Building Boundaries In Relationships
Relationships 101 – Psalm 16:5-6 & 11
According to this passage in Psalm 16, the path of life (Vs. 11) and joy are one byproduct of accepting the portion, accepting the cup, embracing the lot or the boundary lines God establishes for us.
When the Psalmist says “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” he is speaking about the Promised Land that was divided and given to the tribes of Israel.
Just as important as physical property boundaries, perhaps more so are the boundaries we need to have established in our lives when it comes to spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational boundaries.
In many ways, the Christian life is about establishing and maintaining boundaries; drawing lines we won’t cross and boundaries that we will give energy, effort, and focus to defend.
Having boundary lines can be a very good thing. There are many good benefits to having boundaries. Take a stone wall. a stone wall will keep you safe and prevent danger.
Having a fence between you and your neighbor will let you know how much of the yard you are responsible for. Let’s say, you are traveling along a dangerous part of the road or even going on a bridge. It is nice to know there is a guardrail there to protect us from harm.
(Yet, what happens when you don’t have boundaries?) Back in 2011, we adopted a dog from a man in our church named Gabriel. He was around two years old and one of the grumpiest dogs I know. So when the kids started playing with him we had to keep him on a leash. I tried to explain to my kids the importance of watching Gabriel. And needless to say, our kids quickly found out the reason why.
What happens do you think when there are “no boundaries” and you don’t keep the gate closed in keeping the dog in the yard?
When there are no boundaries, Gabriel will go anywhere he pleases. Having physical boundaries like a fence, stone wall, or even a guardrail can be a very good thing. Yet many of us struggle when you start talking about having boundaries when dealing with relationships or with people in general.
Can anybody else relate to the struggles with boundaries? Let me ask you a question, “What are the boundaries you are struggling with?”…
Solomon in his great wisdom said….“Above everything else, guard your heart. Everything you do comes from it.” In other words, it is very important to guard yourself. That is what the passage or the verse is telling us.
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. Here Solomon says… Above everything. This is a big deal. Solomon wrote many of the Proverbs. Solomon is telling us this is important… What is it that God is saying, we need to guard. We are to guard our hearts.
In the Hebrew, the heart refers to the inner man. In the inner man or person, is everything that is important. It is your core values that are in your heart. It is your feelings.
It is your emotions that are in your heart. Your thoughts and decisions are all in your heart. Your life is in your heart.
So often I believe we lose focus on the most important things in life. We let things into our life or into our hearts that bring damage and harm. These things may just be small in nature but they add up.
When we begin to let outside influences into our heart, our spirit changes. Our heart begins to harden. And those characteristics of peace, patience, and joy, are no longer there. So it important for us to guard our hearts.
One of the ways to guard our hearts is by setting up boundaries in our life. What are the important things in my life that I need to make sure that I keep? What are things in my life that I need to make time out for? What are things in my life that mean the most to me?
1. Boundaries – Faith: One of the first boundaries that I need to guard is my faith (My Relationship with God.)
I put this as the most important because when I look through the Scriptures at Jesus’ life, what do I see the most? What do I see as the most important element to Jesus?
I continue to see Jesus spending time with God. I often see Jesus getting away from people. I see Jesus retreating from his disciples to do what? To be alone with God and spend time with his Father.
Take a look at – Mark 1:35-37 - 35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”
Jesus understood where he received his guidance, power, strength, and wisdom. It was through being connected to his Father (God). It was through these times that Jesus was refreshed and nourished. I believe Jesus was able to bear a tremendous amount of fruit for the kingdom because of his connection with God.
That was just one passage in the gospel of Mark. What is interesting in the book of Mark, which details Jesus' life, is we see many times where Jesus got alone with God.
Mark 1:9-13 – Spends 40 days in the desert praying, meditating on scripture, and fasting
Mark 1:35-37 – Jesus got up early in the morning to be with God
Mark 1:45 – Jesus goes out to pray
Mark 3:13 – Jesus spends all night in prayer
In this short amount of Scripture, we see Jesus continually meeting with God. What Jesus realizes and what we need to realize is, that we need God to be a part of our life.
