There’s something special about protecting your peace. Many times that comes at the cost of losing friends and people who have been close to you for a long time. At some point, we outgrow people but there is this unhealthy barrier that is built that can keep real self-care from happening. When you attach hurt to a particular person, you leave yourself vulnerable for resentment and anger. This can develop into an impenetrable wall towards all people who appear to be like that person you labeled as your pain. You build a fortress so strong that becoming a hermit is inevitable, living on an island all by yourself where no one can hurt you.
I have been there many times, keeping my circle very small because of the potential damage adding a new person to me life could do. Here is that fear- based living by proceeding through life closed off to other based on what another person has done. When I was a freshman in college, I was accepted by a large group of black women and as they took me under their wing, I allowed myself to feel comfort in their friendship. As the year progressed, I started developing into a person that they deemed to be unfit for friendship. Many of them started separating themselves from me and even told me “I really want to be a part of this sorority and I can’t be your friend.” This was a hard blow to my reality of what friendship was. My trust and loyalty had been destroyed by what other women thought they needed to do to be successful. I finally saw how as women, we tear each other down instead of building each other up when we see another going down the wrong path. While I was looking for that helping hand, that group of girls stomped on me when I was at my lowest. That hurt and resentment became attached to every woman I have ever met and until this day my wall of protection is high and wide.
Not only am I being unfair to myself by keeping a bubble around me, I am being unfair to others who could benefit from our connection. I had a misunderstanding that self-care is protecting yourself from what can hurt you. Self-care is understanding that things will hurt you but you control how you respond to that hurt and how it develops you. Healthy boundaries start with understanding the pain but not letting the pain define every person who walks into your life. Discernment is central to the boundaries you set, knowing who means harm to you and who means well. For those who mean harm, does that mean you create a wall towards them? Not at all, you say things like “I will not hang out with this person alone” or “I am only able to talk to this person about certain things” but being closed hearted creates a hard heart. God created us for connection. He said “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are made for community. Our community is built of many different people with different motives and attitudes but I have to remain open to all with discernment and healthy boundaries. For the person you deemed as unfit for your circle and a disturbance to your peace, do you know how your life and testimony can affect that person? Your thinking and approach has to change. We pour into each other and that means that not only do some people pour into you, you pour into others despite their circumstances or who they are.
How to set healthy boundaries:
- Be open
- Have a healthy understanding of your pain
- Have discernment
- Understand your role in others lives and their role in yours
My challenge for myself and for you is to be completely open to meeting new people, break down the walls that have caused you so much pain over the years because of what someone has done to you, and don’t be afraid to get close to others. Yes, some will walk away from the relationship you have formed with them and yes, sometimes with discernment you distance yourself from them but keep a malleable heart. Walls only hurt one person, you.