Boundaries in Relationships

I got a warning from my brother recently.    It was about a piece of grazing-land in a remote part of Kansas, which I own title to and lease to ranchers to raise cattle.    It seems a calf had broken through the fence and run out onto the country road.   “What would happen if someone hit it with his car?!”, he cried in exasperation when he realized I didn’t have insurance.    I had been counting on the ranchers for that.   “You could be sued for all you’re worth!”    He was right.   “Enough, bro’!    You’re right.   I need to protect my boundaries!”

That’s probably similar to what most people think about when they hear the phrase ” boundaries in relationships” – that we need them for self-protection.  But boundaries imply much more than that.   In fact , if that is our main notion, then trying to erect some could cause more harm than good for ourselves and for the people in our lives.

Boundaries are about our ‘space’, for sure, and it needs to be acknowledged and honored.   But boundaries include taking responsibility for our own behavior and choices, not just being on the alert for the other person’s perceived boundary-crossing.   Our personal boundaries or “ownership”includes such things as:

  • My attitudes
  • My thoughts
  • My feelings
  • My desires
  • My values
  • My limits
  • My abilities
  • My choices
  • My behavior

Boundaries start with self-control, not control of others.    They define us as persons and help us know just exactly what we can and should be working on changing, if anything!     It actually sets us free to know that we are not responsible for changing the behavior, thoughts or feelings of those people around us.   We can influence them, of course.    But our real task in life is to best manage our own lives – that which we do “own”- and see to it that it is a life of integrity, honesty, intentionality and generosity.     Loving relationships begin with the freedom created by a healthy understanding and respect for boundaries.  And this begins today with me!

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