Boundaries vs. Walls

I haven't always been great at boundaries (as evidenced by this post here), mostly because I'd misunderstood their purpose. Boundaries sounded definite, impenetrable, stand-offish. 

They sounded lonely.

And that was a feeling I was already somewhat acquainted with, and one I didn't want more of. But what I'd failed to understand was that there was a difference between walls and boundaries, one a counterfeit of the other.

Walls, by definition, are impenetrable self-protection mechanisms that keep out both good and bad.  They happen when we take one circumstance and build a life principle around it. Men will always leave me. I'll always be rejected. I'll never be loved. I can't trust anyone. And here's the thing about walls, by erecting them we literally cut off the supply lines of love and relationship.

Behind the walls, self withers.

Boundaries, on the other hand are more like cell membranes. They keep in the cytoplasm, but decide what to let in and out, based on it's function and health. They are what we call  selectively permeable.  When a boundary serves it's true purpose, it isn't about keeping the world out, but rather keeping sacred things in. Without a cell membrane our cells become big blobs of jelly, unable to hold structure or function.

Without boundaries, our self becomes much the same. 

So how do we do this thing called boundaries? How do you discern the difference between walls and boundaries, and how do you start tackling the hard task of finding self? Below are six helpful ways I've found to start dismantling the walls and start building healthy boundaries:
  1. Examine your belief system. Have you made sweeping general life principles off of events in your life?  How have those worked out for you? Start to write down those strongholds or walls. Take them to the Lord, and have Him help you break those, one by one. 
  2. Listen to your feelings. Start listening to what you feel throughout the day, and take notes from them. For example, when you're with people all day, do you feel drained? You may need to set yourself some a lone time. Take this information, write it down, and learn to start to...
  3. Set Limits.  This is as simple as noting what gives life to you, and what takes it away. Boundaries are made to keep the life in.
  4. Give yourself permission.... to be you. That means you can take care of yourself, and set those limits, without feeling guilty. You can only give away what you have. If your empty, you won't be much of a help to anyone.
  5. Look at your past and connect it to the present. How were you raised? What belief systems have you carried over into adulthood? What dysfunctions have you emulated? The Lord can help show you this as you ask Him, or you may want to explore these with a trained Christian Counselor. 
  6. Celebrate the Small Steps. The Lord will help you break down your walls and He can give you wisdom on where to place your boundaries, but you will be confronting years of bad boundaries, and it will take work. Celebrate even the smallest victories! You'll start to feel yourself coming alive slowly, with each step toward healthy boundaries, and soon it will not feel like work to set them. They'll start to happen naturally. 
Most importantly in all of this is  to know that perfection isn't the answer. In fact, perfection misses the point entirely. The goal is to enjoy the journey, the wild adventure that is becoming our true selves, boundaries and all. 


What about you? Do you struggle with boundaries?  

**photo credit: 


  1. well, again, you are hitting the proverbial nail on the head. i must practice boundaries with myself lest i over extend myself and lose it - so yeah - radical self care is in order


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