A friend once shared with me a metaphor that helped me understand boundaries and I’d like to share it with you. I do not know the original source of this metaphor or I would give credit. I’ve also tweaked the information I was told and added my own style. I hope it helps you and your children understand boundaries a little more.
Boundaries are the space between you and me. A good boundary is like a fence that surrounds a yard. The fence has a gate that opens and closes. Every person is in charge of their own yard and its gate. They decide when to open and close the gate, who to let come in, and what items in the yard to allow others to use.
Boundaries need to be firm but also flexible. There are going to be times when we tell others that they cannot come into our yard or use our things. Saying “no” may make others upset. Alternately, there may be times we have to have flexible boundaries and say “yes” and invite others in or let them use our things even though we do not want to. How do we decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?
First, pray and ask God for his help in making the decision. Next, decide if you are always the one flexing or if there is a give and take in the relationship. If you let others in, is there any benefit for you? Are you going to feel resentful saying yes? Typically, God doesn’t ask us to always say yes and overextend ourselves. Jesus, however, did model listening, healing, giving generously, and caring for others when he was tired. Asking him for advice will help us know what answer to give.
What about the times we want to visit other people and use the things in their yards? The same principles apply. We have to knock on the other person’s gate and ask if we can come in or use their things. Sometimes they are going to say “yes” and invite us in. At other times, they are going to say “no”. We need to honor and respect their decision even if it is not what we want. We also shouldn’t use or share their items with others unless they give us permission.
It takes time to learn what boundaries are and how to honor and respect our own boundaries and the boundaries of others. Sometimes the only way to learn is by making a boundary-crossing error. Don’t get discouraged though, you can always say, “I’m sorry,” and try again. Life is full of learning opportunities!
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6
Renee is a life coach who specializes in working with foster and adoptive families, women, and missionaries. She is based in Louisville, Kentucky but works with clients all over the world through internet coaching. You can book a free 30-minute consultation with her here: https://square.site/book/60VP09PS4Z3JB/empowered-calling-llc or find out more information about her services at https://empoweredcalling.com/.