Boundaries are very important. If the giant Mississippi didn’t have boundaries, we would be flooded. Freeways have clearly marked lanes so that the traffic flow remains inside the correct boundaries. When the Mississippi breaks out of its boundaries, as it does every few years, there is massive flooding. A few weeks ago, a car drove five miles on Interstate 55 traveling against traffic. The driver caused several accidents, and he was killed.
We as people are supposed to have clearly defined boundaries that identify our personality traits, our values, desires, goals and responsibilities. Unfortunately, many people don’t have clear boundaries in their lives. Imagine a person with a hula hoop around his waist, and let’s say the hula hoop represents his boundaries. Imagine a second person with a hula hoop around her waist. Now, see if you can visualize these two people with their hula hoops intersecting each other. That is exactly how many people live their lives. Their boundaries are enmeshed with other people’s boundaries.
You can tell if people have clear boundaries in their lives when they have a good measure of self-confidence and are clearly responsible for their words and actions. They know the limits of their boundaries and respect other people’s boundaries. They have discovered their own talents and are using them in a way that brings self-satisfaction and benefit to others. They feel comfortable with who they are and don’t feel the need to put anyone else down. They are honest and forthright and don’t resort to manipulation to get things done. They know when to say yes and when to say no. When they make a wrong choice, they take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and make things right.
By the same token, you can tell when people have weak boundaries in their lives. They are very concerned with pleasing other people and are worried about their decisions. They may also be the opposite—so head strong that they seem incapable of caring what others think or feel. They may blame others for their own shortfalls and may refuse to accept blame for what isn’t working in their lives. Either way, if they don’t have their identity clearly defined and know the path God has called them to walk, they will often have weak boundaries.
Sometimes we learn these weak boundaries from our childhood years, and then we take these patterns into our adult lives. How we treat people is usually how we saw people being treated when we were children. Those examples were recorded in our brains, and they became our default model. In order to correct what is wrong in our lives, we have to first understand it and then ask God to help us. This is what David did in this prayer:
Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”