Good Boundaries

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16:6)

One thing I’ve experienced in the time I’ve spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries and other personal affects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedulestimes to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven’t bothered me so much. I’ve benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There’s a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules.

Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbucks coffee (at a steep price, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater coffee they served us from the cafeteria.

Like the woman who gained permission to use the exercise room as a space to listen to loud hip-hop music on her boom box.

Like the couple who found a way to prop a broom against the laundry room door so they could get around the “no-fraternization-with-the-opposite-sex” rule.

One thing to learn as psychiatric patients (and people as a whole) is that rules are generally good for us. As chaotic as the world is around us, and as distorted as our mind is within us, rules provide order and clarity to prevent us from harm – from others as well as from ourselves. Rules help establish clear, consistent boundaries within which we can live safely and safely let others live. Only when we have good, firm boundaries can we survive (and even thrive) within this crazy, often unpredictable world.

Praise be to God who gives us such boundaries for life. As the Psalmist says, It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth… (Psalm 74:17a).

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