“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
“Mom, we think you need a puppy.”
Before my grown kids, who no longer live at home, got to the second syllable of the word “puppy,” I said no.
There were many reasons. But mostly I felt like this whole conversation was code for “we want all the fun of a puppy without the daily responsibilities of said puppy.” If they could talk me into it, they could love the puppy and enjoy him when they wanted but then choose to leave him with me to do everything else.
So of course I wound up getting a puppy. And it absolutely worked out exactly like I thought it would.
But what I hadn’t counted on was completely falling in love with this little apricot-colored furball of pure joy. And you know how it’s wise for some dogs to be crate trained? Yes, well, that wasn’t working for my little pup named Givey. Every time I put him in his crate, he cried and cried until I couldn’t take it any longer and let him out.
But this pattern wasn’t helping in the potty-training department or the don’t-chew-up-my-stuff department at all.
One day, my friend Shae came over to work on some projects, and Givey was in rare form. Everything a good puppy should do, he was doing the opposite. I said, “I know I should put him in his crate for some timeout, but I just can’t stand to hear him cry.”
Shae replied, “You know, my mom had a really wise statement she would often say when we were crate training our dog, Rosie. When she started crying and we all felt bad for Rosie, my mom would say, ‘Well, I’m not happy 100% of the time in my life either. She’ll be just fine.’”
I mean, Mama has a real good point there.
Eventually, Givey not only got used to spending appropriate amounts of time in his crate but wound up liking it so much that now he sometimes goes in it on his own. I think the crate has become his safe place in this big world.
And it certainly brought a lot of relief to my puppy-mom life. Putting Givey in his crate when I left the house or he just needed some timeout helped establish a boundary between his personal space and mine. If he wants to chew something of his in his crate, great. But in the rest of my home, chewing up my stuff isn’t acceptable.
Defining what is and is not acceptable is even more important with human relationships. If people are constantly annoying us, frustrating us, exhausting us or running all over us, chances are we either don’t have the right kind of people in our lives or we don’t have the right kind of boundaries. Or maybe it’s both.
But if we see the process of implementing boundaries as a one-way ticket to someone thinking we’re unkind, unchristian or uncaring, there will be no relief because we will be consumed with the grief of others not being pleased with us.
You might be thinking to yourself, Boundaries don’t bring relief. They can make the other person angry or disappointed enough in me to say hurtful things about me. I just want to keep the peace, so I’ll go along with their attitudes and behavior so that I don’t have to deal with the fallout of addressing all of this.
That might appear to work for a while. But without establishing appropriate boundaries, either there will be an eventual emotional explosion of frustration, which you’ll later regret, or simmering resentments that will silently eat away at you until you start distancing yourself from the other person.
I’ve been that woman. Sometimes losing my temper because I’d let things go so long I just couldn’t hold back my frustration any longer. Or sometimes biting my tongue so long I lost the desire to stay in that relationship. I’m not proud of either of these extremes. And neither of these reactions matches who I really am as a person.
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I’ve read those verses so many times, and yet I never made the connection that implementing healthy boundaries in my life could actually help me be this kind of woman.
This is where I’ve gotten boundaries wrong in the past. Boundaries don’t prevent me from being the best version of myself. Boundaries allow me to be the best version of myself.
If I want to be a woman of compassion, good boundaries will help me be more compassionate. If I want to be a woman of grace, good boundaries will help me be more gracious. If I want to be a woman of forgiveness, good boundaries will help me be more forgiving.
Good boundaries help us keep the best of who we are intact.
Keeping this in mind, we can prayerfully consider where necessary boundaries may be needed in some of the relationships in our lives without the added guilt or worry of what this person may think of us.
Just like Givey has learned to thrive within the parameters of his crate, I believe we can learn to thrive in healthy, life-giving relationships, protected by sound, biblical boundaries.
Lord, give me wisdom to consider where boundaries may be needed in my life today. I don’t want to be fearful of what others think of me … I want to live marked by what You think of me. Please show me where I may be holding on to any people-pleasing tendencies so I can release that and live in the peace I’m really longing for in my relationships. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Someone being disappointed in our boundaries doesn’t make us a disappointment. Learn how to draw necessary boundaries in a godly way, even when the other person disagrees, is disappointed or disregards your needs, by downloading Lysa TerKeurst’s free resource “I Can’t Keep Doing This: 5 Reasons Your Boundaries Aren’t Working.” Sign up here.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)
How might implementing boundaries in your relationships help you further bear spiritual fruit in your life? Share with us in the comments!
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