Do you feel as if people don’t respect you? That they take advantage of you, don’t listen to you, or that you end up in situations where you are unhappy? When you learn to set healthy boundaries, your self-esteem will be strengthened, your relationships can improve, and you can experience the freedom and empowerment that God intends.
What is a Boundary?Boundaries are set to protect you and are a method of practicing self-care.
Let’s visualize your life as a home with a picket fence surrounding the property. The fence is a boundary that marks your territory. It keeps people, cars, and animals out of your property. You can open the gate to let people in or shut it to keep them out.
If you leave the gate open all the time, people can reasonably assume that you are fine with them entering. But when you shut the gate, they must ask permission to enter. Reasonable people will wait for you to open the gate, however, some people are aggressive and will break down the gate or fence and enter at will.
You need to strengthen your fence to control who enters your property. You can benefit from not keeping your gate open all the time. You may need to upgrade to a stronger fence to keep out the bullies. On the other hand, you also do not want to build a cement wall around your house with no doors. This would be shutting yourself off and won’t allow for any relationships in your life.
Examples of Setting Boundaries
Let’s talk about examples of setting boundaries. If a coworker keeps pushing their work onto your plate, you may need to shut the gate and say “no.” If someone consistently yells at you after being asked to stop, you may need to put up a stronger fence by putting physical and emotional distance between yourself and that person. A Christian counselor can help you set appropriate boundaries against destructive behaviors so that you can live comfortably in your home.
People who have trouble setting boundaries often struggle with false guilt. They may look at one portion of Scripture, such as Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek, and assume no recourse is needed. However, we need to look at Scripture in its entirety to understand what God wants us to do with boundaries.
Healthy boundaries preserve our God-given gifts of personality, self-respect, and self-esteem. We are each responsible for our own loads (Galatians 6:5) and pleasing God instead of people (Galatians 1:10). God wants us to live a life of freedom, not bondage (Galatians 5:1). He also wants us to live life together (Ecclesiaties 4:9-12), so we can’t just shut everyone out. The abundant life Jesus promised includes boundaries (John 10:9-10).
You have many personal boundaries that must be preserved to live your life to your full potential. In their book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend list boundaries such as time, energy, personal space, spending, and so on. God grants you control over how much power you exercise over these boundaries. Hand the power away, and others will take advantage of you.
Our personal boundaries develop when we are babies and young children. If you did not grow up with a strong sense of self-worth, you may have had problems with boundary development. People who tend to overrun boundaries may have been spoiled or ignored as children. However, personal boundaries can be repaired and rebuilt with professional help.
To develop healthier personal boundaries, your counselor will help provide insight into your upbringing and help to identify current unhealthy boundaries. By doing this, you will experience healing from any boundary damage. You will also be able to set new boundaries from a proper sense of self, as your Christian counselor reminds you of your great worth in God’s eyes.
Boundaries for Yourself
You may be surprised to learn that you also need to set boundaries for yourself for a healthier life. People who have trouble setting boundaries for others almost always struggle with setting boundaries for themselves as well. They may stay up too late, eat too much, take on too many projects, or procrastinate because they don’t have strong boundaries for themselves.
If your life feels out of control, the best area to gain a measure of control is over yourself. Your counselor can help you set healthy boundaries on your thoughts, words, and actions. As you learn about your boundary violations, you will be strengthened to set boundaries in other areas too.
Boundaries in Relationships
All of your relationships are affected by boundaries. You may experience boundary violations at school, work, church or in your extended family. Boundary-busting people exist in every type of circle, and you must learn to preserve your boundaries to have a well-balanced life.
Let’s look at some common scenarios of boundary problems in relationships:
- A bully takes lunch money from a child on the bus.
- A fellow student pressures you into writing his paper for him.
- Your boss keeps asking you to take on more work without adjusting your pay.
- In a company meeting, your coworker takes credit for your contributions to a project.
- An adult daughter listens to her mother’s guilt trips and reluctantly attends her holiday dinners when she would prefer to be with friends.
- A son-in-law shuts down when his mother-in-law criticizes him in front of his children.
- A grown son refuses to get a job and continues to live in his parents’ home without paying rent.
- Your adult brother asks you for small loans but doesn’t pay you back.
Each one of these scenarios is a boundary violation. A caring Christian counselor can help you set boundaries against these behaviors and other violations you may be facing. By working on setting and strengthening boundaries in your relationships, you will feel much healthier and more confident.
Boundaries in Marriage
Marriages are often the main place where boundaries suffer. With two people living in such close quarters, boundary violations are bound to occur. But when the boundary violations occur in predictable and destructive patterns, that’s when you may need a counselor to help you set firm boundaries.
Here are some common boundary violations in marriage:
- A wife overspends on her credit card and hides the monthly statements from her husband.
- A husband is more interested in playing video games or watching sports most evenings than connecting with his wife.
- A wife spends so much time with her children that she neglects her husband’s needs.
- A husband watches pornography even though his wife says how much it hurts her.
- A wife badmouths her husband when they are in front of friends or family.
- A husband refuses to help the wife with household tasks.
As you can see, these marriage boundary violations vary in degree of severity. However, each one can deteriorate the fabric of the marriage over time if not addressed. In each example, one spouse is selfishly putting his or her agenda over the needs of the spouse.
With the right boundaries, each type of situation can improve. Your counselor will help you communicate your needs to your spouse and set up a series of boundaries for each problem. This can boost the happiness factor in your marriage and make you feel closer to your spouse.
Boundaries are Necessary
Setting boundaries requires hard work and commitment, but nothing will change in your difficult situations unless you set boundaries. People usually will not change destructive behaviors until they have a consequence, and the right boundary will encourage them to change.
There is always a risk that the boundary offender won’t respond in a positive way. In fact, even if someone eventually accepts the boundary, they will likely put up a fight first. You must accept these risks and work from a strong place before setting the boundary.
Your counselor can help you strengthen your resolve and draw upon your faith prior to setting boundaries. You cannot control the behavior of other people, but you can control how you will, or will not, allow them to treat you physically, verbally, and emotionally.
Are you ready to learn more about how boundaries can help you have a happier life? Contact one of the counselors listed in our counselor directory to discuss your boundary issues and offer biblical solutions to your problems.
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