Christian Biblical Counsel: Boundaries


How to Set Them—How to Keep Them

June Hunt

Is your life really your life or is it controlled by someone else? Is your time really your time or is it manipulated by someone else? Is your schedule really your schedule or is it dictated by someone else? If your response is, “That’s me!” then you need boundaries.

Do you say yes to everyone and no to no one? Do you find yourself easily taken advantage of? Do you have to grease every squeaky wheel? If so, then you need boundaries.

Are there not enough hours in the day to do all you have to do? Are you feeling stretched beyond your limits? Are you meeting yourself coming and going? If so, then you need boundaries.

Do you try to be everything to everyone? Do you think everyone’s need is your need to meet? Is your life swallowed up in someone else’s life? If so, then you need boundaries.

Are you overcommitted, in over your head, burning the candle at both ends? Do you try to please everyone, yet often please no one? If so, then you need boundaries.

You need to know where your responsibilities end and someone else’s begin. You need to say yes to God and no to everything that’s not His will. You need … boundaries!

Like nations, relationships rise and fall based on the boundaries that guard and protect them. If we try to be everyone’s best friend, we will be no one’s best friend. We all have limits on our time and on our emotional and physical energy.

We cannot be or do everything for anyone, much less everyone, so we must choose who we will be and what we will do regarding the individuals God brings into our lives. Jesus established boundaries for His relationships by … prioritizing the Father … discipling the twelve … and being intimate with the few. He also set boundaries on His actions.…

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.… By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

(John 5:19, 30)


In the world of professional cycling, Greg LeMond has clearly distinguished himself by earning a reputation for being “squeaky clean.”

Now that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of all seven of his consecutive Tour de France titles, Greg is the only American to have won the prestigious race—not once, not twice, but three times.

Greg is internationally known as a staunch anti-doping advocate and publicly criticized Lance for crossing ethics boundaries even before his first Tour de France “win.” He also is all too aware that this is not an isolated problem with Lance; numerous cyclists are doping their way to try to secure victories. “I want to see cycling get to where I can say I can see a real winner,” Greg says.

The psalmist’s declaration is shared by Greg.…

“I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites.”

(Psalm 26:4)

  1. What Are Boundaries?

Lance Armstrong and Dr. Michele Ferrari—it is an association that raises giant red flags for Greg LeMond.

For years Ferrari is associated with sports fraud and has since been described as the “architect” behind the doping program for the U.S. Postal Service Team, which includes Lance and his teammates. In the sport of professional cycling, all kinds of boundaries are crossed … by doctors, by athletes, and even by cycling’s governing body, known as the International Cycling Union (UCI), according to Greg.

The Bible gives warning concerning crossed boundaries.…

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

(Proverbs 11:3)

  • A boundary is an established limit—a line that should not be crossed.

—  In some cases it is a line that cannot be crossed by humans, as with many of the boundaries God established at Creation.

—  Some fixed boundaries are regarded as “laws.”

  • Physical boundaries are territorial lines that divide one area from another.

—  In the Bible, the first boundary given to a person was spoken directly by God to Adam … and the first boundary to be broken was broken by Adam with Eve.

—  The one who owns the property has the right to control the property and the responsibility to set the rules for those on the property.

—  You have both the right of personal control and the responsibility of setting rules for others regarding what is yours. God, the Creator and “owner” of the Garden of Eden, had the right to set the rules for everything and everyone in the Garden.…

“The Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ ”

(Genesis 2:16–17)

  • Moral boundaries are ethical lines that divide right from wrong.

—  When a boundary is respected, the result is a reward.

—  When a boundary is rejected, the result is a repercussion.

God set up moral boundaries for Adam and Eve—boundaries based on right and wrong. When this boundary line was crossed, sin entered the world—a repercussion that disqualified them from staying within the bounds of the garden.

