Boundaries: Good For A Nation. Good For An Individual.

Boundaries | Self Governance Project
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We recently experienced the longest federal government shutdown in history. Without wading into the political games and partisan narratives being pushed on both sides, the issue largely came down to the issue of building a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border.

Yes, President Trump dug in his heels largely to please his base in gearing up for the 2020 election. Yes, the Democrats dug in their heels largely to spite Trump and please their base in gearing up for the 2020 election, despite many of them having supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

We could back and forth on who is right and who is wrong and why. While those discussions are important to have in a rational and civilized manner (unlike what happens in Washington), in doing so, we often miss a fundamental principle to the health of, not only a nation, but individuals as well.

That principle is the importance of boundaries.

Why Boundaries?

Boundaries are the limits that determine where one entity begins and another ends. They are extremely important to the health and constitution of individuals and nations. When disregarded or ignored there can be lasting consequences.

A nation has borders to determine where its rule begins and ends. Indeed, many wars have been fought over border and territory disputes. All citizens within the confines of the borders are subject to the laws of the land and in return have the right to protection within the boundaries that the government sets. It is the government’s right and duty to enforce these boundaries.

Similar to a nation, an individual sets up boundaries to determine relationships with others and what kind of behavior will and won’t be tolerated. Each person has a right to enforce their boundaries, but the thing about boundaries is that other people have them as well. One person’s boundaries cannot encroach on another’s.

People pleasers and ‘yes-men’ often do not enforce boundaries because they want people to like them. Therefore, others will take advantage of their time, their goodness, and their resources.

The Effects Of Poor Boundaries

What happens to these people? They typically struggle with or lose their sense of identity.

I have seen the effects on many people when healthy boundaries are not established and enforced. What generally happens is that they allow others to tell them what to do, and they do it. They are constantly being acted upon. They can’t ever make a decision for themselves because they don’t know who they are or what they want. They certainly keep trying to search out who they are, but until they set their boundaries and enforce them, they probably won’t find anything.

For example, a friend of mine (the name is not shared for privacy reasons) grew up in a controlling and manipulative home. All he wanted was love and acceptance from his parents, but they would withhold that love and attention unless they got what they wanted. As a result, he constantly struggled with making decisions and with his sense of self-worth. Even when he moved out of the home, he was still controlled and manipulated by his parents. For years he struggled, but couldn’t understand why.

It wasn’t until he discovered the concept of boundaries that he began to break free from his parents’ soul-breaking grip.

This friend began to put his foot down when certain behaviors and tactics of manipulation would be used. No longer would he simply tolerate and accept what hurt him. Initially, these newly erected boundaries were met with much pushback from his parents. However, as he stuck to these boundaries, he became more confident in himself because he was finally in control. He no longer had someone telling her how to feel or what she should think or do.

Most Of Us Struggle

Most of us might not have issues with boundaries quite that large. But I guarantee that most of us have them.

People pleaser?

Give into peer pressure?

Pushover?

These are all boundary problems.

The best way to remedy these issues is to establish boundaries, preferably before any problems arise. However, if issues do come up, communicate your boundary clearly and firmly to others. ‘No’ is often one of the best sentences to use.

Your boundaries are what you set for what you will allow in relation to you. If someone does not respect your boundaries, you have no obligation to them.

Conclusion

Ronald Reagan once said, “A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.” I would expound on that quote by saying: “a person that cannot [maintain] his [boundaries] is not a person.”

Boundaries are essential for self-governance. Part of self-governance is being able to manage the relationships you have with others. Just as our nation has a right to enforce its own borders, you have a right to enforce yours. When boundaries are neglected, there is chaos and confusion. When borders are observed and enforced, there is order and harmony.

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