Saturday, January 18, 2014

Boundaries vs Barriers

What's the difference between a boundary and a barrier?  Let's take a look...

  1. 1.
    a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

  1. 1.
    a fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access.

The difference is, when it comes to relationships- one will protect you, and the other will hurt you.

It can be difficult, especially when you've been hurt, to open yourself up to people and new situations.  It feels easier to turn inward and put up barriers around yourself for protection.  But eventually, isolation will harm you.  You have needs and you are needed.  You need a community and a community needs you.  I feel so strongly about community.

For me, life had hurt me deeply.  I had every reason and bad experience in the book to convince myself that I was better off alone, in my little bubble.

It took me a lot of time to learn that I would've been better off learning to put up reasonable boundaries, versus what I had done- shut myself in and shut others out with barriers.

I learned how to put myself out there with appropriate boundaries.  It was hard, but I taught myself how to be honest and up front with my feelings and my expectations.  Doing this let me bring new people into my life, and let me step out into new situations, without fear of what would happen.  It was incredibly freeing.

I learned quickly that the people who were not comfortable with appropriate boundaries were not safe people to have in my life.  Communities are made up of safe people who recognize boundaries.  I shouldn't have unsafe people in my life anyhow, so these life lessons were a little painful but ultimately restorative.  Life was better and safer when my boundaries removed these people from being in a position to hurt me.

Here is a great example that happened recently.  Our son was just out of the hospital.  I was tired. Overwhelmed.  Everyone was stressed.  A good friend who has been like a mother/sister figure to me called and said she wanted to bring over some church friends to pray for us.  I told her no.  My house was a mess. I was tired and frustrated and didn't want the intrusion.  She was open with me.  She told me that she loved me and felt pride was getting in the way of receiving a blessing.  She offered to bring over a group of church ladies to clean up the house.  I was being prideful.  I accepted the help, even though it pained me to do it. Then we agreed to have the prayer night.  It was a blessing.

There are other people who wouldn't have respected my boundaries or listened to me or offered to help. They would have either ignored us completely in our time of need, or steamrolled me and my wishes and done what they thought was best instead of working it out for mutual satisfaction.

This situation showed me that I have also learned better to recognize and respect the boundaries that other people have put up, and to speak up for myself when I feel uncomfortable.  She was able to tell me how she felt without me attacking her, and vice versa.  It showed me that I had put up a barrier, not a boundary.  When I broke down the barriers, and put up appropriate boundaries instead, it turned out beautifully.  This was a safe relationship.  I could have kept up my barriers and been robbed of this relationship and the blessing of prayer and a good scrubbing of the floors if I hadn't been putting into practice this principle.

Boundaries are great.  They give you room to move around.  They give others room to reach you...but there is still protection there.

Barriers will imprison you and keep you isolated from a world that could hurt you but could also help you.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great post. There is definitely a difference between barriers and boundaries, but it's often hard to see that except from the outside looking in. I think sometimes I still put up barriers, too, when I really just need to set boundaries like you mentioned. Thanks for the great reminder!