I’ll admit it, I haven’t read the entire book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud, but I know a lot of people who have. I started it…but I’m the worst about not finishing a book. I was talking with a friend several months back about this boundaries phenomenon that Christians everywhere are taking and running with. I’ve seen it a lot over the past few years, and what it looks like to me…is boundary abuse.
Boundaries are a good thing. They are healthy to an extent. We need to be able to say no and yes and take care of ourselves. But the churches whose mantra is “community” have people in it exclaiming, “whoa, boundaries, right?!?” I’ve had people turn down invitations to hang out for no reason other than “I can’t.” Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I don’t really think so judging by conversations I’ve had with other people experiencing the same thing. I’ve seen it a lot in new married couples, and in people with kids. People who need to hang out with their spouse six nights a week, and can’t hang out with their friends because they already had to work one night this week. People whose kids literally NEVER miss a nap, because the inconvenience isn’t worth it. I get that we can’t make a habit out of choosing everyone else over our family all the time. Duh.
But where do community and boundaries meet? When do we forgo doing the dishes in order to get lunch with a friend we haven’t seen in weeks? I think part of the problem is this idea that our community is limited to those we see on a regular basis or those in our small group. You see, for pretty much the entire last 4-5 years, we have been in a constant state of transition. I know some people have their “friend group” or whatever already, and they don’t really want to waste their time with someone they don’t plan on becoming friends with. Which is kind of considerate…but it’s also kind of rude. Unfortunately, not everyone goes through the same life changes at the same time. I didn’t happen upon a group of women who were going through big transitions and looking for friends at the same time I was. It just seems to me that a lot of people want their “community” to be on their own agenda. Maybe I’m guilty, too. If you think so, you can tell me. 😉
So, should we only consider ourselves when we think about how we want our community to look? Or, should we recognize that other people are in need of community, too? Should we invite other people in, just because?
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:3-5
I’m afraid that this whole obsession with boundaries has us leaving a lot of people out of our lives for no reason at all. It’s creating a me-centered life with me-centered relationships that work well for my schedule. There is a time and place for everything under the sun, taking time to yourself is one of them. But when we consistently choose ourselves over other people, I think we’re ignoring the call to value others above ourselves.
I know there are people that legitimately have a hard time saying no to others, and have that people-pleasing nature. Most often, I’m not really one of them, so I guess I come from that side of it. I just think it’s possible that our self-centered culture is infiltrating the church, and Christians are suffering because of it. We weren’t meant to do life alone, or even just with our own little families. We need other Believers in our lives, and other Believers need us in their lives. Sometimes that means laying down our boundaries. Maybe it means leaving room for new friendships to form, and old ones to grow.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25