We are living in unprecedented times, a time when offense is taken for the slightest reasons. Pastor Aaron Brockett once stated, “Avoiding offense in your life is impossible, but living offended is a choice.” What can be more necessary and offendable these days than boundaries? This pandemic has helped me rediscover why boundaries are so vital in maintaining our mental health, lives and relationships; they are, indeed, a gift.
Boundaries are a set of guidelines that we set to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways to interact with others and the world around us. They inform how we engage with others and how we expect others to engage with us. We use boundaries to protect our physical, social, and mental well-being.
I recall growing up and my dad having very strict boundaries for himself and for his children. His boundaries never felt intrusive (to me) or harmful. I enjoyed the freedom and safety they provided. My father set boundaries around his work schedule. He never missed a game or an event for us. his three girls. He set boundaries for what was and was not tolerable in our home. My father also encouraged us to set boundaries for ourselves, our time, and our relationships. As a military man, everything had order, and order was ensured proper boundary setting.
I am grateful for the lessons he lived out and passed on, and because of his lessons, I never experienced an unhealthy romantic relationship. I found it acceptable to say no, and I learned the power of walking away from anything that did not benefit or uphold my values. Was this always a flawless process? Absolutely not. Sometimes, I acted too slowly, too liberally, or in a way that caused harm and damage.
Boundaries are an important part of life; they are not unloving. Separating ourselves from what doesn’t benefit us protects our relationships and ourselves because we are taking a stand against that which destroys them. Boundaries help us understand what we do and do not want. They help preserve our energy, relationships, and time, and they promote peace.
Boundaries protect us.
Boundaries protect us -- our time, our energy, our relationships, our mental health, and so much more. I once read a quote, “Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden” (Lydia H. Hall).
We must see ourselves and our time as valuable enough to protect. Until Covid-19 struck, I had not realized how many of my own boundaries I had crossed that led me to feeling overcommitted and undervalued. When my every commitment was stripped away from me for the first time in over a decade, I felt free. I felt like me again. I had energy I hadn’t known since before having children. I heard myself think again and I felt God’s leading more strongly than I had in quite some time. I had allowed commitments and busyness to take me away from what mattered most -- my family and my calling.
Boundaries preserve what we value.
When we set boundaries, we protect what we value. Our most valuable and costly commodity is our time. Once we give our time, we can never get it back.
May I ask you a few personal questions?
What is stealing your time?
Are you committed to anything out of duty versus desire?
If so, it’s stealing your time.
Are you preoccupied by social media and news?
The statistics vary, but it is suggested that people spend between three to five hours on their phones and social media daily. That is the equivalent of spending 24 hours a day, for three months, with our faces in our phones. That is time we will never get back. It is certainly a space that many of us could benefit from setting boundaries.
In fact, there are several areas of life that boundaries would benefit. As a homeschool mom who actively serves in several ministries, my energy is gone before I even open my eyes in the morning. I spent the last five years deeply desiring to homeschool my children, yet I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to do so.
I came to find out I had more than enough time and energy; I was just exerting it in all the wrong places and good places, like Bible studies, ministries, volunteering, but wrong places for this season of life.
Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise. The time away from “life” offered me an opportunity to re-center myself, my life, and our family. During E-learning (pre-homeschooling my eldest), I rediscovered my initial desire to homeschool. I realized I didn’t lack the time or energy to do so, I lacked boundaries. 2020 has certainly taken much, but it has also given me so much in return. I took time to reprioritize my life, my time, and my family. In doing so, my relationship with my children has become more fruitful, meaningful, and beautiful. My ability to support my husband in his climb up the corporate ladder took on another level when I realized I no longer felt burdened or resentful of his pursuit because I now had time to pursue my own passions, not just my priorities. Had it not been for this nightmare of a year, I wouldn’t have experienced the level of peace I have now. Don’t get it twisted though -- my days can still overwhelm me, but I know I’m fulfilling my purpose versus fulfilling obligations out of duty to others.
Boundaries promote peace.
Covid-19 taught me that boundaries = peace. With my calendar wiped clean, I rediscovered my sense of inner peace. The stress, the anxiety, and never-ending to do list was gone! For the first time in a long time, I felt nothing but peace. There was peace in my home, peace in my mind, and peace in my life. I had made myself a slave to my to-do list and obligations to others. I realized that I had forgotten that “no” is a complete sentence.
I no longer resent always having to be the one to travel to see family.
I no longer resent my husband’s schedule.
I no longer resent being “dutiful."
I finally feel like I am living. When I was forced to set it all aside did I understand the weight of my boundary-less life. I didn’t realize that even “good” things can consume our lives and create chaos.
Boundaries keep people and relationships healthy. Even Jesus saw the importance of boundaries. He selected a small group of men to pour Himself into, not an abundance. He would often take time to be alone with God. He took time to rest and encouraged His disciples to do the same (Matt 4:6-7; 26:18, 20; John 12:2), He didn’t always say yes. In fact, He often said no and showed no signs of guilt. He didn’t feel guilty pulling away from overbearing crowds (Luke 5:15-16). He didn’t give in to His mother and brothers who tried to use their relationship to pull rank (Matthew 12:46-50). Jesus lived a perfect life of balance. He was never burnt out because He understood the importance of boundaries, and we should, too.
While boundaries are a great thing to have in place, they can also be a double-edge sword. Join me next week for part two of my boundaries series and discover which types of boundaries actually hurt you more than they help you and how you can renegotiate them to keep you productive and healthy.