Borders & Boundaries
Perhaps it is fitting that I should find myself grappling with the issue of “boundaries” while I was staying in the Scottish Borders (an area that was constantly being battled over between England and Scotland and was continually being forced onto one side or another without regard for the wishes of the people).
From my reading of The PAPA Prayer I have been trying to pay better attention to who I am and what is going on inside of me. As I have been reading Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud, I have been recognizing some of the struggles I have in the realm of boundaries. Since so much of my identity has been shaped by being a “good” person and trying to make others pleased with me, I have often been poor at setting boundaries. (After all, if I set boundaries with people they won’t be pleased with me; I won’t be seen as “good” in their eyes.)
Dr. Cloud explains, “Boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want. Boundaries, in short, define us. In the same way that a physical boundary defines where a property line begins and ends, a psychological and spiritual boundary defines who we are and who we are not.” I realize that I need to and want to grow in this matter of knowing better and claiming better what I want or don’t want, what I feel or don’t feel, who I am and who I am not.
Dr. Cloud points out that one of the danger zones for people who do not do a good job of setting boundaries is that they are out of touch with their feelings. This has so often been true of me. He warns, “Feelings signal our state of being. Feelings tell us how we are doing, what matters to us, what needs changing, what is going well, and what is going badly. To disown our feelings, to ignore responsibility for them, is one of the most destructive things we can do to both ourselves and others.”
One of the ways I often disown my feelings has to do with a failure to recognize my needs. I experienced this the other day while walking through the Borders. I took a bus to a stop a mile shy of Hermitage Castle (where my ancestors spend much time in the prison during their years as Border Reivers). Leaving the castle I had to walk 7 miles to Newcastleton to catch a bus back to Hawick. The arthritis in my hip was really bothering me, but I didn’t even think to take some ibuprofen until a couple of miles into my trek because I simply get in the habit of not paying attention to my needs or taking care of myself. I believe this is an area of my life God wants me to grow in…and He is bringing it to my attention.