I’ve never thought that the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors” made a lot of sense. In my experience, the best neighbors make me thankful not to have a fence, and bad neighbors aren’t deterred by fences.
Despite that, there’s something incredibly useful and powerful about boundaries. I’ve always liked how Galatians 6:2, 5 balances life for us: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…Each will have to bear his own load.” It is appropriate for me to help someone in time of need. It is not appropriate for me to do all of their work for them.
If we don’t set boundaries intentionally, we’ll find that time, circumstances, and other people will set them for us. We might not like where they get set.
Brené Brown wrote, “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
I had never thought about boundary-setting is compassionate before. It doesn’t just help me, it helps others. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like what Jesus said. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)