When you have communicated a clear, rightful boundary—with a reward and a repercussion—yet someone violates that boundary, it is only right to enforce the repercussion. The violator not only chose to violate the boundary, but also chose the repercussion that goes with the violation.

The principle of rewards and repercussions was clearly demonstrated when God set a boundary with Adam and Eve. In choosing to violate the boundary established by the Lord, they also chose the repercussion attached to their sin.… They chose the repercussion God relegated to the violation.…

“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,” Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.’ ”

(Genesis 3:17)

  • Personal boundaries are individual lines that separate one person from another. Personal boundaries are the healthy by-product of realizing we are uniquely separate from one another and therefore are responsible for our own attitudes and actions.

—  Eve was boundaryless—she allowed the serpent to have undue influence over her.

—  Adam was boundaryless—he allowed Eve to have undue influence over him.

Boundaries are the basis of your individual identity (who you uniquely are), your individual responsibilities, your individual choices. You—not someone else—are responsible for your own thoughts and beliefs, decisions and actions.

Adam and Eve needed to think separately about what God said and what the serpent said. For indeed, to not stay within God’s boundary caused a repercussion that changed their lives … and ours … forever.

After God asked them about eating the forbidden fruit, the man said …

“ ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ ”

(Genesis 3:12–13)

  1. What Is the Purpose of Personal Boundaries?

Governing agencies are set up to establish and enforce boundaries, and when it comes to sports, they are to help athletes establish personal boundaries and to achieve victory with integrity.

But the International Cycling Union (UCI) is falling far short, according to Greg LeMond, and clean cycling will not emerge until an agency other than UCI handles drug testing. Greg says that many cyclists don’t trust the UCI. The agency has even been accused of covering up Lance Armstrong’s doping offenses.

Lance is infuriated by Greg’s public criticism, particularly of his association with Dr. Michele Ferrari, and finds himself crossing another boundary. According to an investigative report, Lance is attributed with the following paraphrase: “Who does Greg think he is, talking about Ferrari? I’m going to take him down.”

The following proverb can be applied to Lance.…

“The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.”

(Proverbs 5:22)

Additionally, good boundaries equip you to be a good steward:

  • Of the people and relationships God has entrusted to your care
  • Of everything for which God has made you responsible
  • Of what God has assigned you to do as your purpose in life

Boundaries protect you by allowing that which is safe and constructive to come close to you and by keeping that which is unsafe and destructive away from you. The boundary of a tiger’s cage keeps a dangerous tiger inside the cage and vulnerable people outside the cage—away from harm. In relationships, boundaries are put in place to guard us and protect us and to provide a healthy environment in which relationships can flourish and grow toward Christlike maturity.

Another familiar example are common filters found in every automobile, lawn mower, factory, business, home, office, and even every airplane. They protect both engines and people from undue damage. Similarly, a fence around a home protects young children and pets from wandering out into the street and provides a barrier against strangers and stray animals coming into the yard.

Boundaries guard us from giving more than we should and protect us from others’ taking more than they should. And boundaries make it possible for us to enjoy mutual giving and taking from one another in healthy relationship.…

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

(Proverbs 4:23)

  • Personal boundaries allow you to:

—  Determine what belongs to you and what belongs to another

—  Designate what you personally have power and authority over

—  Decide what and who you will prioritize in your life

—  Demonstrate the control you have over your own body, behaviors, emotions, thoughts, spiritual beliefs, and moral convictions

—  Delineate the ways you will stay true to your own moral convictions

—  Declare and enforce limits in your relationships

Boundary lines help bring order to your personal world and the world around you. The Bible says …

“Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

(1 Corinthians 14:40)

  • Personal boundaries convey:
—  What you are




what you are not


—  What you like




what you don’t like


—  What you want




what you don’t want


—  What you believe




what you don’t believe


—  What you will choose




what you won’t choose


—  What you will endure




what you won’t endure


—  What you will accept




what you won’t accept


—  What you will give




what you won’t give


Pray for wisdom and insight in order to have the best boundaries and right relationships.…

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!”

