Boundaries Are Good For You

Esther Kuku explores the reasons for spiritual as well as self-imposed boundaries, and concludes having boundaries is a good thing

It’s never selfish to take care of yourself. Boundaries are good for our well-being; we all have limits and it’s important for us to embrace self-awareness and recognise that. Boundaries give us room to think, heal and plan, and they enable us to have healthy relationships with others.

The Bible talks about boundaries quite often. In fact, God chose clear examples of setting boundaries right at the start, in Genesis 1:2-4 — ‘The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.’

That separation of light from darkness was a boundary. Then later in Genesis 2:15-17 — ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”’

God told Adam he was free, and he had been given liberty to eat from most of the Garden, but this one tree was a no. Another boundary — and this was for Adam’s protection. We see early in Scripture clear indication of the importance of boundaries to prevent us from harm; to help us understand the parameters of our freedom; and also to place value on ourselves or a certain aspect of our lives: marriage, children or our professional lives.

There are also examples of Jesus taking time away from others and not sharing everything with the people around Him. In John 2:24, the Bible says, “But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person.”

Psychology Today puts it like this: ‘The whole point of having boundaries is so that we can contain ourselves within the parameters of where I stop, and others begin.’ It’s not about keeping others out, as much as it is about defining who you are, what you think, and demonstrating the value you have for yourself and not negotiating who you are to please others.

We’ve all been there… You have a 101 things to do in terms of your personal responsibilities. Then, someone asks you to run an errand for them, you know if you say yes, it’s going to put you in a difficult position in terms of all the other commitments you’ve made for that day. Your head says, “No, I can’t help this person,” however your mouth says, “Yes, of course!” You then pay the consequences with your own mental health, plus being late for the commitments you had, simply because you didn’t set a boundary. For example, after 2:30pm, I can’t do meetings because I must collect the children from school. Between 9am and 2:30pm is more than enough time to change the world but, during this golden hour, the kids come first! That’s not mean; that’s a sensible and healthy boundary, and we all need to value ourselves enough to learn how to say No. Boundaries will help us to mitigate stress, and stress is a serious issue.

It’s vital we don’t adopt the idea that boundaries are inherently negative. In some Christian spaces, we have defined love as having no boundaries. If someone slaps you on one cheek, you give them the other. I think not. Verses like this don’t mean we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves!

Careful, broader reading of Scripture reveals that we are not obliged to engage with everyone we meet. If people are gossiping, being foolish, vulgar, using foul and inappropriate behaviour around you, that would be a boundary moment. The Bible actually tells us this can prevent us from becoming a fool ourselves.

Jesus was known for setting boundaries; He would take time away from people to pray. If He allowed what other people thought about Him to guide His decision-making, He would never have had time to be alone with God.

Boundary-setting will unleash emotions and ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are not feelings, so it can be uncomfortable. Our natural instinct is towards relationships and wanting to belong. We worry that other people may not like us if we set boundaries. But if we’re to follow the Bible’s example, they are the most loving thing we can do.

Esther Kuku is a wife, mum, stepmum and Healthcare Communications Director
love God, love life, love people

Twitter: @mew36

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