Respecting the Limits (Boundaries) of Others – Boundary Resistance Role in Developmental Delays(Adapted from “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend; Boundaries and Children chapters)
Each child needs to learn to accept the limits of parents, siblings, and friends. It is important in learning the world does not revolve around the child. The ability to accept limits teaches us to take responsibility for ourselves. Others will not always be available to us, at our beck and call. It helps us to become inwardly directed instead of externally by circumstances around us. It helps us learn to shoulder our own “knapsack” in life.
The longer we hate and resist the limits of others, the more dependent we will be on others. We come to expect others to take care of us, rather than simply taking care of ourselves. God has constructed life itself to teach us this law. Soon or later someone will say “no” to us that we will not be able to ignore. It is built into the fabric of life.
Observe the downward progression of “Nos” in the life of the person who resists others’ limits:
1. The no of parents
2. The no of siblings
3. The no of schoolteachers
4. The no of school friends and peers
5. The no of bosses and supervisors
6. The no of spouses
7. The no of health problems from various irresponsible lifestyle behaviors
8. The no of police, the courts, and even prison
9. The no of God
God is the ultimate boundary setter. 1 Chronicles 4:10 says, “Jabez called out to the God of Israel, If only you would greatly bless me and expand my territory! May your hand be with me! Keep me from harm so I might not endure pain! God answered his prayer.” Jabez recognized that God sets the boundaries of our lives and that ultimately God provides protection for us against violators and our own failure to respect boundaries of others. When we willfully and repeatedly refuse to respect boundaries and refuse to live within our own boundaries, we suffer. “Repeat offenders” will find themselves with ever-increasingly burdensome consequences that may not be so easily ignored.
Some people learn to accept boundaries early in life, even as early as stage one. But some have to go all the way to the bottom before they get the picture that life has limits.
“Stop listening to instruction, my child, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” Proverbs 19:27
Many who become out of control youth or adolescence don’t mature until their thirties, when they become tired of not having a steady job and a place to stay. It may require living on the streets a while before they realize that the path they have chosen is a dead end.
Heeding other’s boundaries also helps us to love. At its heart the idea of respecting others’ boundaries is the basis for empathy, or loving others as we’d like to be loved. Children need to be given the grace of having their no respected, and they need to learn to give that same grace to others. As we feel empathy for the needs of others, we mature and deepen in our love for God and others. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Failure to learn to respect the limits of others can lead to self-centered or controlling individuals. It can lead to manipulative behavior and people-using. Once we are confronted with our lack of respect for others’ needs, we open space in our heart for others. We learn to quit living only for ourselves and to consider how our actions impact others. Learning boundaries is the start to becoming an authentically, biblically loving person.