(Proverbs 16:16)

  1. What Are Different Kinds of Personal Boundaries?

Lance Armstrong violates all kinds of personal boundaries when it comes to his association with Greg LeMond.

Among cyclists, Lance develops a reputation as a bully, and before his fall, people fear to cross him. At one point Greg says that Lance calls him and threatens to find ten people who will swear that he has doped. People associated with cycling even call Greg to intimidate him to not interfere with Lance.

Greg’s wife, Kathy, says the darkest, most desperate attempt by Lance to shut up her husband was his offer of $300,000 to one of Greg’s former teammates to vow he had seen Greg using drugs. The offer is declined, but Lance’s bullying reputation is affirmed. “He crosses lines no others will cross,” Kathy observes and experiences firsthand.

An Old Testament passage also provides an apt description that could apply to Lance.…

“Their feet rush into sin.… They pursue evil schemes.…”

(Isaiah 59:7)

Relational boundaries enable you to:

  • Stand up for yourself and speak your mind appropriately
  • Feel comfortable in giving honest feedback to others
  • Be firm with others in a loving and gentle way
  • Respect the rules of others and act in their best interest
  • Express the rules you have established for your relationships
  • Defend others and promote equality in relationships

God gives a model of how to do this in His Word.…

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

(Luke 6:31)

Emotional and mental boundaries equip you to:

  • Evaluate the appropriateness of your emotions in light of God’s Word and deal with them accordingly
  • Investigate truth for yourself and disengage from those who try to manipulate or hurt you and whose ideas and values are contrary to your own
  • Guard against letting emotions rule you by focusing your mind on God’s thoughts and on His character
  • Keep your emotions governed by God’s truths and His perspective on events in your life
  • Experience natural human emotions and agree or disagree with others without fear or shame
  • Respond emotionally to others and communicate your own thoughts and opinions in a Christlike way

God tells us to hold our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.…

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

(2 Corinthians 10:5)

Spiritual boundaries allow you to:

  • Experience a right relationship with God through trusting Christ
  • Live in a way that pleases and honors God
  • Distinguish God’s will from the will of others that has been imposed on you
  • Commit to being controlled by Christ, not by people
  • Avoid spiritually abusive, manipulative, or divisive people
  • Lead a victorious Christian life

God has established spiritual boundaries through His Word.…

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

(Psalm 119:11)

Moral and ethical boundaries teach you to:

  • Know the difference between right and wrong
  • Appreciate the true value of people
  • Live a life of moral integrity
  • Be the same in public as you are in private
  • Discern the true character of a person
  • Evaluate the right way to think and act toward others

God calls us to do only what is right.…

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

(Genesis 4:7)

Sexual boundaries authorize you to:

  • Determine whether or not you will allow a person to touch you sexually
  • Determine areas of appropriate sexual expression and activity
  • Determine how you will respond in the heat of passionate temptation
  • Determine personal purity that preserves sexual activity for a committed marriage relationship
  • Determine the parameters you will place on your thought life regarding sex
  • Determine what you will allow yourself to watch, listen to, and participate in that is of a sexual nature

God’s Word clearly states these boundaries are not to be violated.…

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:3–4)

Physical boundaries help you to:

  • Guard against abusive behavior
  • Prevent physical injury to yourself and to others
  • Protect yourself against threat or risk
  • Shield yourself from danger or harm
  • Avoid the appearance of impropriety
  • Maintain a sense of being separate, having your own personal identity

God’s Word reminds us that our bodies belong to God.…

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

(1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Healthy Boundaries

Question: “What role do boundaries play in relationships, and just how important is it to establish boundaries?”

Answer: People with healthy boundaries understand the reality of our unique individuality and our need for mutually beneficial separateness. They know that we come into this world alone and we will enter the next world alone.

