When fences become walls

Some words a friend shared:

 “I keep thinking about fences, especially the ones on our street.  I’m not sure that fences make GOOD neighbours.  Wherever there is a fence on our street, it feels like they are keeping everyone out of their corner of the world. It becomes a definite boundary, a deterrent – as to how close one can get.  And I ask:  Is the fence/wall there to protect, to keep us out, or to establish the boundaries of their yards. What prompted these people to build fences/walls?  And does it give us – on our street – a sense of neighbourliness or not……”

What does that do to my story, Lord? It sounds like these neighbours’ fences are actually more like walls. How do walls differ from fences with gates?

Boundaries can be used in healthy or sinful ways. The way to know the difference is to look at the motive, like my friend did when she considered the fences her neighbours put up. Healthy and needful boundaries protect ourselves and weaker people from potential emotional or physical harm.

However, if a person builds a wall, maintaining distance simply to exclude someone, that is sin. That’s a form of stigma. And Lord, I have been a victim of that stigma and still am. And I know it to be evil. I know what it does to me and how it makes me feel disrespected and not seen as a real person. I know what it feels like when a person who was once a friend will not acknowledge me when we pass each other. I know what it feels like not to receive a response to a question.

And I never know exactly what brought that treatment on. If they would talk to me maybe I could find out. But they’re never willing to talk. They’re unapproachable. Another wall. Another form of stigma.

So, Lord, how can I possibly live alongside people who put up walls and maintain such a distance? People who, for whatever reason, shun me, considering me a non-person. How can I bear the pain? The treatment causes me to lose confidence and self-esteem. What can I, as the wounded party, do?

I’m comforted to know that you understand, Jesus. You went through similar trials and I know you’re near me today.

And that makes me think, Lord. How did you cope?