One of things I struggled with for years was the internal conflict between two strong desires. On the one hand I wanted to be a generous person who was ready and willing to give—but at the same time, I also had a strong urge to be selfish, thinking of my needs, wants, and desires first. A huge part of resolving my predicament came when I learned how to implement boundaries.

In recent years many good books have been written on the topic of boundaries, what they are and how to establish healthy ones. I was recently inspired by a video of the author Brene’ Brown in which she spoke of the value of boundaries. I especially like her simple definition of a boundary as “knowing what is okay and what isn’t.” A boundary  is a clear  hard line for what I will and won’t do, and for what I will and will not allow others to do to me.

Boundaries have actually been the key to resolving the conflict between my selfishness and my generosity. My boundaries allow me to know the limits of what I will give and what I won’t. They have decreased my selfishness because I no longer have to fear of loss because I have already set my limits.

Establishing clear boundaries for myself has also helped me to be more generous in my attitude toward others, because I am able to be less concerned with their motives and actions. I am now free to assume the best of others because I have confidence that my boundaries will protect me and limit my exposure to others harmful behaviors. And very importantly, boundaries have helped me develop greater peace by eliminating toxic behaviors and people from my life

Emotionally healthy people are those who have learned to set good boundaries. People without healthy boundaries often let others cross lines with them that they are not comfortable with, and that is a fertile breeding ground for resentment and anger. If you need a good example of a master at setting boundaries, then consider Jesus. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people” (John 2:24).

Most of us fail to set boundaries because we want others to like us or we seek their approval. Thinking too much of what others think of us will defeat us. Boundaries are not easy to establish, but they are a vital key to fruitful living.