They accept that we are separate from one another … and yet we live with one another. We are individually responsible before God … and yet God holds us responsible for how we treat one another.

Clearly, although we are separate individuals, God made us to be in relationship with each other. The means by which we succeed at being both separate and together is established through healthy boundaries. Healthy people have healthy relationships because …

  • They realize that healthy boundaries are …

—  To be modeled in our families

—  To be developed in our closest relationships

—  To be rooted in God’s perfect will for us

  • They understand that healthy boundaries provide …

—  Safety, security, and confidence in who we are

—  The ability to say no to others without guilt or fear

—  “Fences” to protect us, not to keep us away from one another

Healthy people have healthy boundaries. With boundaries we are able to juggle the two opposites of separateness and togetherness by creating and maintaining balance in our relationships. We do that by keeping God in His proper place and people in their proper place.

God comes first and people come second.…

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

(Matthew 22:37–39)

  1. What Is God’s Heart on Boundaries?

They’ve got to go.

In the midst of the Lance Armstrong doping investigation, Greg LeMond calls for the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the honorary president to step down. Pat McQuaid and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, do not manifest God’s heart on boundaries.

“During this investigation, you can’t have the fox guarding the henhouse, and that means they need to willingly step down—now. Will they? Most likely not because they are protecting their own position. It will take pressure.” Greg offers to run UCI as interim president, but insists his replacement must be someone who is “beyond reproach.”

McQuaid and Verbruggen, by the way, are still leading the controversial UCI.6

The truth found in Scripture epitomizes the ways of both Greg and Lance.…

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

(Proverbs 10:9)

God’s heart is that we set boundaries for our relationships with one another. He even wrote some of those boundaries out for us in His Word.

Look at what His Word says regarding His will for us, and you will see them—the boundaries God has ordained for our lives … the boundaries we need to establish and live by if we are to follow His heart and live our lives according to His will.…

#1   God’s will is that we treat one another with respect.

“Show proper respect to everyone …” (1 Peter 2:17).

#2   God’s will is that we focus on listening to one another and carefully consider our words before we speak.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak …” (James 1:19).

#3   God’s will is that we express appropriate anger toward one another in a helpful rather than hurtful manner.

“ ‘In your anger do not sin’ …” (Ephesians 4:26).

#4   God’s will is that we participate in and benefit from mutual submission.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

#5   God’s will is that we not lie, but rather speak truthfully to one another from our hearts.

“Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor …” (Ephesians 4:25).

#6   God’s will is that we acknowledge and take responsibility for our wrongs and that we forgive others for their wrongs.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other.… Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (James 5:16; Colossians 3:13).

#7   God’s will is that we say “Yes” or “No” without feeling guilty about it.

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

#8   God’s will is that we refuse to sin against Christ by violating one another’s conscience.

“When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12).

#9   God’s will is that we give and receive justifiable rebukes and refrain from using flattery on one another.

“Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue” (Proverbs 28:23).

#10   God’s will is that we appeal to a higher authority when necessary, just as the apostle Paul did when he was being slandered by Jewish leaders.

“If the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:11).

#11   God’s will is that we remove ourselves from abusive situations.

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24).

#12   God’s will is that we emotionally and spiritually support one another.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another …” (Hebrews 10:24–25).


The best way to describe the relationship between figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding is … icy.

It’s 1994 and the XVII Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, are just six weeks away. The skaters will first compete against each other at the United States Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan. Nancy is favored to win the Olympic trials competition and is at the rink a couple of days ahead of time to practice her backspins and jumps. She exits the rink temporarily and walks toward a backstage area, never imagining even for a moment that she will become the victim of a crossed boundary … a boundary concerning violence. The Bible has strong words for those who pursue violence.…

“The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.”

(Psalm 11:5)

  1. What Differentiates Bad Boundaries from Beneficial Boundaries?

Nancy Kerrigan suddenly is approached by a man wielding a weapon resembling a police baton, and he does the unthinkable where a figure skater is concerned … he clubs her on her right knee.

