FORT LEE, Va. (July 2, 2015)

“If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

Every day countless scores of people cross forbidden boundaries and trespass onto restricted areas without being corrected. Fortunately, I am not speaking from a national security perspective.

On the contrary, I am addressing the more personal and intimate aspects of trespasses: those on the personage, emotions and time of others. Moreover, I will address why it is important to establish and enforce boundaries with others.

For this article, I have coined the term “trespass abuse.” That is when a person you are in relationship with (courtship, kinship, friendship or other) violates your personage, emotions and/or time.

• Personage – your worth as a person and/or significance in the relationship.

• Emotions – the “reasonable and realistic” things that need to be said and/or done by the other person to affirm and maintain your sense of security and fulfillment in the relationship while you reciprocate the same.

• Time – your ability to manage time and care for yourself without someone depriving you of a “reasonable and realistic” amount of personal time and space.

In real estate, boundaries help to prevent people from trespassing on each other’s land. Coupled with boundaries are fences that help to keep out unwanted intruders while safely keeping in our prized possessions. As such, it is just as important to establish clear relationship boundaries in all interpersonal relationships in order for the relationship to be both healthy and safe. In fact, good interpersonal boundaries help to filter out the wrong people from our lives while nurturing the relationships with the right people.

What would you do if you arrived home from work and found your neighbor building an addition on the side of their house that extended onto your property? Even worse, as you get out of the car, the neighbor greets you with a smile and a quick, “Sorry for not asking. but I didn’t think you would mind.” Would their smile and sweet demeanor sway you from correcting them? Without pause, I am sure you the answer is no.

Strangely however, countless scores of people struggle with correcting others for trespassing on their personage, emotions, and/or time, even when the violation is just as egregious as this disrespectful neighbor.

Did you know, if you fail to correct this disrespectful neighbor for encroaching on your land that after a certain number of years, in most states, he could legally claim squatter’s rights to your property?

As a chaplain, I counsel scores of people who are caught in a vicious cycle of trespass abuse. For example: the person whose spouse refuses to stick to the budget or help do anything around the house; the person who gets a call from family or friends every month asking for money they either do not have and/or should not give; the person who is cheated on and/or abused by a partner who promises to change but never does. And the list goes on.

These individuals struggle with establishing and asserting interpersonal boundaries within their most intimate relationships, and as such, endure a constant barrage of trespass abuses. Even worse, some misinterpret scripture and falsely believe God is somehow pleased with them allowing themselves to be doormats of disappointment, loneliness and pain for others to wipe their feet on. Others say they were raised to believe trespass abuses are normal, but they are not.

But Chaplain, what about my responsibility to forgive those who trespass against me? Great question! Yes, we are commanded to forgive others; however, you have the God-given right to fully forgive someone while still not trusting and granting them full access to your personage, emotions and time; especially, after they have shown a propensity to violate that trust. Forgiven coupled with boundaries is godly and wise.

In conclusion, if you struggle with creating and enforcing interpersonal boundaries, I encourage you to study the life of Jesus from this milieu. The son of God did not allow others to use/manipulate Him, He corrected and confronted, and He did not shy away from the truth or compromise His personage even when it meant His rejection. Coupled with the scriptures, I highly recommend Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries.

Contact Chaplain (Capt.) Patrick Hester at patrick.k.hester2.mil@mail.mil with any questions or comments related to this article.