Connections – do boundaries help us or hold us back?

In light of current national and global issues, Marie looks at the impact of borders on our daily lives.

In recent weeks and months, the news has been dominated by issues around boundaries being drawn and redrawn – Brexit negotiations; the horrific reports of Mexican children being removed from their families at the US border; Korean leaders crossing the border for the first time in recent history in hope of political progress. Stories about relations between borders can lead us to feel helpless and uncertain. We worry about human rights and the suffering of others, the possibility of global conflict, and how new decision-making processes might affect our everyday lives here in Scotland and the UK. However, what goes on between borders might also make us feel hopeful. We might be optimistic that important relationships can be revived, or that new political structures could create promising opportunities for us.

Of course borders aren’t just a global issue. Absolutely all of our environments are organised by boundaries – houses, gardens, neighbourhoods, towns, local authorities, parliamentary constituencies, etc. Boundaries can be a positive thing. They contribute to a communal sense of identity (e.g. our family or local community); provide organisation and clarity about rules and responsibilities (laws, council services); and can maintain safety and security. In some countries, such as Sudan or Indonesia, creating new borders has actually been a means of addressing severe conflict and suffering.

However, we often use borders in unhealthy ways. They can give rise to people discriminating against others they perceive as ‘different’. They can make it difficult for us to open up to different ways of life or trying new things. They are also sometimes used as a justification for our failure to help others – we convince ourselves that their problems are beyond our jurisdiction.

It is important that we never use boundaries or borders to hold ourselves or others back. We shouldn’t use them an excuse to wash our hands of responsibility towards other people, or to talk ourselves out of experiencing new relationships or situations. We need to use boundaries in healthy ways that provide dignity for ourselves and others, whether globally, nationally, locally or personally.

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