THE BEAUTY OF BOUNDARIES
When I get myself into trouble, it's often because I overstepped my boundaries. I voiced my opinion when it wasn't my place. I told someone to do something when it wasn't my right. Or I took on a responsibility that actually belonged to someone else. When I overstep my boundaries someone always notices and almost every time someone gets hurt. Over the years I've learned to be more aware of boundaries and the importance of respecting them.
But when I was younger and less experienced, I often overstepped my boundaries and I learned some painful lessons. One example is the time I assumed that I would be included in my best friend's wedding. She was living in another state, but we had been very close for years before she moved. In a letter she said, "I need you here for me." From that I assumed she was asking me to be a bridesmaid. How difficult it must have been for her to explain that she already had chosen her bridesmaids. They were the new friends she had made since moving away. Needless to say, I was hurt. But I brought that hurt on myself by assuming something I shouldn't have.
If you haven't heard the saying about what happens when we ASSUME, ask someone. We can overstep our boundaries simply with our expectations: "Well if it's not done my way then I don't want anything to do with it." We expect certain decisions to be made. We want things done a certain way to suit ourselves, and if we don't get our way then we turn our backs on the whole idea. We make it all about us or all about our own opinions and we forget who's really in charge. Through our selfishness we disrespect those rightful decisions. And if we back out when it doesn't go our way, we miss everything. The loss is ours. If I had allowed my hurt feelings to stop me from traveling to my friend's wedding, I would have missed a great weekend.
One question that I've learned to ask myself is, "Am I responsible for this?" In other words, if someone does something wrong, am I the person who should correct it? If something needs to be done, am I the person responsible? And if something needs to be said, am I the one who should speak? By asking myself these questions, I see more clearly what my role is and I can catch myself from stepping into something that's outside my realm of responsibility.
Overstepping our boundaries isn't always a mean-spirited mistake. Often, it's our enthusiasm or our willingness to help that gets us into trouble. Our intentions are good, but we soon discover that perhaps we should have held off on a decision. Trying to help with things that are outside our boundaries often puts people in tormenting situations. They don't want to hurt our feelings by rejecting the offer. But the truth is they have their own ideas and rightfully so because the decisions belong to them.
God is the originator of boundaries, so we must conclude that they are good things. The book of Psalms says, "You have set a boundary that they may not pass over." The author was speaking about God and how he set boundaries for the oceans by lifting the land above water. If God set boundaries for the oceans he surely has set boundaries for us. The Ten Commandments are a big part of those boundaries. But not every decision in life comes with a commandment. So we have to think about what we do and say and pray that our words and actions are right.
Boundaries are beautiful because they prevent hurt feelings, they prevent us from being embarrassed, they remind us that it's not all about us, and they keep us from exhausting ourselves with responsibilities that don't belong to us. Whenever we get our feelings hurt or find ourselves arguing about something, we should always ask ourselves if we've overstepped our boundaries. Without boundaries life is chaos, and when we don't pay attention to our limits we always pay a price.