The Definition of Good Boundaries

As I drove to class yesterday, it was gray and rainy like it has been for days. And as I left class, 4 hours later, there was 4 inches of snow covering everything. It was disorienting. It was beautiful. It was a white knuckled hour and twenty minute drive home. (This drive normally takes 30 minutes.)

But, a small part - only a sentence, really - from class has been rattling around in my head ever since.  An elegant and concise definition for a word I throw around so often, it’s meaning has worn soft around the edges.

The word is boundaries.

In the context of last nights’ ethics class, it was counselor/client boundaries. But the definition is one I will be applying to all sorts of things. I’m getting ahead of myself. 

The definition: Limits that promote integrity.

Maybe this is not earth shattering news. I know I can be a word nerd, but this was so beautifully simple. 

As I got home last night, I needed time calm down, so I pulled out my knitting. I’ve been working on a lacy poncho in my free time. And if there is one knitting lesson I have learned the hard way, it’s that a missed stitch can mean ripping out the entire project and starting over. Admittedly, I have learned some valuable things about not being afraid to start over. But, there is something about an intricate lace pattern that invites missed stitched and far too much starting over and not enough getting the hang of it, making some progress, and eventually finishing the thing I set out to create. So, in knitting lace patterns especially, as every few rows of the pattern are realized, we create stitch a life line. I thread a different color, smooth thread through each of the stitches every 10 rows or so to prevent a total start over scenario.


In knitting, stitching a life line says, “If we start to unravel, we can only go this far, and no further. A life line is currently preserving the integrity of my lace poncho. Good boundaries.  

In relationships, healthy boundaries work to preserve the integrity of the relationship. I have long been a fan of Cloud and Townsend’s writings on boundaries in all sorts of relationships. My favorite is a pretty short read, Safe People. Such wisdom. Such freedom opens up when we understand how and why good boundaries work.  

It also makes me think of all the times my own boundaries have been violated. An unraveling always followed. And picking up the pieces after a relationship has been undone is far harder for me than restarting a knitting project. Go figure. Humans are messy. I am messy. Learning to communicate boundaries is all part of the process.  Oh but, it’s so good when we do.


This is Not the End,

Amie Longmire