Fences make good neighbours?

Lord, this photo of a fence with flowers growing on either side is helping me learn some important lessons about boundaries that I didn’t understand before.

For a long time, the concept of boundaries didn’t make sense to me. It hurt when I was shut out of various people’s lives. Oh, Lord, it hurt! How can I tell all I want to tell? How can I help others understand the great pain of rejection, often bad enough to make me want to die? When I’m shut out of parts of people’s lives, I wonder why. Am I too “weird” to be around “normal” people? I wonder if there’s something terribly wrong with me, though I myself thought I was a good person in every way I could be.

I’m looking at the picture as though it’s a fence separating caregivers from those they care for. The flowers on both sides of the fence are healthy. It is a boundary separating what is mine, and what is my supporter’s. A healthy boundary like this will define expectations and show respect for each other. Each of us will have our own personal space where we can live and grow, rest and stay healthy. Away from the stresses of the world.

That’s an amazing discovery, Lord! We both need a boundary – my caregiver and me – each of us with a side of our own, each side as healthy as the one next to it.

Yes, Lord, I need support – too often. But I don’t want to lean excessively on the friends who support me. It helps to have a place of my own where I can grow to be healthy and strong. I need a place where I can become the kind of person you designed me to be – a person with self-control and self-reliance. The side of the fence belonging to me provides a wholesome place to learn and grow in safety.

Lord, I can so clearly see how everyone – supporters and those receiving support – needs such a boundary, providing a place they can call their own. They need a place where they can find protection from the world where no uninvited person will intrude. Supporters require a corner of their world where they will be enriched and filled with your peace. They will be better able to gather the strength they need to encourage and comfort those who, like me, are not as strong.

I think I’ve discovered a rather wonderful thing, Lord! We all – supporters and those needing support – need the same thing. We need boundaries. With boundaries we have equal opportunities to have the lives we want and need. Although the world too often thinks and treats people with mental health issues as “abnormal,” in this respect we certainly don’t differ from others. Each of us is a person like any other. Each of us needs his own place of safety.

With boundaries we can be good neighbours. We can have good relationships with those who support us and take care of us.

But is that always true?