“Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.” 

Benjamin Franklin

It’s very nostalgic when driving through the country, to see split rail fences marking the boundaries between pastures, hayfields, and gardens.   Poet Robert Frost wrote,” good fences make good neighbors,”  meaning that it is important to establish good boundaries between neighbors and to have mutual respect for those established boundaries.

When we lived on the farm, a neighbor less than a mile up the road bought a nanny goat and her kid from the livestock market.  A couple of days later, the nanny showed up at our place.  The owners came and took her back and a couple of days later, there she was again.  She would climb the support post in the corner of the rail fence and just amble on down the road to our place.  It wasn’t that we had a problem with her coming to our place, but she was a problem to her owners since she was unable to respect the boundaries set forth for her and they could not keep her in.  So unfortunately, on that Friday she went back to the market.

I remember the hedge across the front and side property line of Grandma and Grandad’s little house on Rose St.  It was only about 30 inches tall, but it was a clear visual boundary separating the grass in the lawn from sidewalk foot traffic on the front and the neighbor’s yard next door.  There was no gate, just an opening where the step down on to the front walk lead to the porch.

In life and in relationships and yes, even in ministry, it is important to establish good healthy boundaries while still having opportunities for openness.  To be able to have relationships while still having independence. Setting boundaries means to have mutual respect for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others. Without boundaries we can lose our sense of self and feel like we have no control over our lives.  If we are “people pleasers” we find it very hard to say NO.  It can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling drained and hopeless.   

Our happiness can’t depend on the mood or attitude of someone else.  Our self-esteem can’t be bolstered by always feeling as if someone needs us.  Our emotional needs can’t be met by others.  Our emotional and spiritual strength must come from our relationship with Christ and understanding who we are in Him.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Love your neighbor yet don’t pull down your hedge.” It is not always easy to establish boundaries in relationships where there have been none.  It takes emotional maturity from both sides to honor boundaries without becoming offended. Unfortunately, sometimes, as was the case with the nanny goat, it may mean cutting ties with relationships that hold us back to enable us to move on in the journey that God has planned for us.   

Scripture tells us to … love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

Put God first.  Love Him wholly and completely.  Give yourself over to His never-failing, unconditional love.  Love yourself enough to set boundaries.   Love your neighbor enough to respect theirs.  And in all relationships, remember the words found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT

Darlene Shelton 8-9-22

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