By: Dr Eliezer Gonzalez
One of the important things in life is to set your boundaries: what you will accept and what you won’t. Without boundaries, you will just be everyone else’s “punching bag” in life.
I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. I found my life going downhill fast, and part of the reason was that I lacked the courage to stand up for myself and set some boundaries. I was fixated on a misguided understanding of what being kind and loving to others was all about.
It was only when I came to the point that I was able to clearly set some boundaries and articulate them, with appropriate consequences, that my life was able to improve.
The issue here is, how do you set appropriate boundaries? Because there are those who have no boundaries and accept all kinds of abuse against them.
One of the most important objectives of life is to understand the character of God. This has to do with much more than just deciding what is right and wrong.
It has to do with having a firm foundation for your own identity and value. This will mean that you will value and respect own self in a way that aligns with how God sees you. That will be directly reflected in how you relate to others.
The most important thing to know about God is that he isn’t just loving, but that he is both the source and definition of love itself:
…God is love (1 John 4:8.)
One way of understanding the Biblical definition of love is as selflessness. Paul tells us that “love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5.) In this vein, he also writes that,
No one should seek their own good, but the good of others (1 Cor. 10:24.)
So, that means that we allow everyone around us to treat us however they want? I’ve met quite a few followers of Jesus who understand love in this way: that we should just put up with whatever is thrown at us, including all kinds of abuse, and simply be humble and forgiving.
But this isn’t the right way to understand the character of God.
In the Bible, God isn’t just described as being loving. We are told that:
Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous!… (Ezra 9:15.)
Righteousness means doing what is right and what is fair.
For some followers of Jesus, these two qualities, love and righteousness, are, in practice, opposite to each other. They can’t reconcile the ideas that they have to love others and also stand up for what is right at the same time.
Real Love Isn’t Helpless Sentimentalism
Yet the love of God, and the love with which he asks us to love one another, isn’t some kind of helpless sentimentalism. Those who truly love are never “yes-men” and “yes-women.”
Love seeks what is best and good for all concerned. Let’s think of an all-too-common human situation. This is a human relationship between two people, in which one person does not respect the other person’s identity, and in which boundaries are not recognised. Let’s imagine that there is emotional or physical abuse involved.
For the victim to enable the abuser to continue this behaviour is not loving toward the abuser. The reason is that love seeks the good of the other. In this situation, both the abuser and the victim are suffering significant harm. And those in their immediate environment are also being damaged.
If the abuser is unwilling to confront reality, for the victim to remain in this situation is neither loving toward the abuser, nor to those around them, nor to themselves. To set your boundaries means to understand that love also seeks the ultimate good of all.
Have You Set Your Boundaries?
Love sets boundaries. Boundaries have consequences. Love requires tough decisions.
In this way, we can see the love and the righteousness of God, not as opposites, but as two sides of the same coin. Just as God, in his love, does that is righteous, so too, his followers, because we love, will have boundaries regarding our behaviours and relationships. There are things that we won’t do, and things that we won’t accept.
This isn’t even about “self-love,” but just basically about acting in a loving way toward others. It’s just about what being loving truly means.
Avoid Unhealthy Boundaries
However, we shouldn’t use the idea of “setting boundaries” to justify the common practice of closing yourself off from society, from others, and from love. This can, in fact, be yet another way to cause harm to others, and especially to yourself. To set your boundaries in this way is to create unhealthy boundaries.
Healing is the process of bringing those walls down and being able to set up healthy, instead of unhealthy boundaries.
As God is infinite, so too is his love for you. Yet love sets its own boundaries. The greater the love, the stronger the boundary. Love respects your choices.
There comes a time when love says, “Enough is enough.” The Cross was God’s “tough decision,” which he took because he loved us. He didn’t just let us go.
That’s why the Cross is the point on which you must choose, and that’s why we too must set boundaries in our lives, about those lines which we will not cross, both in what we do and in what we accept from others.
Love is never weak. Love is always strong, even “stronger than death” (Song 8:6.)
If you love, set your boundaries.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.