Setting Boundaries With Others

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11

God’s been laying the subject of boundaries on my heart for the past several weeks, again. While I was writing the 31 days of depression devotions, I was taking notes on boundaries and how to set them.

Figuring out where your boundaries are isn’t always that tough but setting them and standing beside them certainly can be. Enforcing our boundaries can be one of the most difficult tasks because fear reigns in this area.

We fear hurting someone else, making them mad, or having them freak out and abandon us. By ignoring our own boundaries and allowing others to cross them, we violate ourselves and live with resentment. It is unhealthy to allow others to continually cross the line and take it.

While we are told to be peaceful, God also allows us to set boundaries. Even God has boundaries because there is a distinct line between good and evil.

It is okay for you to say no. To set standards that you will and will not accept in your life. And to stand up for yourself.

Don’t allow someone else’s issues to become your own. We’ve all experienced someone who wants to control us. They may make incorrect assumptions about something we “did” or “did not” do that upsets them. Recognize a controller’s message before you react and feed their issue. They’ll often say things like, “You’re not really a Christian.” or “A true Christian wouldn’t do that.”

Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is set a firm boundary with that person. If they don’t like it, that is not your issue but theirs. Don’t take their responsibility and allow it to weigh you down.

A healthy, responsible person will respond to your boundary setting in a positive way. Maybe not right away but eventually. An unhealthy individual will lash out and try to make you see their way. They will not accept or respect the boundaries you have set. You are not responsible for the feelings of the unhealthy individual, though they will try to make you see it otherwise.

Here are some responses to acknowledge others feelings about your new set boundaries from the book, Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend:

  • “It sounds like you are angry that I have chosen to…”
  • “I realize this is disappointing to you. How can I help?”
  • “It’s hard for you when I have other things to do, isn’t it?”

The main principle is this: Empathize with the distress people are feeling, but make it clear that it is their distress.

If someone responds with distress to your firm boundaries, you must remember that it doesn’t mean you are wrong. A controlling person is not going to want to accept your limit to control you. Stand strong and allow them to take the responsibility of their own feelings. There may be situations where you have to cut yourself off from this person, whether it’s for a cool down period or permanently.

We’ll continue to discuss boundaries this week.

Do you struggle with setting boundaries and sticking to them? Do others guilt you into changing your stance or giving into what they want? What has been the biggest area of struggle for you in setting boundaries?

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28


  1. Although “setting boundaries” is difficult at times, this is great advice. Thanks for the article.
    Dale Roach recently posted..15 Guidelines for Team Character Development

  2. Oh, so glad you are doing this series! Here is something funny- I had this book, and gave it away- bought the new updated copy- and gave it to someone who did bot return it! Talk about boundary issues. But seriously, I have had to read that book more than once. Ya know Mel, I might just have to re-invest! I have to admit I believe that because I was victimized at a young age boundary issues present a continual challenge! It is not like becoming a Christian resolved all of my past boundary issues. Initially , I think it actually exasperated them. But God continues to teach me and He knows I am healthier now than ever before in this are. But more pruning need be done, for sure and training! Thanks – I will be keeping up with this one!
    Dawn recently posted..Jenny Penton on Planning and Purpose + E-Book Giveaway! (Inspiring Women Series)

    • Oh Dawn, I absolutely agree! It’s such a great book, one I have had to read again and again. somewhere I have the workbook too. I think as we grow and change, it’s a constant relearning. It’s such a process 🙂

  3. Oh Mel! This is so timely. I believe God’s teaching a lot of us about boundaries these days. I actually posted something related to this in my blog. I entitled my post, “Jonah, Get Off My Boat!” I’m glad you’re doing this series. Looking forward to your posts in my email. God bless you always!
    Cookie recently posted..Jonah, Get Off My Boat!

  4. This is so timely for me and I believe a direct message from the Lord in how to handle a tough situation I’m faced with. God cancelled the meeting I was supposed to have and I now understand more clearly why. Thank you for obeying His leading and sharing this…

  5. Yes, yes, yes! I am certain it stems from childhood and never being allowed to say no to grown-ups or anyone in authority. I’m learning though. And setting up boundaries has been hard and yet freeing at the same time.

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