52. How Boundaries Support Healthy Relationships

by Mar 18, 20242024

Boundaries: lines that mark the limits of an area. Something that points out or shows a limit or end – constraints. I like to think of them as invisible lines we draw based on what we will tolerate. In many ways, boundaries are the rules we establish for ourselves, and they can exist around our physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual selves.

The more value you place on your life, the greater you will recognize the need to set boundaries. In the natural, we know wind blows things over, and rain ruins unprotected valuables, thus we take steps to guard against such damage. So, in our relational lives, we are surrounded by powerful and influential forces that can tear apart the best of intentions. For this reason, our lives deserve guardrails or boundaries. In fact, to live a purpose-filled and God-honoring life, boundaries must exist so that we can guard what God wants to do in and through our lives. Examples of healthy boundaries can range from common sense wisdom, like locking our doors and closing our windows, to those requiring deep thought and reflection. Boundaries pertain to relationship dynamics and even the management of our own emotions.

Establishing Boundaries

I am not anticipating much disagreement over the need for healthy boundaries. What I do want to challenge you with is the importance of taking time to identify what your personal boundaries will be. I have had the privilege of providing pre-marital counseling to some, and I always work with the couple to establish very specific boundaries for their marriage. Things such as how money is spent, or how they will settle disagreements. This is so necessary, for we all come from different backgrounds and bring different values into our relationships.

Perhaps marriage is the perfect example to highlight the need for identified, healthy boundaries. As a primary relationship in life, it is often the one in which a lack of boundaries becomes most costly. This also holds true for any primary relationship in our lives, from friends to employers to pastors.

Supporting Self Value

Where relationships are initially established with love, trust, and respect, it can be confusing and disorienting when, due to a lack of healthy boundaries, disrespect or mistreatment occurs.  Often, it is only then, we ask, “How much disrespect or mistreatment will I allow?” “How often will I allow myself to be taken advantage of?” Our decisions on some of these difficult issues, can affect us for the rest of our lives.

Interestingly, when it comes to the parent-child relationship, we are usually quite willing to draw lines for our children. We do it for their protection and well-being. So, what makes it challenging for us to recognize that we also need boundaries to help guard against tragedy and hurt for ourselves? Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Having well-thought out and appropriate boundaries for our lives won’t guarantee the absence of tragedy or hurt, but they will aid you in self-care and recovery when they occur. In contrast, living with few or no boundaries is akin to consistently driving way above the speed limit. It increases the likelihood that an accident will affect us.

Living Wisely

Life, or the way we choose to live it, offers no guarantees. What we do have, however, is the encouragement of Scripture to, “Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7, NIV). God’s Word is full of instruction about guarding our hearts and fleeing from temptation. For some of us, establishing boundaries may come more naturally than for others. But whether it is natural or must be learned, it always requires wisdom. And such wisdom is best gained by acquiring a right understanding of our value in God’s eyes and His purposes for our lives. With those in mind, we will not view boundaries as just a set of “rules”, but as that which supports and protects God’s call on our life.

So, today, will you take the time to reflect on your relationships to identify if healthy boundaries may be lacking or insufficient? And if you recognize such, please do the hard work of understanding what may be keeping you from such and then seek to establish the boundaries necessary to foster healthy mutuality in your relationships. It is the loving thing to do, both for yourself and for others.