, (emotionally, physically or sexually), is part of their daily life – the boundaries need to be able to open up so that the bad can go and the good can come in. That is why boundaries require gates so that when one finds that one has some pain or sin within, one can open up so that one can communicate it to God and others to receive healing. (1 John 1:9; James 5:16; Mark 7:21-23)Moreover, when the good is on the outside, one needs to open his/her gates and let it in. (Revelations 3:20; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
So, there was Elize who being abused while growing up. The severity of the abuse taught Elize to keep the bad in and the good out as she suppressed the emotional trauma that was caused by the abuse she was subjected to as she grew up. She was not encouraged to develop ethical boundaries, and where was taught inclusivity within the toxic religion and dysfunctional family, in which she grew up. As a result, she would close herself off, holding the aching pain inside herself in an attempt to protect herself, (she believed at the time), she would not open up to express her hurt to get it out of her soul. She would also not open up to let support from the outside in to heal her. She went into the world of the adult still harbouring the unresolved trauma and pain seeking acceptance and unconditional love. In this surge, she continually allowed the church and other to “dump” more pain into her life, adding to the brokenness of her soul.
It is imperative to be aware that boundaries do not imply being walled off from others; it is only a means to identify one’s own space and property. We learn in John 17:11 that we are to be in a community with fellow Christians so that we can become “one”. Therefore, boundaries should be permeable enough to allow passing and strong enough to keep out danger.