Friday, July 22, 2011

Setting Boundaries to Protect Our Hearts

Over the course of the last several years, I've come to realize that I've been involved in some pretty unhealthy relationships.  Finally accepting that I had self worth in Christ was the first step that allowed me to understand that I needed to step back and evaluate these relationships.  But, like many Christians, I felt guilty about creating boundaries in order to protect my heart.  Would Jesus do that?  I struggled with the idea that I needed a safe distance from some people, but I also needed to figure a way around having to still associate with them.  

It was at some point along the way I came to the conclusion that I just needed to take care of myself and be an example to my kids that I mattered; the way I was treated mattered.  Unacceptable behavior, unkind actions or destructive words about me from others were not welcomed or tolerated.  It is through these difficult lessons that I hope my kids will recognize, much earlier than I did, that their hearts are worth protecting. And yes, that IS Biblical.

The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves.  We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us.  A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves.  That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us.

The Bible teaches two sides of love. One side of love accepts and forgives people just as they are. The other acknowledges truth and requires righteous behavior.

God cares enough about us and His relationship with us that He will not allow destructive behavior to hurt us or to destroy the relationship. His righteous nature has requirements for behavior in relationships.  Loving kindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). God wants us to be like Him. He wants us to have boundless love for one another. But at the same time, He wants us to require righteous behavior from one another in our relationships.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23)
According to Dr. Henry Townsend, co-author of Boundaries, "We are to take constant, diligent ownership and stewardship over our souls, and be careful what is going on there."
Dr. Townsend goes on to further discuss the principals of setting boundaries:
"In the Bible, many principles of boundaries are given to help us develop righteous character. Here are some of the more prevalent ones:
  • Limits-The requirement to live within one’s own limits, and to enforce limits and consequences with others.
  • Truth-The ability to speak the truth and be honest clears up a lot of boundary problems.
  • Respect-Not only must we enforce and live out our own boundaries, we must learn to respect others’ boundaries and freedom.
  • Sowing and reaping-Our choices and behaviors have consequences and reality outcomes, and we must enforce these and allow them to discipline others.
  • Activity-Boundaries are an active way of living. To be someone with good boundaries, the passive position in life and relationship must be surrendered."

Setting boundaries allows our healthy relationships to continue to grow in love and Godly righteousness!  They allow us to experience joy as we work for His Kingdom--together!  

Sadly, I had to realize that there are some relationships that are just so toxic that no set of boundaries will protect me.  It became clear that I needed to walk away from these relationships, continue to pray for God's grace and healing and just move forward.  

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