I seem to have a love-hate relationship with fences. Love those fences which keep away the nuisances, but do not like to be fenced in--in any form or fashion. Oh—I love the beauty of a long wooden rail fence-it seems to tug at my poetic heart strings. I am not speaking of the fences in the physical world, but instead the unseen-yet visibly present fences we call boundaries.
Our lessons in boundaries begins as soon as we become mobile. Important lessons---all usually prefaced with-NO! You know life lessons such as-do not stick your finger in the plug; do not play with sharp things; do not stick your hand in the fire—the do not’s which are intended to keep us safe.
The next step in our boundary lessons involve others—when we reach the age of fair play among our peers. Do not push your brother down the stairs; do not snatch toys from others; do not throw hard things at your friends—the do not’s which teach us civility in relationships.
The day we step into the world of teens—the do not’s take a more serious tone. Do not smoke—tobacco or dope; do not drink alcohol while underage; do not have sex; do not speed while driving; do not run with the wrong crowd- the do not’s meant to keep us alive and from making lasting mistakes during those turbulent years leading to adulthood.
At last we become an adult and all fences-boundaries are removed-are so it seems. We are our own boss and the only boundaries are those self-imposed. Thrown into the world of grownups, we are the masters of our fate. No need for boundaries---or perhaps the greatest need for boundaries?
I have placed boundaries around myself—boundaries for self-protection. Do not over-eat; do not smoke (tobacco or otherwise); do not lie (it is easier to tell the truth than keep track of the lies); do not cheat; do not steal (even good blogs); do not forget to exercise; the do not’s meant to navigate a life well lived.
All of this came bubbling to the surface when I was thinking of another form of boundaries in our lives. The boundaries dealing with relationships. Occasionally there comes a time when we must install these invisible fences called boundaries to protect yourself in a relationship. What is that old saying, “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.” There comes a time in some relationships when we must back off or even cut off any interaction. Volatile relationships; relationships where we begin to resemble the door mat; relationships where the truth never seems to surface; relationships that beat us down—the do not’s of how we allow someone to treat us. There comes a time when it is best to step back and walk away—when more harm is guaranteed by staying. Relationships are built on honesty and mutual give and take. God desires for us to love one another—turn the other cheek—but He does not require for us to be beaten to the ground. There are times—for our own well-being—we put up a boundary and stay on our side of the street.
Yes—fences are good—they make for good neighbors, and boundaries are necessary. The right boundaries keep us strong, safe, and emotionally healthy. A fence to protect our heart provides a boundary which allows us to enjoy the blessing of all the good relationships and leave the destructive behind the fence.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.