There once was a sixteen-year-old young man who felt a divine call to the ministry. There was nothing that he wanted more than be in pastoral leadership at a church. He gave everything to the church and did everything the leadership of the church asked of him for years. In his early twenties, he eventually received an opportunity to move across the nation and help a small church-plant as an assistant pastor.
The opportunity was exciting for the first few months, but then it started to become work, a great deal of work. He was also working a full-time secular job as well as fulfilling a full-time ministry role. There weren’t enough people involved in the small church to spread the load. There were Bible studies to teach, staff meetings to lead, new members’ classes to instruct, youth ministry to organize as well as preaching, service organization, ministry work, and counseling. Before long, this young assistant pastor found every minute of his time devoted to his obligations with little time left for the things he enjoyed. A little bit of resentment began to creep into his heart and mind. So much was demanded of him, but he didn’t feel as appreciated as he thought he deserved.
This young man was me, and the situation I found myself in was no one’s fault but my own. I was struggling with boundaries in my life; but at the time, I didn’t even know what a boundary was. As we continue the series on Grow Your Character, I want to give you a picture of what healthy boundaries should really look like in a leader’s life.
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Because I lacked boundaries in my role as assistant pastor at that church-plant in Virginia, the relational side of my life suffered. My personality revolves around productivity; therefore, I thought if I did more and achieved more that I would gain the approval of those in authority around me. I sacrificed my relational needs to work harder.
My poor wife felt the brunt of my lack of boundaries, as I undoubtedly missed the cues of some of her relational needs, but others in my life suffered as well. Even more importantly, I didn’t obtain the key relational nutrients that I desperately needed in my life for growth.
There is so much more to boundaries than what I’ll cover in this session. This is just a short introduction. If you find yourself struggling in this area, I encourage you to buy the book called Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. They have multiple books and trainings on the topic of boundaries that are excellent as well.
Dr. John Townsend defines a boundary as the place that one person’s property line ends and another person’s property line begins. Boundaries are essentially the realization that we are our own person apart from others. Boundaries teach us how to love others but also how to avoid entangling our will with the will of others.
Having healthy boundaries allows you to have your own voice, make your own choices, express yourself freely while still allowing the people around you to have their own voices, choices, and expressions as well. A person with boundaries has the ability to say “no” while still being able to confront others in appropriate and caring ways. A person with healthy boundaries doesn’t handle things in a passive way but has the ability to take care of his or her own needs while still having a strong approach to life. God created us in His image with the ability to freely make choices and have boundaries. If you’re struggling with boundaries in your life, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Lord can restore this area of your character and repair your damaged boundaries.
Paul commands us in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” It’s important that we learn to take responsibility for our thoughts. We should not repress our thoughts but own them and examine them. This is more than just a right that God has given us; it’s a responsibility. When we begin to take responsibility for our own thoughts, we will begin to take ownership of our feelings, attitudes, desires, and even behaviors.
One of the major things we need to learn regarding boundaries is that they must be established within the context of love. Just because we say “no” or set boundaries with relationships in our lives doesn’t mean that we don’t love those that we’re setting the boundaries with. In fact, the act of setting boundaries ensures that we’re able to continue to have those healthy relational connections. In his book Changes That Heal, Dr. Cloud writes, “Love cannot exist without freedom, and freedom can’t exist without responsibility.” It’s so important that we take responsibility for the issues that are ours and deal with them accordingly. Boundaries are critical for freedom, and freedom is critical for healthy relational connections.
Another important aspect of boundaries is allowing other people to take responsibility for how they feel personally. We want to be sensitive to others and the way they feel; we want to be aware of their feelings, but ultimately, it’s their responsibility to own their own emotions. In another words, if someone is angry or sad and tries to use those emotions to control your actions, they’ve crossed over the line of your boundaries. We all have the right to be angry or experience other negative emotions, but we can’t try to control others with those emotions. We have to allow people to be who they are, and we have to learn to love and accept others the way that they are.
Let me wrap up this post by saying, if you’re struggling in this area of your life, you’re not alone. Establishing boundaries is something that is difficult to learn and implement. I want you to know that the result of not having boundaries can create all kinds of problems. Lacking boundaries can cause resentment and passive-aggressive behavior or even worse issues like panic attacks, depression, and addictions.
It’s not always easy to learn how to set boundaries; and if you can’t seem to make headway with this topic, please consider getting outside help from a friend, a counselor, or a coach. It will be work putting the time and effort into strengthening the healthy boundaries in your life, but I promise it will be worth it. Having the ability to take responsibility for ourselves determines the quality and the significance of our lives.
Copyright © 2021 Ryan Franklin. All rights reserved.