Recently I’ve seen a lot of posts about the right to set boundaries. To an extent I believe that, but I’m concerned that sometimes we are building walls and calling them boundaries.
None of us enjoy being hurt. Sometimes it’s much easier to leave a relationship—building walls—rather than work through all the difficulties—setting boundaries.
There certainly are relationships that are damaging and that we need to let go of, but I think we should make every effort to redeem them before ending them.
Relationships are messy.
Oftentimes we allow our sinful natures to rule, so anger, jealousy, pettiness, pride, and selfishness corrupt our relationships.
When it gets too difficult to deal with, we build a wall for self-protection.
Here is a simple example from my own life.
We had a dog that I originally didn’t want, but came to love deeply. He ended up spending a lot of time at my feet, loving me unconditionally. When he was eight he got a very aggressive form of cancer. Even with emergency surgery we ended up having to put him to sleep ten days after he was diagnosed. This was totally unexpected and broke my heart.
I’d never really been an animal person. I don’t fawn over every cute dog or cat I see and rarely go out of my way to pet them. It isn’t that I don’t like them, it just isn’t that big a deal to me.
If someone’s pet died, I couldn’t believe how they carried on about the loss. It was an animal, get over it.
All that changed in a moment. I sobbed uncontrollably for days before and after Strider’s death. I couldn’t watch him get buried. I ached from the loss of him.
It was all I could do to move on.
A little over a year later we got another dog, same breed, cute puppy, and while I like him, I haven’t allowed myself to really love him.
I’ve built a wall to protect myself from experiencing that much grief again. As I type this I realize that I probably care more about him than I think I do. I’ve learned that animals have a way of doing that.
I know this is an example with an animal, but I’ve found I respond this way in relationships with people too. I close off areas of my heart from people who have hurt me so they can’t do it again.
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,” Luke 6:27 KJV.
How do we apply this verse while setting healthy limits on relationships? It certainly is more difficult than just walking away?
I haven’t perfected this in my own life, but I have found some things that help.
- Prayer & the Word
This always has to be the first step. Take your hurt feelings to Jesus. Pour them out in prayer.
Ask Him to heal your broken heart.
“The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” Luke 4:18 KJV.
He has not only come to heal the brokenhearted, but to set the captives free. Yes, we can be held captive by our own feelings if we refuse to forgive and allow Jesus to heal our hearts.
- Lean hard on Jesus to forgive
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone what they did or are doing. This is a really difficult one for me. I’ve often allowed my emotions to rule my actions. All I can do at these times it cry out to the Lord and lean hard on Him while He works on my heart.
I often refer myself to Corrie ten Boom’s thoughts when she met the prison guard who had become a believer:
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
- Feelings follow actions
I have to remind myself of this so that my feelings don’t rule me.
We need to lay down our expectations. Perhaps that person may never be able to be what you want them to be.
- Your relationship with that person will probably look different from it did before
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you become a doormat. The person who hurt you may not even realize how badly they hurt you—they may never ask for your forgiveness.
You may need to go to them and tell them that what they said or did was hurtful. They may not respond well to that. There are many scenarios that could play out, so be sure you are covered in prayer if you need to do this.
Friendships and relationships change over time. There are seasons when it might be appropriate to end a relationship, or take some time to heal, then redefine the type of relationship you will have.
If you decide you need to end a relationship or curtail it, be sure you’ve heard from the Lord and consulted your husband or a Godly older woman for advice. Our own perspective can be very skewed, so it’s imperative to be sure we are responding in a Godly way.
How are you struggling with boundaries and walls? What is the most difficult thing for you to do when you’ve been hurt?
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