Boundaries are not Selfish
Aren’t boundaries selfish?
I get it. It will probably be your first response as you learn about boundaries. It was mine as well. And it’s a fair response, but stick with me because it is a false dichotomy.
Our priorities are our most sacred people and places. Think about your life in terms of concentric circles, with the smallest one in the center. Imagine that smallest circle is a well. From that well, you draw water that flows into all the rest of the circles, reaching the outer circle last.
The smallest circle includes me: my soul and body. My soul is the most secret and sacred space within me. It is housed in my body and it is fused with the Spirit of God. My body, as the house of my soul, affects everything about my life. If the body is sick or unwell, all the other circles of my life are affected (just ask my husband). If I neglect either of these sacred treasures of me–soul and body–everything and everyone in my life will suffer. Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23
Next comes those in my inner circle: the five people who share my home. To them, I owe my best self. I pledged myself to my husband in marriage and I brought each of those children into the world through my own body. They deserve the best of me. That doesn’t necessarily mean I spent the most hours with them, but it means they get the lion’s share of my love and loyalty.
The next circle includes extended family and close friends. Special circumstances may necessitate that I tend to a friend or family member in a time of crisis, but the daily or overall pattern of my life should not be one of prioritizing these friendships or extended family relationships at the expense of my immediate family. Neither is it true that I only needed my immediate family. That’s why boundaries with gates are important. I would not be a happy girl without my girlfriends. They keep me sane.
The next circle includes work: students, staff, colleagues, etc… I have duties and obligations to all of these people, but if I am living with boundaries, I am able to fulfill all that I owe without taking away from my inner circles. Also, sometimes I may have to say “no” to individuals within this sector in order to protect one of the inner circles. That’s ok. In fact, that should happen from time to time.
Everyone needs something from me, and I need something from myself—a strong connection to God and to my emotions. When I tend to these needs, I am able to meet the other needs around me. When I put all the other needs first, I quickly run out of potency and dry up.
The inner well that is the most sacred part of me wells up with joy and love that flows out to all the other areas of life: family, work, church, community. If I continually find myself dry, weary, and cranky, I am probably neglecting my inner well. This is why boundaries are not selfish. I am most able to give to others when I have guarded my inner-self-health.
What is one thing you can do to protect your most sacred space?