by Thad Williams, Pastor of Missions and Community Engagement
“Good fences make good neighbors.” - Robert Frost
When I first read these words by the poet Robert Frost, I failed to realize their significance and relevance to my own struggle with setting healthy boundaries in my own life. Growing up, I tended to let people trample my walls due to fear of rejection and an inability to say no to things. At the same time, I built a fortress around my heart due to a fear of letting others get too close and avoid having to say “yes” to things.
To some degree, we all struggle with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. The keyword here is healthy. We can allow others to trample our fence or construct a stone wall where a wooden fence would suffice. It can be a difficult balance to strike.
How many times have we said “yes” to something but really wanted to say “no”? Or how about times we have said “no” but really needed to say “yes”? Jesus actually teaches us that this kind of behavior is evil:
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. - Matt. 5:37
When we have clear, well-defined boundaries, our yes will mean yes, and our no will mean no. When we lack these boundaries, we become liars (intentionally or unintentionally) to ourselves or others. Although they may seem like restrictions, boundaries provide true freedom and lasting peace, like all of God’s law.
Boundaries protect our hearts, our sanity, and our spirit. They keep us from overcommitting or burning ourselves out. They guard things that are most important, such as spending time with God and our loved ones. While boundaries can protect us, they can allow us to open ourselves up to tremendous blessings, such as new experiences, relationships, and opportunities that we would not have been able to pursue otherwise.
Moving from a life without boundaries to a life with boundaries takes practice and accountability. That is one reason why having fellowship and community within a church family is so important. It provides a safe space for accountability.
What areas of your life could use better boundaries? Are there areas where you need to tear some boundaries down? Remember, when we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to other things. Therefore, ask yourself when faced with a decision, “by saying ‘yes’ to this, what am I saying ‘no’ to?” On the flip side of the same coin, you might ask yourself, “by saying ‘no’ to this, am I robbing myself or someone else of a blessing?” Never sacrifice the great for the good.
Want to learn more about establishing and maintaining good boundaries in your life? I recommend the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book is a valuable resource in learning when to say “yes” and how to say “no”.