I came across an article today on personal boundaries. You may not think it is relevant to you. With the benefit of age, my suggestion is that the subject of boundaries is relevant to all. If you don’t need this article now, at some point in your life, you will.
The article I am referencing is from a secular website. As a Christian, I want to add something to what the writer has said. Having been born into and raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian (pan-denominational) environment, there was precious little teaching on things like personal boundaries and the limits to compassion. (Those subjects were routinely dismissed as “psychobabble.”) Christianity teaches that, like Christ, we are to pour ourselves out for others. I am not here to contradict that. What I will say is that this teaching, unbalanced with the need for limits in giving, can turn into tragedy and ruin for all involved. It’s that simple.
Some reading this article would say, “How self-centered. If someone is hurting and causing us misery, well, we’re supposed to suffer for others,” or something like that. Having seen the utter destruction of co-dependency and what it looks like long-term when compassion becomes enabling , I can tell you, with authority, that this is not of God. Why? Because if the results of your compassion efforts are personal destruction and an inability to live the life God gave you, something is seriously wrong.
Being an empathetic person, this author’s words resonated strongly with me. There are some in our lives who do not care in the least that their rotting sin problem is a permanent stench in the lives of those who are trying to show love and compassion. They simply don’t care. We offer ourselves up like some kind of gruesome self-sacrifice when we are not in the least called to do so. But without boundaries, we let it happen and then complain that we have too much stress in our lives. Yes.
We need compassion in our hearts and to be willing to help where we can. I believe that with all my heart. I have been helped by truly kind people over the years, and for their good sense and sound advice, I am grateful. That is not the same thing as this good article discusses.
“Imagine you have this house — your dream house. The house and everything in it fills you with joy, and you work diligently to keep it clean and organized. You are comfortable there. One day, your mom/partner/friend is coming for a visit. You see them coming down the road, straining under the weight of a ginormous sack, quadruple their size. You walk out on the porch to meet them. “Come help me with this thing, it’s heavy!” they shout. You suggest they just put it down. They refuse. As they get closer you catch a whiff of what approaches. It smells awful. Putrid. Nauseating. You start to panic. Are they bringing that to your house? They reach the porch with their giant bag of trash and again ask for your assistance in bringing it inside. “Why don’t you leave that outside? It doesn’t need to come in,” you plead. They balk at your insistence. “No, it comes in. I want it with me. I feel better when it’s with me.” You nervously insist. “But I just cleaned, and it seems like it will make a really big mess.” They aren’t having it. “It comes in with me. I need it. It will be fine.” With a sigh of defeat, you open the door and they haul their trash inside…”
I’ve learned that drawing boundaries when there were none is costly. But the spiritual and emotional cost of not drawing boundaries is far higher.