This post is #3 in our series on Self-care
Do you feel guilty about setting boundaries? Can you imagine being able to say “No” without feeling guilty?
A Listening Heart
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“A river without boundaries soon becomes a swamp.” I kept hearing this thought in my spirit while jogging one morning.
What comes to mind when you think about a swamp?
It took me a couple of days to process and pray through this thought. I asked God to help me understand the message.
A swamp is a stagnant body of water that is overgrown with plants and lots of debris. It is also home to mosquitoes and other deadly creatures. During my reflection, I realized that a swamp is a metaphor for a life out of balance. It’s when our lives are too busy… full of stuff, to where it becomes a problem. A life without boundaries is like a swamp filled with all kinds of clutter.
That was my life for over 20 years. I took care of everyone else at the expense of my self-care. I felt guilty saying “No.” and I struggled with speaking the truth in love. As a result, my inner life resembled a swamp overgrown with the weeds of tiredness, resentment, bitterness, and unhealthy guilt.
Boundaries are like property lines that define us and our values. They help us determine what we will do and not do. Without limits, we lose ourselves, and our lives become chaotic. We become too busy juggling many responsibilities and mile-long to-do lists. In the long run, a boundaryless life is dangerous to our health and relationships. It puts us at risk of stress, emotional depletion, and burnout.
As Christians, we often think it’s not nice to say “No” and that loving others means we must be available all the time. But that is not true. Not having boundaries is unloving because we don’t tell the truth to ourselves and others.
Even God embraces healthy boundaries because he set limits for the ocean and other creations when he created the universe.
I placed the sand as the boundary of the sea, a permanent boundary that it cannot cross. The sea may toss, but it cannot go beyond it; the waves may roar, but they cannot break through. Jeremiah 5:22 (Voice)
Jesus Practiced Healthy Boundaries without Guilt.
A river with proper boundaries flows well and is continually refreshed. Jesus’ life flowed well because he practiced healthy boundaries in his daily routine. He often stepped away alone to spend time with the Father for spiritual refreshment.
Even when his disciples told him everyone was looking for him, Jesus was not flustered. He told them he wanted to preach in the other villages nearby. I imagine Jesus, decision not to stay in the same town, came out of time spent with the Father in prayer. Jesus said “No” without guilt but “Yes” to the Father’s will to preach and heal the sick in other towns. (Mark 1:35-39).
Exercising boundaries without guilt is loving others as yourself (Matthew 22:39).
I am grateful for the Lord’s whisper to my heart on my run that morning. It was an act of love that has changed my life. I am learning to embrace boundaries without guilt, though imperfectly but I am a work in progress.
4 Benefits of Practicing Guilt-Free Boundaries
Increased Spiritual Fulfilment
Making time for God a priority in our self-care routine will help us grow spiritually. It will open us up to learn about God’s plans and priorities for our lives. We will feel spiritually fulfilled.
Reduce Overwhelm and Stress
When we take on too many responsibilities, we stretch ourselves too thin. As we say “No” to seemingly good things and “Yes” to God’s best for our lives, we will experience reduced stress and overwhelm.
Boundaries help us live within our values and define our limits. There are 24 hours in a day. With healthy boundaries, we will live on purpose and not overcommit. We will be refreshed and live guilt-free.
Teach Others How to Treat You.
I read this saying somewhere, and it stuck with me. You teach people how to treat you by what you tolerate. Without proper boundaries, we encourage people to have unrealistic expectations. When we don’t meet these expectations, they get frustrated, and we feel guilty. Boundaries help us communicate our priorities and speak the truth in love.
Having boundaries is essential to our self-care and well-being. Living with boundaries is loving and healthy. It leads to growth, healthy relationships, and true freedom in Christ.
In what ways will you incorporate guilt-free boundaries in your life? Friend, there is room for you on this self-care journey of guilt-free boundaries. Will you join me?