Do you ever struggle with setting good boundaries with others? You want to do what’s right, but a part of you struggles with anger, fear, or perhaps guilt. You may even hurt the people you love the most as a result of these unwanted feelings. Developing healthy internal boundaries with your thoughts and feelings is a Biblical way to care for your soul.
What are boundaries? Your “boundaries” are the borders or limits of who you are and what you do, and what behaviors (your own and those of others) you will and will not accept. Your spirit, mind, heart, will, and body all have boundaries. Understanding these limits helps you honor your individuality and the individuality of others.
To use an external boundary as an example, when you have a conversation with another person, you don’t stand so close that you step on her toes or so far away that you yell from a distance. Instead, you stand at arm’s reach so that the two of you can hear each other comfortably. As another example, if a good friend moves away, you may feel too far from him and need to find new ways to maintain your connection. On the other hand, if he were to crowd you emotionally, you would need to get some space. You may feel too far from an estranged relative whom you haven’t seen in years, or too close to an overbearing one who visits too often and stays too long. Essentially, you can draw closer to people at will, or move farther away, in order to establish a comfortable distance.
Likewise, there are two opposite, unhealthy ways of relating to your painful emotions. You can keep them too close to you or you can push them too far away. If they’re too close, you risk being overwhelmed by them. If they’re too far, you risk being cut off from them, only to be influenced by them in harmful ways.
You may wonder why you would ever want to draw painful feelings in closer. Isn’t it better to keep them away? Think of it this way: Your painful emotions are being experienced by parts of your soul that need to be heard, honored, and understood in order for you to be able to help them. Furthermore, the parts of your soul experiencing these difficult emotions have much to teach you when you get to know them. As with the people in your life, the key is to establish comfortable distance with these parts of your soul.