The elegant skater now writhes in pain and anguish, buckling to the floor and bemoaning her probable withdrawal from the competition. After a medical examination, it is determined that Nancy, indeed, is not fit to skate and will need time to heal in order to try to be ready for the Olympics. Meanwhile, Tonya, her fierce competitor, glides to victory and is dubbed the U.S. champion.

But eyebrows start to raise when the assailant and his three cohorts are identified, exposing close connections to … Tonya. In the tragic scenario … bad boundaries abound.

Scripture gives clear warning concerning those who are engaged in evil schemes.…

“Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.”

(Micah 2:1)

Setting and respecting boundaries is a two-way street. It becomes a loving approach to your relationship with others. Sometimes it becomes necessary to reestablish and reinforce your boundaries when they have been violated.

People who have never had appropriate boundaries or who have no boundaries at all may not be aware when they step across another person’s boundary line. In addition, they will likely fail to recognize when they should set and communicate appropriate boundaries for themselves.

Those who have healthy, beneficial boundaries are generally quick to recognize unhealthy, bad boundaries in others. The goal then becomes that of maintaining boundaries while seeking to convey the value … the necessity … of everyone establishing loving, beneficial boundaries in their own lives.…

“The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.… for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.… Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

(Proverbs 2:6, 8, 11)

In seeking to distinguish bad boundaries from beneficial ones in your own life or in the life of another, be aware of the following differences.…

Bad Boundaries vs. Beneficial Boundaries

Bad Boundaries


Beneficial Boundaries


•     You define yourself based on what others say or feel about you and will do almost anything to feel accepted by them.


•     You know that you are accepted by God and created by Him for a unique purpose and that you must define yourself based on who He says you are!


“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

(Romans 15:7)


•     You do not express your opinion out of fear that people will not agree with you. This leaves you feeling inferior.


•     You are not afraid to express yourself, although doing so can leave you open to criticism, rejection, and hurt.


“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

(2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)


•     You isolate yourself in order to minimize suffering, and you see yourself as a victim.… You don’t ask for what you need.


•     Even at the risk of being hurt, you form relationships based on mutual respect and see yourself as healed of past hurts.


“Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14)


•     You seek out many people but do not trust anyone.


•     Although not everyone is trustworthy, you have a few trustworthy “forever” friends in your life.


“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

(Proverbs 18:24)


•     You are enmeshed in relationships, but have little true intimacy. You retreat deep within yourself, concealing your innermost feelings. You feel that it is unsafe to love and be loved so you do not let down your guard with others.


•     You have many acquaintances but choose to be totally open, truly transparent, and deeply intimate with only those who have proved themselves to be safe and to always have your best interest at heart.


“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

(Proverbs 17:17)


•     You are inconsistent when enforcing your boundaries … yet, when you do decide to draw the line, you overreact and become overbearing, rigid, and inflexible.


•     Your boundaries are flexible, yet consistent. You can be assertive without being aggressive.… You are tender and straightforward, firm, and respectful when setting your personal boundaries.


“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.…”

(Matthew 5:37)


•     You use emotional manipulation to get your needs met because you view disagreeing with someone as attacking them, and you don’t want to risk their getting angry.


•     You can express what you want and how you feel in a forthright way while also being sensitive, dialoguing in a spirit of mutual openness and discovery.


“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

(Proverbs 18:21)


•     You learn to use boundaries as a weapon against others, to exert power over them, to deceive them, and to keep them off balance or at a safe distance.


•     You do not use boundaries as a weapon against others, but to demonstrate your desire to maintain healthy, honest, God-honoring relationships.


“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

(Ephesians 4:25)


•     You cannot see the ways you allow others to mistreat you or the ways you mistreat others.


•     Your boundaries help you identify how others are mistreating you or how you are mistreating others.


