Emotional boundaries can be tough to define. On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there. On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.
Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool. Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability. Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons. The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others. The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.
Boundaries are a necessity, though. Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity. I do not happen to believe it is. I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.
“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.
“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.
“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.
“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,” means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.
Arguments and disagreements are understandable. Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first. One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.
Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent. The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another. If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.