Boundaries Are Not Barriers

It happens more and more often these days, for some reason, that I get private e-mail and telephone requests from people wanting me to give them money.

While I do my best to be generous, is becoming increasingly obvious to me that I simply don’t have enough money to give some of it to everyone who asks. I have to make choices.

On a similar note, I seem to get more and more requests these days for free consultations or pro bono work. Again, I do a certain amount of pro bono work, but I cannot do it for everyone who asks. It’s simply impossible.

Which has me thinking about boundaries. Being intentional about who I can give money to, or who I can contribute free work to, means that I must establish boundaries that govern how I will respond to such requests.

You have a similar dilemma in your own life, whether you realize it or not. When a friend asks a favor of you after work, for instance, you have to decide whether you’re willing to grant the favor (and potentially sacrifice time with family, etc.) or whether you will say “no”. In either event you have to make a decision about whether you will allow a certain boundary to be crossed.

In my mind, “boundaries” establish the conditions under which you will say “yes”. Boundaries are gateways.

Boundaries are different than “barriers”.

Barriers, it seems to me, are more like walls. Their purpose is to say “no”.

Knowing, and acknowledging, the difference between boundaries and barriers will give a great degree of clarity to your decisions.

Good boundaries are a plan about how you want to deal with certain situations in your life — a plan formed BEFORE you need one.

I think this is worth giving some thought to. What are the boundaries in your life? Under what circumstances will you say “yes” to certain requests?

And what are the barriers in your life? I do believe that certain barriers should exist; there are behaviors, people, and situations to which your answer should always be “no”.

If you don’t decide in advance what your barriers are… and what your boundaries are… and how you will enforce each… how do you expect to be able to make good decisions at the critical moment?

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One thought on “Boundaries Are Not Barriers

  1. My “boundaries” have developed to become a dynamic and living thing, depending on what Christ’s living counsel was at the moment. . . Planning is good. . . but any time I have been too rigid, God will often change the direction or circumstances. . . it’s the difference between living by Christian principles and  by living in response to Christ Himself- a living dynamic “boundary” –  Christ becomes then my ally and my counsel in setting boundaries . . .not by some rule set I pre-determine. . . but by the One who is set as my best friend and Counselor . . . a “yes” today could be a “no” tomorrow under seemingly similar circumstances. . . . depending completely on His specific counsel. . .  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  (Corinthians 3:6)