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  • Writer's pictureMicah Moreno

Are your Boundaries Fortified or Fragmented? Why neither is good.

I live in a shared "T-Court" driveway. It is very different for me from growing up in the country with property lines that are at times undefined beyond county stakes in the ground that you may trip on in the brush. One thing that is well understood out there, you do not cross another person's property unless you are the mail, the law, or a relative with permission. 

This rigidity in boundaries has been wonderfully challenged as I live in a cluster of 6 homes with a shared 'T' shaped driveway. Every day my neighbors and I cross property lines to move our vehicles in and out, so our kids can play, and we often find a garden nome or decoration has wandered into another yard than our own. 

The boundaries are defined, yet they are integrated. There may be a neighbor or two who leave their garage open for periods of times that leaves them vulnerable. Or there are others who have the security system lawn signs that show there is a level of protection in place.  

Boundaries are helpful for they define when you are autonomous and when you are in a shared space with other people. 

In relationships we see a lot of the same boundary lines be defined or left nebulous as they are crossed on a variety of facets in our lives. 

The extreme in one direction is to be fortified with moats of hostility and shut drawbridges that communicate not many may enter your castle of solitude. 

Or there is such fragmentation that the boundaries in your life are like archeological dig sites with vague evidence of ancient societies. You can tell what was a preferred line of entry, but there really isn't much effort made to hop over and to help yourself to whatever laid on the other side. There is such vulnerability that the access of a person's life is in a desperate place with a real fragile form of self that is overly open to all as the cupboards of the heart lay bare and desperate. 

I am talking more about our relational development than lines in yards between clearly manicured Kentucky bluegrass and drought residence cacti. How we operate in our relationships can be helped if we are able to identify how fortified or permeable our boundaries are in the relationships that help us to be known and who are the people we claim to know. 

On one end of the spectrum, as laid out in the book; "The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective by Dr. Jack O. Balswick "

is the the Fortified Self.


This hardened and highly defended stance in life is all about control and seeks to meet their needs by the chronic failure of parents.  They are so tightly defended that they appear closed off and wantless to others. Self sufficiency is the order of the day, for the success of life lays squarely on the shoulders of them alone, for all others have failed them at one timer another and so this hyper-vigilant act of self protection is the outcome of virtually every area of their lives. 


On the other side of this spectrum is that Fragmented Self. Some one who has no internalized resources and basically have outsourced all forms of support and love to the rest of the world. "Fragile"is a key word here and it seems that this lack of resources leaves this person desperate and demanding to be fed.


So Where do we seek to be moving our boundaries that help us have a dependence that doesn't forfeit our sense of self and also doesn't totally close off to the rest of the world we are seeking to be in relationship with?


The hope is that we have a cohesive self.Like water, it is firm yet it is permeable. It's structure always remains connected, but other objects can pass through it without it totally falling apart. There is a sense of skills, confidence, and trust in self and others that allow their boundaries to be firm when needed to self preserve, but also sensitive enough to make room for others to enter in and occupy the same space.

Kind of like my T court. We pass through coming in and out of our driveways, we exchange common conversations, we lend a wrench or watch out for each others homes, yet we have no need to leave the doors slightly open as if we depended that much on each other to validate our presence and our purpose.

We all travel on this spectrum from being protective to vulnerable in life.

In seasons of trial, we may be one or the other. We may hunker down to protect, or we may open up to let out the words feelings and emotions that must be exchanged as we process life. 


Are your fortified and isolated? Withdrawing from community more and more as the distance reinforces disappointment and bitterness. In these shut off and shut in areas, people become monsters. In the gaps of the last time you engaged and the present, we don't give them room to grow, make up for shortcomings, or experience the great joys that come from engaging and being interdependent (keyword here). 

Are you too fragmented? Have you started to outsource your value, your worth, your day to day validation for your purpose based on how others fulfill it for you? Are you a chipped piece of china that can't take one more drop before you emotionally shatter all over the place? 

This is a scary place to be as the truth is we all have people that depend on us, that need us, and if we trust that God has a plan and a hope we live into bigger purposes for our lives, we must find the sense of who we are and if we matter as the first defining lines of who we are made up to be. 


Once we have identified where we are on this, how can we move into center? 

How can we value the integrated self of boundaries that are defined, yet there are healthy access points others have to reach us, support us, make requests on us that don't hinder us, and leave us in a place of being affirmed by living out a sense of self? 

Often, I find myself reaching a limit In my ability to receive from others when I am asked to engage in pastoral ministry. It isn't I am hardened or overly needy in them needing me (I've seen that and it smells of inauthentic love). It is a practice of drawing in to replenish, often from God and other key relationships, but keeping those permeable avenues for others to reach me. 


It is a constant balance and dance that takes an anchoring in a power and a source greater than any human. It takes the power of God's love and the greater work of his strength, wisdom, and at moments when I didn't know what to do, God just needed to show up. It's a good thing to be open to that. 

It's also important to realize that what people look for in person's of faith are more authenticity than perfection. We may think the other is more desired, but what I have learned is that if were are always giving them our fortified facade, they grow tired of it for their questions, needs, and desire to engage with you goes to places that take real, raw, and consistent truth of who we are becoming in Christ. 

So that is my hope, that you are drawing yourself to places where you are a Cohesive, Compassionate, Christ follower.

Where God has access to your heart, your mind, and your body to define who you are and to keep you humble enough to be accessible to the rest of the body of believers as well as the world who is lost in their fortified castles. 

I believe God has us travel outside our little streams of compassion so that we are brought present to moments when a person raises the white flag from their tower of isolation. 

It is the hope that we have enough love and resources from the truth of God's wisdom and Word to scale the wall of evangelism and to tell some one into a better story. 

Keep Looking up! 

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