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Boundaries vs Walls

"A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again."1

A father who is having a conflict with a family member wanted to know the difference between barriers and walls.

In relationships we all need healthy boundaries (not barriers, which are the same as walls) to shut the bad out and let the good in. That is, we need boundaries to protect ourselves from hurtful people and to stop people using and taking advantage of us—and to stop our rescuing irresponsible people. We also need boundaries to keep our own bad in—in order to stop us controlling, hurting, and/or misusing others.

If someone is abusing or hurting me, I need to let him/her firmly but lovingly know that I will not accept their behavior. And, if they continue acting in a hurtful way, I will need to distance myself from them. However, at any point should they desire to meet in a kind and loving way, my door will always be open to them.

Boundaries are thus to strengthen our "no" muscle. People who can't say "no" to others have either weak or no boundaries. And people who won't take "no" for an answer are boundary busters. These people remind me of a country-western song where the lady being pursued is having a problem with a would-be suitor in whom she has no interest. She asks, "What part of 'no' don't you understand … I'd be glad to explain…."

On the other hand, walls put up insurmountable barriers and shut everybody out. People who build walls around their heart have been hurt in the past and, being afraid of getting hurt again, shut out everybody. You simply can't get close to this type of person. Consequently they have no close relationships and suffer from an inner loneliness and love deprivation. This is a very unhealthy way to live.

Jesus set boundaries against the religious Pharisees and those who tried to get rid of him before his time was ready. He also set boundaries against the money changers and those who abused God's house in the temple in Jerusalem. Meekness is not weakness and we, as Christians, need to set boundaries against abusive people and all evil. It is neither loving nor Christian to allow people to misuse us, walk over us, or abuse us—nor for us to do the same to others.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to develop healthy boundaries and learn to lovingly say 'no' when such is called for. And help me never to be a boundary buster who fails to recognize other people's boundaries. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Proverbs 19:19 (NIV).

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All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.