How does the Course address boundaries?

Q. How does the Course address boundaries? It tells you that, whatever your brother asks of you, you should do, and even more. But in the early dictation, Jesus refers to Edgar Cayce burning himself out because he did too many readings in an attempt to respond to all of the requests he received. Jesus says Cayce should have asked him first if he should be performing these miracles. This seems contradictory. Can you help?

A. I think there is truth on both sides of the boundaries vs. no-boundaries issue. To begin with, most of the boundary talk that I hear seems to be some version of “I used to let others trespass on my boundaries because I didn’t value myself. Now I’m committed to valuing myself, and that means making sure that I righteously, and even aggressively, defend my boundaries.”

The Course, however, constantly extols the opposite value, that of defenselessness. It says that the only thing that could need defending is a flimsy and illusory image of ourselves, since the truth in ourselves is so strong that it cannot be injured, and thus could hardly require defense.

Think about the life of Jesus. His supreme demonstration was letting his enemies commit the most severe indignities upon his body, knowing that the truth in him remained completely invulnerable, a fact he would spectacularly illustrate two days later on Easter Sunday.

Yet few people are at a place where they can do that. At our level of development, we all have our limits. And that is where that guidance about Edgar Cayce comes in. Jesus said that Cayce pushed himself beyond his limits both because “he was genuinely anxious to help others” and because he believed that by sacrificing himself he could make up for “a profound sense of personal unworthiness.” He was motivated, in other words, by a mixture of holy and unholy reasons.

The answer was not for Cayce to assertively set his boundaries. Rather, it was for him to listen for guidance and learn from a higher source which miracles were his part to do and which were not. The answer, as Jesus said, was for him to “pause to let Me establish My limits.”

One area where respecting boundaries is especially important, I believe, is learning to not trespass on the boundaries of others. Even though we are ultimately all one, everyone has their own mind, their own body, their own history, and their own journey—all of which stems from the fact that in Heaven they are their own part of the Sonship.

One example of respecting the boundaries of another is respecting that person’s power of choice. Much as we would like to hurry up people’s choices or bend those choices in our desired direction, the fact is that part of love is having a profound respect for the sovereignty of their choice. Oftentimes, standing back and waiting in patience and love is the most helpful thing we can do. And once a choice has been made, respecting that choice—even if we don’t agree with it—is part of respecting the person. This respect has a power of its own. The Course says that the miracle itself “is always a sign of respect from the worthy to the worthy” (T-2.VI.8:1).

It’s true in reality we have no boundaries, but we don’t know that yet. And while we are all learning that, knowing where the boundaries are and how to give them whatever respect they deserve is an issue. Yet we need to identify these boundaries not through the eyes of our ego, but with a higher vision. Indeed, one of the original miracle principles said that the miracle itself will give us just the vision we need in this respect:

Miracles are examples of right thinking. Reality contact at all levels becomes strong and accurate, thus permitting correct delineation of intrapersonal [within ourselves] and interpersonal boundaries.

Miracles, then, can open our eyes so that we can see the boundaries that are there, and know which ones should be respected and which ones we can safely ignore. And thus we can navigate through what often seems like a minefield with grace and love, until the day when all boundaries have passed away.

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