Friday, May 18, 2012

Boundaries (continued)

They will be like trees
    growing beside a stream—
trees with roots that reach
    down to the water,
and with leaves
    that are always green.
They bear fruit every year
and are never worried
    by a lack of rain. ~Jeremiah 17:8

Welcome back friends!  I hope your week has gone well.  How are things going for you in the areas we've been focusing on over the last three weeks now?  Have you seen any toxic thought patterns?  Have you been believing lies about yourself?  Do you look to others for your worth and value?  Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions if there are things you would like me to focus on a little more or explain in more detail.  If you have any questions at all, I am here to help.  Let's get started with today's message!

Last week I touched on the subject of boundaries, which is an area I have struggled with and didn't fully understand until I read the Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend.  I would like to elaborate a little more today on what boundaries are and some of the boundary problems we struggle with.  I believe this is such an important subject to understand, not only for our own peace of mind, but to be able to have healthy relationships with others.  I want to make it clear that I have not mastered the area of boundaries yet.  I am still retraining my mind and replacing the lies I've believed for so long because of the self-worth and rejection issues.  Enforcing boundaries was, and still is at times, difficult for me.  When you struggle with self-worth and rejections issues, you think you're being mean when you say no to someone or when you enforce boundaries, not to mention the guilt messages that immediately start playing in your mind.  I had let people run over me and take advantage of me for so long that it felt foreign to me when I first started putting boundaries in place.  I had never stood up for myself.  I would go out of my way to help other people, even to the point of putting my own health and needs aside.  I had no boundaries for myself, which caused me to feel stressed out, angry, and resentful.  You may be saying, "Well aren't we supposed to help others and serve them?"  Yes, we are, but not to the point where we are sacrificing our own health and needs to do so.  Nor is it a good thing to say yes to people out of fear that they will reject you or that they will think you're a bad person for not doing what they want.  That is not the kind of giving or serving that the Lord wants from any of us.  Something is broken when we feel we have to say yes out of fear or to please others.  I would say yes, even when I really wanted, and sometimes needed, to say no to certain requests made of me.  I would get so angry at myself when I would do this.  Why couldn't I just stand up for myself?  Why couldn't I just say no?  I felt like such a push-over.  Have you ever felt pressured by someone else, or even by yourself, to say yes in a situation because you were so afraid the other person would get mad at you or think badly of you if you said no?  That is a terrible place to be.  My toxic thinking kept me in that place for many years.  I finally had one of those "lightbulb moments"  while reading this book when I learned that I am not responsible for how others feel.  Not only that, but I am not responsible for what they think, what they do, or what they say.  What???  Yes, that's right.  When we say no to someone, or enforce boudaries in certain areas, we are not responsible for how the other person feels or how they react.  We are responsible for our own feelings, thoughts, words, and actions.

Here is the definition of boundaries from the Boundaries book, "Boundaries define us.  They define what is me and what is not me.  A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.  Knowing what I own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.  If I know where my yard begins and ends, I am free to do with it what I like.  Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options.  However, if I do not "own" my life, my choices and options become very limited.  The concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God.  God defines himself as a distinct, seperate being, and he is responsible for himself.  He defines, and takes responsibility for his personalality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes."

Here are a few examples of boundaries from the Boundaries book:

*Skin-  The most basic boundary that defines you.  Your physical self is the first way you learn you are seperate from others.  It keeps the good in and the bad out.  It protects your blood and your bones, holding them on the inside and all together.  It also keeps germs outside, protecting you from infection.  Victims of physical and sexual abuse often have a poor sense of boundaries. Early in life they were taught that their property did not really begin at their skin.  Others could invade their property and do whatever they wanted.  As a result, they have difficulty establishing boundaries later in life.

*Words-  In the physical world a fence or some other kind of structure usually delineates a boundary.  In the spiritual world, fences are invisible.  Nevertheless, you can create good protective fences with your words.  The most basic boundary-setting word is no.  It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you.  No is a confrontational word.  People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others.  They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent.  Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something; other times the pressure comes from your own sense of what you "should" do.  If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of "self-control."  Your words also define your property for others as you communicate your feelings, intentions, or dislikes.  It is difficult for people to know where you stand when you do not use words to define your property.  "I don't like it when you yell at me!" gives people a clear message about how you conduct relationships and lets them know the "rules" of your yard.

This is where I will close for today friends.  I hope the above examples I've included will help you understand a little more about boundaries.  I will give some more examples in my next message coming up on Monday.  Here is something for you to think about over the next couple of days:  I cannot begin to tell you the struggles I have gone through over the years with saying no to people and not having healthy boundaries.  The times I actually did say no, which were few and far between, I would beat myself up so badly because of the fear and anxiety of thinking they would be mad at me and not talk to me anymore because I said no.  I was causing undo stress and anxiety for myself as a result of thinking this way.  That is stinkin' thinking!  God wants us to be motivated to give freely out of love, not fear, pressure, or under compulsion.  The Bible says in 2 Cor. 9:7, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."  I believe this is true for more than just giving in monetary terms.  How can we give cheerfully and with the right heart if we are doing it for the wrong reasons?  Having boundaries is a good, healthy thing.  They guard our treasures.  They let us know what we are responsible for and what we're not.  Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.  Until next time my friends, be blessed!

*Scripture Verses to Encourage You:

Happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) is the man who finds skillful and godly Wisdom, and the man who gets understanding [drawing it forth from God’s Word and life’s experiences].  For the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver, and the profit of it better than fine gold.  Skillful and godly Wisdom is more precious than rubies; and nothing you can wish for is to be compared to her. ~Proverbs 3:13-15 (AMP)

These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.  Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen. ~2 Cor. 4:17 (CEV)

Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of.  But don’t compare yourself with others.  We each must carry our own load. ~Galatians 6:4-5 (CEV)

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~James 1:2-4 (NLT)


  1. Good topic, Sherry! I think it's so important that we understand that saying no when you should isn't being mean. It's being healthy and having peace. If God has boundaries, then we should follow His example. I love that we are not responsible for anybody else but ourselves and if someone reacts in a negative way bacause we had to say no, then it's on them.

  2. Thank you my friend! I agree that saying no when you should isn't mean. Learning about boundaries has made a huge difference in my life. It does bring so much peace doesn't it. Yes, God is the creator of boundaries. He was the One who modeled boundaries for us from the very beginning when He created Adam and Eve and told them they could eat of any tree in the garden except one, and He told them what would happen if they ate of that tree. Learning that I'm not responsible for anyone but me has been like a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. Thank you for helping me learn how to live a life with healthy boundaries. :)