Tommy was learning to hold on to some toys. I watched as he stretched as far as his little arms could, barely touching the edge of the toy with his fingers. Tommy wiggled and scooted on his belly a little closer, then glanced back at me as if to say, “See what I did?”
I smiled, “You can do it, Tommy. You’ve got it.”
He looked back and grasped the toy. The next moment it was in his mouth. Speaking his baby language, Tommy rolled onto his back to enjoy his conquest.
Lisa, playing a few feet away, looked over to see what Tommy was doing. Quickly she scampered over and took the toy away.
“I want that.” And she walked out of his reach.
If you’ve been around children, you’ve seen this. This scenario plays out in every home with toddlers multiple times a day.
Tommy didn’t cry or even struggle when Lisa took the toy. He looked surprised. But then, rolled back over, and started to work at grabbing something else as if to say, “Oh well, I’ll play with that later.”
Lisa played with it for a few moments, then tossed it aside. She didn’t want it, but she didn’t want Tommy to have it.
The old “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” saying lived out in front of me.
As I watched this scene unfold, again and again, I thought about boundaries at every age.
Dr. Henry Cloud says in his book, Boundaries:
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our own thoughts and clarify distorted thinking.”
How well have you established healthy boundaries?
Do you live authentically?
People who are confident in who they are do not need to hide their character from others.
The Creator of the universe made you to be you. He is thrilled with you and delights in you. Psalm 139:14 says, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” A person who is confident in their Creator can live authentically.
Authenticity isn’t pride or arrogance. Confidence is the full trust that God, the Creator, doesn’t make junk. Ever.
Do you set healthy personal boundaries?
Healthy boundaries mean you understand that the only person you can control is you. Controlling what you can control is healthy.
You are not responsible for another person’s emotional health. But, you are responsible for your own.
You are not accountable for another’s response in any given situation. However, you need to know what is necessary for you to live a healthy life.
Taking care of your needs is not selfish; it is a compassionate act to benefit those you love.
Like you hear on every airplane flight, put your oxygen mask on first. Then you can assist others.
Remember, you don’t trample others’ boundaries, nor do you allow them to trample yours. It’s simple respect.
How willing are you to mature?
A person with healthy boundaries receives critiques well. Such a person understands their humanness and weakness. They know that those who truly love them will confront them from time to time to help them grow. That’s maturity.
We don’t change until the pain is great enough. That’s human nature, and we’re all susceptible to this malady. But a healthy and teachable person faces the pain head-on, without excuses, and chooses to make the necessary change.
Are you able to resolve issues in your most important relationships?
Do you respect your boundaries and others’?
The Bible says to let your yes be yes, and your no be no. You don’t have to explain your boundaries. They are yours. In the same way, others don’t need to justify their boundaries to you.
According to Dr. Cloud, “Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our nos. They only love our yeses, our compliance.” Manipulators seek your compliance, not your best.
In any relationship, it is important to respect the other person. Criticizing them because they aren’t comfortable with something that doesn’t bother you does not respect their boundary.
Healthy boundaries involve respect for yourself and others.
Do you quickly forgive?
Too often, forgiveness and trust are confused. While you might forgive someone who has hurt you, you don’t automatically trust that person again. It takes time to earn a person’s trust. If someone says you are unforgiving because you don’t trust them, they have crossed a boundary.
Forgiveness benefits you more than the other person. There are people in my life I’ve forgiven, not because they asked for it, but because I needed to get them out of my head. As Pastor Brady said, “Not forgiving someone allows them to camp out in your mind rent free.” Ask the Father to help you forgive that person, then kick them out of your head.
Forgiveness frees up your emotional energy. Spending one moment holding an imaginary conversation with another (which you always win brilliantly) allows that person to control you. Why waste time? You don’t need the distraction.
As a baby, Tommy hasn’t yet established healthy boundaries. Nor has Lisa. Mom will step in and help them learn to set those boundaries.
But if you are not a toddler anymore, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is your responsibility.
Look over this short list again. Which area do you need to shore up? Mine? Forgiving others. I’ve got some deep soul work to do. How about you?
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.