Setting Boundaries in Love (Relationship Series) 

  
Build a fence around your heart, not a wall. Therefore, people can see its beauty but only those invited can come inside.” 

I cannot recall who said the quote above, yet it’s a good one. Boundaries are the fences we put up to protect what’s of value. Boundaries set limits. 

God sets boundaries; much of the law was set up as boundaries to protect people. Do not steal. Do not murder…We are of infinite worth to God. Therefore, boundaries help protect us and others. 

Boundaries are supposed to be rooted in love, not fear. 

If we set boundaries with people out of fear, they are most likely to get hurt. Fear is a horrible motivator because the main objective is “Self.” When love is the motivation, the best interests of both parties are considered. 

It is possible to be kind, loving, and maintain boundaries. 

Different strokes for different folks…

Different people have different boundaries. I’m from a warm culture. It is not uncommon to smile, encourage, open the door to strangers, give gifts, or even embrace. It’s normal and considered friendly. 

I love traveling to parts of South America because the culture is similar in certain places. People will hug you, invite you for coffee. It’s not a date, flirting, or luring technique. It’s normal life. You may even receive a gift. My dad loves to give gifts. My Heavenly Father loves to give gifts. 

For some people they are not friendly if they don’t know you. They must get to know you before there’s an invitation to do anything. Some cultures are warm and friendly, some are quite reserved. 

So how do we establish boundaries? 

The first step is establishing what our boundaries are. 

  • What do you like and dislike?
  • What is comfortable? 
  • What makes you uncomfortable? 
  • What makes you feel violated, used, or abused?  
  • How do you want to be treated?

When our boundaries are not set or low, it leads to an uneasy feeling or mistreatment. When boundaries are violated, something feels wrong or off. 

Life Lessons:

I work in a mostly male environment. Sometimes the things they say are not appropriate. I tell them, “Please don’t discuss that around me.

If I don’t say anything, I can’t be upset by what they talk about. It’s my responsibility to either leave the room or tell them, “This isn’t okay.

We set our boundaries, not others. 

I also went through a period in my life where people wanted to tell me what to do. This was annoying and not what I wanted. I kindly told them, “I appreciate your concerns, yet I plan on taking this to God. I do not wish for any more counsel or feedback.” 

I’ve also learned I can unknowingly aggravate people’s boundaries. Mainly I don’t know what their boundaries are. I refrain now from being too kind or generous with people I don’t know, unless it’s secretly.  

Boundaries with the opposite sex/in ministry:

I don’t encourage or continually affirm men I don’t know unless it’s done publicly-with a witness (strong lesson learned). Even if your motive is simply to bless someone, it can be completely misunderstood. 

If I have something for a man who is married, it almost always goes through his wife unless it’s with colleagues about business. I’d rather just avoid any misunderstandings.

I don’t share deep intimate details of my life with men, or women I don’t know or trust. In ministry I share experiences, but not on a one on one intimate level with people I don’t know or trust. As I grow older the less I want people in my business. I have a small circle I trust. 

Basic boundary guidelines: 

1. Saying no to what’s breaking the law or violating your morals. 

2. Saying no without feeling guilty or obligated to say yes to please people. 

3. Refraining from touching people without asking for permission. 

If you’re from a warm culture, the other person may not be. The person with the highest boundary wins. 

Example: I hate people touching my hair. Random fact-Did you know when you touch hair with dirty hands you leave deposits?

4. Refraining from allowing people to touch you if you don’t want to be touched.

5. Refraining from emotional/physical/spiritual  closeness (intimacy) without commitment. This is quite important for members of the opposite sex. I’m not talking about family affection, a platonic hug. 

I highly recommend the book Choosing God’s Best. This book outlines some of the precautions to take with intimacy in relationships. 

Many affairs begin on an emotional and intellectual level before a physical act occurs. 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,~Proverbs 4:23. 

God intended for connections to be guarded. If we open up to people who are not committed to love us (I’m talking agape, friend love, family love-and sexual love), it can lead to heartache. 

Our hearts can become entangled with people by sharing our hearts, dreams, passions, fears, intimate things about ourselves. This creates a connection with another person. If you add to that physical intimacy (which God only condones with a man and woman in marriage), it can lead to heartache outside comittment. 

I know in ministry or spiritual family connections there’s sharing. I am not stating to be a brick wall with others, just thoughts on basic boundaries. 

6. Protecting the space, time, and relationships of other people. 

7. Refraining from asking intimate personal details about people you don’t know. 

There’s a time and place for these things. I will flat out tell people, “You don’t need to know.

8. Tell people what your boundaries are. If you don’t tell them, they don’t know. The first time a boundary is violated, say something. 

For more information on boundaries go to Guide to Psychology-Boundaries

If you struggle with saying no, I recommend The Best Yes by New York Time’s Bestseller Lysa TerKurst. 

Here are some sample scripts I’ve used. 

Unsolicited advice:

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide feedback. I plan on praying and seeking God’s will. I’d love for you to pray God’s will for me. 

Pushy people:

No. I won’t be needing or using (fill in the blank). 

Requests I cannot perform, or don’t feel called to do:

I am unable to (fill in the request), have you touched base with (alternative option)? 

Rude people: 

I ignore quite a bit of rudeness because it is simply a person who feels powerless trying to appear strong or powerful. If I must address it, then it goes a bit like this. 

I would love to connect or chat with you, yet not while you’re using that tone or treating me this way. 

We can love people and set boundaries. I may post more on boundaries next post. 

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