The law of boundaries

October 7, 2019
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The universe operates on principles, otherwise called laws. Laws sustain order. The world is round and keeps rotating on its axis. Yet nothing on its surface has fallen into space. This is because the Law of Gravity guarantees everything on the earth’s surface is constantly earth-bound even if they go up for a while! That law is only suspended when a superior law known as the Law of Aerodynamics which supersedes that of gravity takes over.

Every life is an embodiment of space or territory. Boundaries demarcate spaces and territories. Also known as border, frontier, borderline, edge, or limit, boundaries define limits of function as we move from one point to another. Without boundaries, there is no ownership. And there is no way to regulate appropriate conduct. Consequently, our lives are governed by them, whether we care to admit it or not. Some boundaries are imposed on us and quite a number are self-imposed. But for order to exist in any collective, there must be boundaries. Boundaries even determine our competences and the demonstration of our skills.

At every level of our life, there are boundaries. Everyone who wants to be sustainably successful must have personal boundaries that he sets for himself. These boundaries can best be described by the word disciplines. According to Socrates, the undisciplined life is an insane life. Staying healthy is largely a function of boundaries in diet and physical exercise. A student who does not set boundaries for himself will end up a failure in his class.  A man who has not cultivated the discipline of setting limits to his mouth will always say what is on his mind instead of minding what he says. Addiction is usually a product of a life without boundaries of discipline. Simply put, setting boundaries for ourselves helps us to delineate between what is expedient and what is permissible. A business run without boundaries is headed for bankruptcy in record time!

In the dynamics of living or operating in a collective, there are boundaries. Common sense teaches us that our liberty to associate, desire happiness, worship what or who we deem fit, vote for a candidate of our political suasion is a collective liberty. The implication of that is that our rights stop where the liberties of others begin. Your right to own property is guaranteed as long as you are not stealing what belongs to another and adding it to yours. Your right to life ends when you try to deny another of the same right, except when done at the risk of losing your own right to life (a.k.a self-defence). Your right to free speech stops when you begin to malign, abuse or denigrate others by verbal assault or other utterances that make them lose their social esteem or worth. That is the essence of libel suits. In other words, we are free to do what we like as long as we do not infringe on the rights of others to enjoy a similar privilege! This is the reason why every nation and society sets its own ‘rails’ or moral code embedded in a legal framework that we know as rules and regulations or laws.

When an individual stretches his liberties to where it trespasses on the liberties of others in a way that is considered injurious to their own rights, the society imposes sanctions by taking disciplinary actions that are designed to protect the rest of society and sometimes, rudely remind the culprit that boundaries, when collectively set, have consequences for breach.  The prison yard is a grave boundary marker that poignantly conveys the message that the collective has little room for breakers of ethical or legal boundaries. Usually, people who have been able to set necessary boundaries for themselves easily adjust to the boundaries of the collective. No wonder the scriptures declare that a man who is able to set boundaries for his own spirit is of greater value than the man who subdues an entire city by force of arms!

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Professions have boundaries even within their practice. The job of a solicitor is different from that of an advocate, even though both can be performed by one and the same lawyer. A qualified medical doctor can in theory treat any sick person but when a particular ailment is diagnosed that is beyond his scope of specialization, he refers the patient to the appropriate specialist. In highly litigious societies, every professional knows the importance of staying and operating within the limits of your professional competence. The consequences of breach can be very dire.

By extension, there are boundaries in spheres of knowledge. Everybody has certain things that he is good at and in which his excellence shines brightly. Our lives find the greatest fulfillment when we focus our energies on doing the things we are convinced that we are competent at and want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for helping people to discover, develop and deploy their uniqueness and be the best of them that God created. My life assignment and agenda are summarized in my Mission Statement which is “cultivating a people of influence and affluence for whom Godly excellence is a culture”. I structure my life and operations around this definition of my essence. I daily invest in that cause by the deliberate development of relevant competences. You will not find me by mistake in a rocket science class. If I pick up a book in Geophysics or some other esoteric sciences, it is because I am looking for information relevant to my life mandate. A wandering generalist is a confused confusionist!

Relationships are stronger and endure when sustained by healthy boundaries. We all guard our space and usually throw tantrums when people invade same without our consent. Not all victims of forced marriages actually detest the one they are forced to marry. What they loathe is the rude invasion of their emotional space in a way that defies and defiles the very core of their essence and violates their freedom to choose who they spend the rest of their lives with. In a home, spouses need to respect each other’s emotional space by endeavouring not to deliberately provoke each other (except to good works as the Holy scriptures enjoin). Parents must learn to respect their children’s space as the children advance into adulthood. Suffice it to say however that parents of teenage children need to help their children guide that space to ensure that liberty does not become licentiousness. At work, we have to respect boundaries of hierarchy by honouring our superiors and respecting our subordinates if we must have excellent working relations and a glorious career.

Like the limit of rails to a train, boundaries are guides, not containments. The rails appear like limitations to a train, but they actually guarantee the safe and effective performance of the train and ensure that it gets to its destination. Going off them can prove to be disastrous for both the train and its occupants. When appropriately set, boundaries are not actually antithetical to progress. Rather, they make our success very predictable and our significance to creation a clearly evident given!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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