Rusty’s Corner: Fences Make Good Neighbors

Robert Frost had a famous quote, “Good fences make good neighbors,” which to me is about so much more than fences. I am convinced that one of the most overlooked skillsets for creating a happy life is setting healthy boundaries.

I was reminded of this quote recently as a close friend went through some challenges in his family he discussed with me - challenges of which all grew from him not setting clear boundaries with a family member. Although he couldn’t see it in the middle of the circumstances, it was really clear from a few steps back.

Although the details of my friends’ situation are private, some of the “fences” needing to be built are common for all of us. We all need to set boundaries on our time, our values, our finances, and even our work. Most of all, we need boundaries around our health - whether it’s emotional or physical.

The challenge for most isn’t knowing what your boundaries are - you know exactly when they’re crossed. You feel the tension when your mother-in-law comes over unannounced, your boss gives an unrealistic deadline, or “that” family member has an issue that needs your help, again. 

Relationally healthy people don’t just feel the tension, but they consistently build tight fences around those tensions. They define what they do, communicate what others shouldn’t do, and then they stick to it.

We all want to be "nice." We value our relationships. Our friends and family are wonderful people! No wonder we "put them first." That's a good thing! But, never at the expense of our personal values. Balance and boundaries are the key.

Although Frost’s "good fences make good neighbors" is a great quote - I think fences create  more than great neighbors. They create a great life.

Where are you needing to build some fences?