The Luxury of Boundaries

You know who these people are. They’re the ones you sort of know, as in their name and a few details of their miserable lives. They see you coming and use that same line every time to strike up a conversation.

And the conversation is pointless, meandering, and happens to be all about them. There is nothing you can do for these people, so why bother listening. You have much better things to do. Escape, all  you can think about is your escape. And so you learn to avoid them, look down at the right moment, or pick up your pace to avoid being trapped.

I do this sometimes. And then I think about Jesus and Paul. Paul talks about God using the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, but I don’t think that applies to this situation because these people are just dull and annoying, somewhere in between the wise and foolish which leaves me in the clear. OK, so maybe not, but that’s how I think about it.

But what can I do for these people? I really don’t want to be a friend. Really. I want boundaries. I want distance. I want to do my own thing and to be left alone.

Driving home today I had the thought: I’m a follower of Jesus, and so I don’t have the luxury of boundaries. I didn’t realize that when I prayed the “salvation” prayer. Yet another example of the bait and switch tactics of our contemporary gospel presentations that leave that whole bit about God’s Kingdom out.

Agh. So I need to rethink my policy toward certain people. I asked God where I can start, and I immediately thought of Anne Lamott’s rule for life, “Don’t be an asshole.” Well, OK, I can handle that because I’m not an asshole …

Oh right, everything I just confessed seems to say otherwise.

I suppose one place I need to begin is just slowing down, stopping to let these people catch up and say their bit. I could actually listen. I could pray for the right words to say back to them. That’s a start.

Of course I have a writing deadline tomorrow, so being nice is out. How’s Wednesday?

4 thoughts on “The Luxury of Boundaries

  1. Makeesha Fisher

    I JUST had a conversation with a friend about this very thing a couple days ago. I get into these situations when I take my daughter to school and pick her up and I’m not sure we gave up our rights to have boundaries when we chose to follow Christ…that sounds sort of creepy to me.

    I wonder if maybe Jesus was establishing boundaries and shutting up the pharisees sometimes – ya know?

  2. ed Post author

    Mak, good counter-question. I think you caught on to my mistake of overstating my point and not offering qualifiers.

    H, great link. I did read the book, took a class with the author too. He’s a good guy with some very helpful ideas, but difficult to read (I mean his personality).

    I think I’m wrestling with this idea: I can’t shut people off JUST because they are annoying, inconvenient, or fill in the blank__________ with whatever petty excuse or grievance. There obviously are times to set boundaries, especially with work and family (I am very careful about certain things I do in that area), but there is a sense in which Christians cannot distance themselves from the people in our face.

    I’m not thinking of anything all that extreme. I’m just thinking that I have set up boundaries in some areas to keep me from being nice to people where such limits really are not necessary or appropriate for a follower of Jesus.

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