Since I began implementing boundaries in my life several years ago, I have grown immensely. Many of my relationships have gotten much better as I began living a life of freedom and self-control.
It hasn’t come without backlash, though. As I explained in “How Dare You!“, sometimes our boundaries are received with anger and hostility. Some people don’t want a relationship with you if they are unable to control you or they are confronted with the consequences of their actions.
Sadly, oftentimes these people are believers. They make the argument that Jesus loved with open arms and had no boundaries; therefore, we should not have boundaries. It’s true that Jesus loves all people–in fact, He gave His life for the entire world–but…
Is it true that Jesus didn’t have boundaries?
One of the biggest misconceptions about boundaries is that they are unloving. I won’t go into all the arguments against this (I’ve written more in my blog, “Are Boundaries Unloving?“), but I will explain why many people believe this.
If you’re familiar with the topic of boundaries, you understand that they are our property lines. They define where one person begins and another ends. Boundaries are similar to a fence around our property, helping to define what is my responsibility and what is my neighbor’s responsibility (referenced from “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend).
An example of a boundary I frequently use is not answering my phone when I’m busy or I’m just not in the mood to talk. People have the right to call me, but I reserve the equal right to not answer because I decide how I get to use my time and energy.
I don’t set this boundary to be mean. I do this to maintain my priorities (for more on priorities and stewardship, read “Back to Basics” and “It’s Not Selfish“). Talking on the phone for an hour takes away time from other things–spending time with my family, taking care of the house, working, rest, etc.
Although I’m not trying to be rude or hurtful, some people have reacted negatively to my boundaries because of how they feel.
This is my point:
Healthy boundaries are not hurtful or negative in and of themselves, but a person may view them as unloving because of how it makes them feel.
Just because something gives you a “negative” emotion doesn’t mean it’s wrong (For goodness’ sakes! Waking up early in the morning to take my kids to school gives me “negative” emotions, but that doesn’t mean getting up early is wrong!).
Here are some examples:
To the person who has an unhealthy sense of rejection, almost anything can feel like rejection.
To the person who doesn’t understand the love of God, things that elicit a negative emotion can feel very unloving.
Those dealing with a spirit of entitlement (that expects others to give to them in the way they choose) can feel very discouraged and angry when they don’t get their way.
So, it’s not the boundary that’s the problem; it’s a person’s perception of a boundary, which is based on their own emotional issues.
Emotionally healthy individuals celebrate the autonomy and freedom of others. My friends respect my boundaries and I respect theirs.