Boundaries Break Down Barriers

Nathan Smith Family, Life Skills

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Believe it or not, boundaries actually break down barriers.  It may seem strange or even incorrect but a boundary and a barrier are not the same thing.  The problem is we can too easily equate the two and therefore rob ourselves of being able to appreciate the important differences.  You know that guy that talks too much at the office and won’t let you leave no matter how many polite hints you drop?  You know that feeling you get when you see him walking your way? That is the feeling of wanting to build a barrier.  “Where can I run or how can I hide to get away?!”  Why do we feel that way?  Is it because he’s a bad guy?  Not necessarily.  You may actually really like the guy as a person.  The issue isn’t dislike, the issue is lack of boundary.  He just doesn’t know when to stop and he doesn’t allow you to escape.  Because there’s a lack of boundary, a respected limit on what is acceptable, we rush to build barriers that keep the person away from us because we don’t feel safe.  But if there is a healthy boundary in place, those barriers can come down.  So how does that work?

A boundary is a line that is drawn marking a limit.  It’s not a wall or an electric fence.  It’s a clear line.  A boundary says, “things on this side of the line are treated differently than things on that side of the line.”  Much like the yellow line down the center of the road lets you know which portion of the road is available to be used by which traffic pattern, a boundary in life makes clear what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in a given setting.  For those people that simply cannot understand  or refuse to accept the suggested limitations of boundaries, barriers are built. (Click Here To Read My Post “Relationships Aren’t Efficient”)

Build That Wall?

A barrier is an actual obstacle placed in the way of others to restrict their access.  A barrier is only necessary when a boundary is not respected.  If I ask my neighbor to keep his dog out of my backyard so that my children can run and play freely, I have drawn a clear boundary.   If my neighbor ignores that request repeatedly I have to put a fence up around my back yard to create a barrier that will protect my boundaries.  That fence was only necessary when it was clear that my boundary was not going to be respected. This concept is easy to see in such practical examples.  However, we deal with this in our inter-personal relationships with friends, family and co-workers every single day and may not realize how much we’re chasing our own tails by not identifying the boundary/barrier issue.

Since the only person we have any hope of ever being able to control is ourselves (and that is a tall task in-an-of itself) we should focus on how clearly we communicate our boundaries and how well we operate in self-control so that others do not feel the need to create barriers for us.  For example, if I only complain about my neighbor’s dog being loose in my backyard to my friends but never communicate my need for a boundary in a clear, unthreatening way to him directly, it is unfair for me to accuse him of violating a boundary he never knew existed.  So the first step in tearing down barriers is clearly communicating your need for a boundary in the first place. (Click Here To Read My Post ” Careful, Courageous Confrontation”)

I Just Had To Say Something

Like-wise, if I freely share my thoughts and opinions about everyone and everything all the time I shouldn’t wonder why I feel ‘shut out’ by so many people who feel they need to create a barrier between us to stay safe.  I have to ask myself the question, “Do I make people feel safe and comfortable around me?  Do I allow people to be who they are or do I try and control them with my comments, cut-downs and complaints?”  The truth is, I may be the root cause of many of the barriers I perceive simply because of my lack of self-control. Of course, you are a free person and can make your own decisions on how you will live and what you will say or do.  Just don’t forget that all those other free people get to decide how they are going to respond, as well.  You may end up feeling very isolated and lonely with walls in every direction if you choose to dismiss other’s need for healthy boundaries.  (Click Here To Read My Post ‘Being Authentic Might Be Ruining Your Life’)

The best way to tear down barriers is to respect boundaries.  Listen to others.  Honor their need to feel respected.  Take advice.  Receive correction and instruction.  Maybe you didn’t realize the way you respond or act causes people to be uncomfortable?  Don’t be offended or angry.  Don’t feel stupid.  Just accept that you’ve learned something new and can now use that information to inform your decisions and behavior moving forward.  As you do, you may feel walls start coming down that you didn’t realize were there.  At the same time, don’t just block people out.  Communicate your need for a healthy boundary.  If they repeatedly ignore it then you introduce whatever barriers are necessary to keep your heart and mind free from offense.  But until then, try and build a bridge by clearly defining the boundaries.  When you do, you actually create an atmosphere where barriers can come down. (Click Here To Read My Post “Relationships Are Always Worth Restoring”)

From the Bible

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:17-18 ESV

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, 25 lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. – Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV

Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you. – Proverbs 25:17 ESV

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