Having Boundaries vs. Putting Up Walls

When we are all about generosity and gratitude, connection and community, how do we negotiate the idea of drawing and maintaining boundaries?

Chances are you were taught to be polite and cooperative. To be a good team member and to pitch in. Fine. None of that contradicts with having boundaries.

Boundaries are responsible–they help you be accountable for your own time, feelings and life. They also help you communicate your values.

When you know your limits, it doesn’t mean you are unwilling or unavailable. A boundary is a line you can see past, not a wall that shuts others out.

Boundaries are like skin: they contain what’s vital.

You already know that no one is allowed to lay a hand on you–it’s your body and you say who can touch it, right?

You already know you don’t want inappropriate or hurtful comments launched at you, either. You don’t deserve to be treated disrespectfully.

  • But what about when your neighbor asks you to lend him your big ladder and help him clean his gutters? Does he have a right to your stuff or your effort?
  • And what about when your church group asks you to cover an extra shift at the bake sale this weekend? Does the group deserve access to your only day off?
  • Finally, what about your parents or elders, and your supervisor or landlord–does anyone’s seniority give them permission to ignore or oppress you?

No, no and no. It is silly to relinquish your personal control over what and how much you will do, and when. And for whom. And also, what kind of treatment you will accept from others, depending on who they are. Ever.

Surely you know know that certain lines should not be crossed–at least, not without your permission. Those might be the most obvious ones, where you guard the gates and build clear walls.

And many times, you have operate within boundaries you have agreed too–like within a job or a contract.

But all boundaries are like skin: they are formed for your own good, to protect your vital components. We have nerves and blood and organs and bones under our skin. Likewise, we have work and health and home and love contained within our boundaries. It’s just that…

we’re not always comfortable in our skin, are we?

No matter what, you will always have the ultimate decision to pursue or allow what is in your best interests…what gets under your skin, or past your walls. Your best interests don’t need to exclude caring for others, helping out, intimacy, charity or compromise. But they don’t automatically include any of that, either.

You’re allowed to feel good in your own skin, and open your gates to anyone you want.

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