Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Boundaries and Forgiveness

Whoever said “Good fences make good neighbors” knew something about boundaries and forgiveness. I put a fence around my backyard to keep my children and my dog where they are supposed to be. It keeps my children’s toys and actions from offending my neighbors and keeps my dog from attacking my neighbors with excited kisses or from leaving unexpected presents. If an offense should occur, such as a ball sailing over the fence, the boundary reminds us to respect another’s property and either ask to cross the boundary to retrieve what belongs to us or wait for it to be returned.

Good boundaries make good friendships. It helps us to respect each other and keep another’s perspective in mind. Not having good boundaries invites offense. When our “no” doesn’t always mean “no” there is no clear boundary and others offend us, sometimes unintentionally. Others will offend us intentionally, simply because they can when there are no boundaries. They will do to the boundary-less what they would not do to those with boundaries.

When we have been offended and then forgive, we must be mindful of the need for clear boundaries to help others to respect our hearts. Forgiveness does not equal a boundary-less self. Forgiveness indicates trust in God to change the person. Forgiveness takes responsibility for our own part in the offense. If our own part was not having clear boundaries, then we rectify the situation by establishing appropriate boundaries.

Appropriate boundaries are dependent on the relationship. I like a picket fence in my backyard because I can still talk to my neighbors across the fence. It encourages relationship. However, a different type of fence may be appropriate for a different relationship. I am grateful for one neighbor’s 6-foot fence so that I do not have to look at the debris in his back yard. An electric fence may be appropriate for a troublesome animal who likes to jump fences. And a security system is appropriate to guard against an intruder or burglar. What boundaries do you need to improve your relationships?

One Response so far.

  1. Ruth Stoll says:

    I really like your analogy re. the fences. It is so very apt to the boundaries in relationships and in business. We are finding that there are some boundary-less issues in our business and that makes for real problems. If they are not identified and dealt with we are going to have a tension-filled business place! Thank you. Ruth Stoll