A key factor in determining and maintaining our emotional health is our ability to set healthy boundaries. Those who live in continual stress, anxiety, frustration, fear, etc., often do so because of their inability or ignorance in knowing how to do so or what healthy boundaries even are. Many grew up with no boundaries, such as those who were victims of abuse. But for our own sake, and the sake of those around us, it is critical that we learn.
Proverbs 25:28 says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” In other words, you could say a person without boundaries has no self-control — he has given control to circumstances and those around him. In Biblical times when a city’s walls were broken down, the enemy had easy access to come and go as he pleased, stealing, killing, and destroying that city and its inhabitants. This, of course, is a perfect picture of a person with no boundaries that allows the enemy to control and ultimately destroy them.
Boundaries keep us safe and enable us to be in control, not others or the enemy. By control, I am speaking of self-control. We decide how we show up in any given situation. We do not react to the demands of others, or the current situation. We can step back, get into the Spirit, and respond as He would have us to. A lack of boundaries will cause us to react in the flesh every time. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, so we have access to that grace because He dwells within us.
Setting healthy boundaries enables us to say “no” to the demands and requests of others that would drain us of energy and eat up our time, without feeling guilty. If we are unable to turn down these requests and demands, or we feel guilty doing so, it is a sign we lack boundaries and self-control. We have become people pleasers instead of God pleasers. If our typical response to situations outside of our control is fear, anxiety, anger, rage, impatience, etc., it means we have given control over to those situations and are not walking in self-control because we have not set boundaries.
We must determine in advance what we will and will not, allow to control us. It is much more difficult to make the decision in the heat of the moment. We must decide we will not allow difficult situations to steal our peace and joy. Instead, we will look for the good that God promises to bring from them. In dealing with people, we must resolve to control our own schedule and activities to include spending time with family, leisure, and time for ourselves before committing to other things. We must know our limitations; we cannot do everything. One of the enemy’s greatest tactics is to keep us busy – away from our spouses and children, tired with no time to rest, stressed and anxious because we know we can’t do it all – all the while believing we are doing great things for the Lord. This can lead to physical illness, mental breakdowns and burnout, strife and division in the family, etc.
As in all things, Jesus is our model for life and ministry. He knew how to set healthy boundaries. He left needy crowds to spend time with His Father. He never gave in to the demands of others; He knew when it was, and wasn’t His time. He took time alone, away from even His disciples, to rest and commune with the Father. He didn’t go to every sick or demonized person that needed help, but only the ones the Father showed Him. He was never stressed or anxious, never fearful or uncertain; He walked in continual peace because He had perfect self-control. Thankfully, we have Him to help us grow in this ability every day!
Have you set healthy boundaries? If not, why not? I would love to hear your story!