We need to ask Jesus Christ to be a part of our life. If Jesus made it a priority and had “boundaries” in his life and took time out to be with God, how much more do we need to take time out to be with God.
2) Boundaries – Family – The second boundary that we need to protect is our families.
We live in a society where family time is being pushed to the side. Many of us have struggled with setting up healthy boundaries for our family. Because it is far too easy to get caught up in the rat race of the world.
Those are the challenges we have when we begin to talk about having boundaries for our families. The question may be where do we start? I believe the first place you start is with your spouse.
· Take time out for your spouse.
This is the first relationship that matters in the family dynamics whether you have children or not. The relationship needs to be solid between the two of you.
And that is hard work. Maintaining and having a healthy marriage relationship that is growing between the two of you is very hard work and it takes time each week for it to grow stronger.
The basics of building boundaries in a marriage relationship are like the foundation stones of a house. All must be strong. If you try to make up for one weak pillar by strengthening another, the whole structure will be out of balance.
If someone were to ask you the question, "What are the factors necessary for a lasting godly marriage relationship?" what would you say? What foundation stones or are essential for strong relationships?
There are positive steps we can take to strengthen our marriage relationships and keep them from sinking.
1. Show Up. - There is a difference between simply being somewhere and showing up. Showing up means being fully present when you are engaging in your marriage relationship.
What are some temptations that rob us from being engaged in our relationships?
Work is a common culprit; put away your cell phone and set boundaries that allow you to be attuned to your marriage relationship. Be sure carve out time that allows for you and your spouse to connect one-on-one without the prospect of the interruption.
2. Open Up. - We cannot truly and fully experience the depths of love without being willing to dive into the realm of vulnerability. To be loved is to be known through and through.
As Timothy Keller says, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial.” Why would we shortchange ourselves in one of the most profound and important areas of life? A thriving marriage requires a sacrificial act of opening up. Be free to love and receive love by becoming vulnerable.
3. 'Fess Up. - Anyone who is in a successful marriage relationship has mastered these two words: “I’m sorry.” Disagreeing, making mistakes and working through challenges is not only normal but healthy. Doing so shows signs of life –– partners living fully and learning from one another.
Marriages become problematic when one partner refuses to acknowledge the moments where they've failed. Apologizing for mistakes does wonders to increase your humility and make your significant other feel valued. At the end of each day, take inventory of your missteps and apologize before you turn out the lights.
4. Listen Up. - The word “conversation” stems from a Latin term that means the “act of living with.” No one enjoys the thought of spending their lives with someone who is domineering, uninterested, or distant.
When speaking with your spouse, actively listen to them. When they share with you, engage. Ask them to further explain the details of an event that happened in their day. Did they have a difficult phone call with their sibling? Ask them how it made them feel. Don’t cut them off or check out.
5. Speak Up. - We all know well that love is a two-way street, traffic will flow both ways. Failing to voice your true feelings in a loving way is a disservice to yourself, your spouse, and the relationship you share together.
When you love your spouse, you want to know what they are thinking. It helps you know them more and makes you feel close. Apply that same logic to your spouse. They want to know what you're thinking. Share it!
Take time out for your children
Your children need to have time with you as well. But do you see that I put it as number 2 under families? Because your spouse needs your time first.
3, Boundaries – Friends - Lastly, I would say we need to talk about having boundaries with our friends. Each one of us needs to have healthy boundaries with our friends. Here is the deal with friendships. We all want to be accepted by people.
It does not matter if you are a teenager, a young adult, or a senior adult. We want people to care about us. We are attracted to people that accept us.
As adults, we realize that our friends influence the direction and quality of our lives. The people we hang out with and spend time with are the same people we become.
The thing that makes friendships so powerful and great is the same thing that makes friendships so dangerous. When you are around people who have accepted you, you are the most open to those influences whether they are good or bad.
I have covered a lot. I am a very firm believer that you need to set up boundaries with your faith, with your family (which includes your spouse and children) and your friends.