The Beauty of a Life With Boundaries
Good fences make good neighbors. I enjoyed reading that line in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” poem for the first time in high school. But at the time, I didn’t understand the relevance it had to my struggle with setting boundaries.
As a child of divorce, I tended to let people run over my walls because I was afraid to say No and face more rejection. At the same time, I feared letting anyone get too close, so I constructed a fortress around my heart to avoid having to say Yes.
Many of us struggle with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. We either let people trample our fences, or we erect stone walls where wooden fences would suffice. We also set overly strict boundaries on ourselves in some areas of our hearts and minds, and not enough boundaries in others.
A life with boundaries is pleasing to God. When I was an adult, I discovered that Jesus set the example of a life with boundaries. In fact, He told his disciples this:
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” – Matthew 5:37 ESV
How many times have you said Yes, but wanted to say No? How often have you said No when you needed to say Yes? Have you ever considered that evil, as Jesus describes here?
If you have clear, well-defined boundaries, your Yes will mean Yes and your No will mean No. Boundaries may seem like restrictions, but like all of God’s law, they provide true freedom and lasting peace.
Freedom to say things like this:
- No, I won’t be able to lead the committee this year. Can I help you find a replacement?
- Yes, I will eat a salad for lunch instead of the pizza, because I want to meet my weight goal.
- No, you can’t go out with your friends tonight, because you didn’t finish your homework.
- Yes, I will stand up for myself, because God doesn’t want me to cower in fear.
The more I cultivated my relationship with God and studied His ways in the Bible, the more I learned about boundaries. Meeting with Him every morning taught me that God is not at all intimidated by either Yes or No. He is the only One who uses them perfectly every time.
I learned that saying No is wise, not guilt-producing, when I see myself as a beloved child of God who can’t do it all. I also learned that saying Yes is also wise, but only when I make a commitment out of a grateful and generous spirit.
Moving from a life without boundaries to a life with boundaries takes practice. It also takes accountability and support from the church. I practiced many times with my Christian friends before saying No, since I often faced resistance for rebuilding my fences. They also helped me learn to say Yes to the best life possible.
Recently, I told a new friend that poor boundaries once defined my life. Her baffled expression was one of the best compliments I have ever received. She said, “I would never describe you as someone with poor boundaries.” I thanked God that day for showing me the beauty of a life with boundaries, and for all He’s done to help me rebuild my fences.
What areas in your life need better boundaries? Where do you need to tear some boundaries down? Ask God to give you guidance and wisdom. He will give you greater peace by helping you repair and rebuild your boundaries.
Heavenly Father, I confess that I have not always meant Yes when I said Yes. Neither have I always meant No when I said No. I want to live an honest life with healthy boundaries. Help me evaluate where I need to set stronger boundaries or tear poor boundaries down. I trust that You will give me the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.