I (Jeff) have a difficulty with boundaries. I have trouble knowing what to say “no” to so that I save room to say “yes” to what is most important. In volleyball, it is always hard for me to guard my zone without trying to go for the ball when it is in someone else’s. In the rest of life, it’s even more confusing as I see people in need and want to help, but sometimes helping can hurt more people in the long run. On the other hand, I don’t want to be cold-hearted, selfish and overprotective of my personal capacity. Does the Bible have any insight? One of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a book called Boundaries that is giving me new language to think through that is solidly grounded in Scripture.
For example, in Galatians 6, it says to “carry each other’s burdens [too-heavy weight]” but also that “each one should carry his own load [cargo of responsibilities].” Knowing which is which in a situation can help us decide whether there’s an emergency we would be wrong to ignore in another’s life or whether stepping in would negate the consequences necessary for them to grow.
In another place, the book points out that serving can lead to resentment when fueled by wrong motive: “we have been so trained by others on what we ‘should’ do that we think we are being loving when we do things out of compulsion.”
We can also limit how much others can hurt us by following God’s example. His actions say, “‘You can be that way if you choose, but you cannot come into my house….’ God limits his exposure to evil, unrepentant people, as should we” (Matt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:9-13). Please pray as I continue to grow.