We’ve talked about making sure the relationships you put the most stock in are ones that build you up. Rather than tear you down, they need to be safe, give you a sense of well-being and purpose, and lead you and the other person to be better for simply being in the relationship. Above all, they need to protect your heart.
Hopefully, you have plenty of those types of relationships in your life. But if you don’t, how do you learn to protect your heart in the meantime?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the source of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
“We need to be responsible stewards of our hearts, as it is our heart that determines everything we do: (see Matthew 12:34–35; 15:18–19). Our hearts are the spring from which our very life flows.”
Healthy Boundaries = Health Heart
To guard our hearts, we need to be careful what we allow to be in them. We should ensure only healthy things, such as love and truth, enter our hearts while unhealthy things, such as deception, manipulation, or abuse, are dumped out. We also have to work on the issues within our hearts, and this means we have to get rid of the toxic aspects of our own character through confession and repentance and keep other people’s toxicity from being “dumped on our property.”
This calls for … you guessed it … BOUNDARIES!
Healthy boundaries help protect your heart, much like a fence guards the physical property of someone’s home.
Boundaries result from speaking our limits directly to others, saying what we will allow and not allow to affect our hearts. Our responsibility is to protect our hearts, speak up, and make our boundaries clear. To protect your heart, you need to take ownership over what is in your heart, making it a place where only good things reside.
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend – THE boundary experts!
Below are a few of their key thoughts on boundaries. Bottom line, it is very important to determine where your boundary of responsibility is and where someone else’s begins.
Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside the fence and things that will harm us outside the fence. Meanwhile, we need gates in the fence to let the good in and the bad out.
Boundaries are anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else or show where you begin and end.
The word “no” is the most basic boundary–a word that people with poor boundaries have trouble saying. They need to say no to the control, pressure, demands, or real problems of others. The problem is that they often don’t. Instead, they become concerned about harming the relationship if they say “no.”
So they passively comply and ultimately can feel resentful.
More ways to Protect Your Heart
Sometimes, physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit — as Jesus often did. You can also remove yourself to get away from danger and limit evil.
Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe; it is never a permanent way of living. People who have been in abusive or addicted relationships need to find a safe place to begin to “thaw out” emotionally. Sometimes in abusive marriages, the abused spouse needs to keep emotional distance until the abusive partner begins to face his or her problems and become trustworthy.
You need others to help you set and keep boundaries. When you open yourself up to the support of others, they give you the strength to set the limits you need. Creating boundaries always involves support from other people.
You need to back up your boundaries with consequences. For example, in a troubled marriage, one spouse may say, “if you don’t, then I will leave until you get treatment.” A parent might say to a young adult child, “no more money if you quit another job without having another one.” Consequences tell others that you are serious about the commitment to live according to helpful values and that it is something you will guard.
All we are saying here is that we cannot live a full, free life without having boundaries. If you feel you are living someone else’s life, have no voice, are in the midst of abuse, or are around angry people who try to manipulate or control you, you need boundaries to help you protect your heart.
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Did we leave anything out? How are you trying to create boundaries in your life? How do you recognize those who may not be the safest people, and how is that helping you to protect your heart? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.