This week, I spent some time getting ready for a trip to the zoo with my Kindergartner’s class. It has been a while since I’ve taken the kids so I was preparing for all things necessary to make this trip a smooth one.
Then I moved on to a list of all the animals that topped the favorites list and which ones I planned to avoid (because snakes). As I was mentally running down the list, I suddenly had this thought…what if there were no cages? What if the animals just walked around zoo all willy nilly like?!?! Would we still go? N.O. The fences at the zoo keep all the animals with all their toys (and all their poop) in their own space. They give us the freedom to walk around, get up close and admire these magnificent creatures without the danger of being eaten alive. It would be too risky, yet we will emotionally go out into the big, big world without our boundaries intact and not think twice about it. Listen, I am here to tell you: that is just as dangerous!
Our boundaries are like the fences at the zoo. They allow us to connect with another person as we talk over the fence. We can do life together eyeball to eyeball and sometimes we meet a human so magnificent, we chose to invite them over to our yard to join the party. Boundaries allow us to be fully present in our space and still connect with someone else in theirs.
We’re all just broken people. It’s true. People live out of their brokenness and sometimes the pieces cut us too. Life is a messy and painful process. It is part of being in relationship and part of community. While we are called to carry each other’s burdens, we are not called to sacrifice ourselves at the altar of someone else’s dysfunction or expectation. When I started to get healthy, one of the first ways this showed up in my life was people pleasing. In addition to my plethora of other issues, the message I received growing up in the church was that God was more concerned with my actions than the condition of my heart. It was all about being a good girl, doing the right things and keeping everybody happy. #dontrocktheboat
When the bible tells us in Galatians 6:2 to carry each other’s burdens, this implies loving each other well from a willing heart, and not from a place of manipulation or compulsion. If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me save you thousands of dollars in therapy bills. People pleasing doesn’t actually work. You cannot make all the people happy all the time…you are not Krispy Kreme. And the truth is that when we sacrifice our boundaries for people pleasing, we are not loving others well. When we put our boundaries on the shelf, we rob the people in our lives of an encounter with our true, authentic self. Sometimes loving others well means holding firm to our boundaries and kindly saying “no” when saying “yes” seems easier to do. People pleasing says “I will be whoever you want me to be and hope that is enough.” Boundaries say “I will be who God created me to be and I am enough.”
Just like the cages at the zoo, emotional boundaries are actually one of the keys to greater freedom in our lives. They allow us to grow and fill the space created for us by the lover of our soul. It is because of our love of the humans that boundaries are a must. We were created for community and boundaries give us the freedom to live unmasked in true, healthy, authentic relationship. Fences make good neighbors, my friends.