“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”

(Proverbs 14:8)


•     You stay in bad relationships with unsafe people because you feel needed and unworthy of anything better, or you feel too insecure to leave the relationship.


•     You learn to enforce repercussions for the unacceptable behavior of others and act to change harmful relationships. You reward positive behavior that helps relationships to flourish.


“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ”

(1 Corinthians 15:33)


  1. What Indications Help Identify Broken Boundaries?

Tonya Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, pleads guilty to racketeering for helping plan the attack on Nancy Kerrigan and her bodyguard. Shawn Eckardt, along with Shane Stant and Derrick Smith, are charged with conspiracy.

Gillooly and Eckardt plan the attack, Stant executes it, and Smith drives the getaway car. Tonya pleads guilty to hindering the investigation following the assault and suffers a slew of penalties. Harsh repercussions … follow broken boundaries.…

  • Withdrawal from participation in the world skating championships
  • The surrendering of her U.S. Figure Skating Association membership
  • Three years’ probation
  • A $100,000 fine
  • The establishment of a $50,000 fund to benefit Special Olympics
  • The reimbursement of $10,000 for judiciary costs
  • 500 hours of community service
  • A mandatory psychiatric examination with court-prescribed treatment

Scripture clearly indicates that there always will be consequences for sin.…

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

(Galatians 6:7–8)

Just as Olympic and professional athletes are screened for possible rule violations prior to being cleared to compete in a sporting event, you, too, need to screen yourself for boundary violations if you want to be a viable contender in the arena of relationships … in the game of life.

Having broken boundaries or no boundaries at all will put you at a disqualifying disadvantage if you have any hope of standing in the winner’s circle. By establishing and maintaining boundaries that nurture, guard, and protect your own heart and the hearts of those you cherish, you can prosper in this quest for success. Only, remember to get wisdom and gain understanding in the process.…

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.”

(Proverbs 19:8)

As you seek to identify broken boundaries in your life, answer the following questions.…

Checklist for Broken Boundaries

Do you have difficulty making decisions and sticking with them when opposed?

Do you feel that you must seek opinions of others before acting on a decision?

Do you feel hesitant to give your opinion when asked?

Do you fear expressing what you really feel?

Do you lack confidence in your own convictions?

Do you avoid certain people because you fear embarrassment?

Do you have difficulty maintaining eye contact with others?

Do you have difficulty asking others for help?

Do you fear losing the love and affection of others?

Do you perform favors for others even when you know you shouldn’t?

Do you avoid asking people to return overdue items they have borrowed?

Do you have difficulty receiving sincere compliments from others?

Do you keep an unwanted item you purchased because you fear returning it?

Do you need a great deal of assurance from others?

Do you do more than your share of work on a project?

Do you allow others to be untruthful in your presence without stating the truth?

Do you have difficulty pointing out situations that are unfair?

Do you ever say yes when you want to say no?

Do you think you have to answer the phone every time it rings?

Do you listen to a telemarketer even when you want to say, “No, thank you”?

Do you feel compelled to send money when receiving solicitations in the mail?

Do you feel guilty when you say no to someone who is asking for your time?

Do you sometimes accept the blame for mistakes that aren’t yours?

Do you feel guilty when someone suffers a repercussion for having broken a boundary you have set?

If you have struggled with broken boundaries, you may also struggle with being afraid of disappointing others … afraid of receiving criticism from others … afraid of losing the love of others. The Lord does not want you to live in a state of fear … which is why so many people have been helped when they personally focus on the heart of the following Scripture.

Read these verses out loud every day for one month and watch how God will strengthen your relationship with Him so that you will know that He is your strength … He is your confidence … He is your security.…

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?… Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

(Psalm 27:1, 3)


Question: “What exactly is ‘triangulation,’ and how is it related to boundaries?”

Answer: Boundary triangulation occurs when an individual fails to speak the truth in love to a boundary violator and fails to enforce a repercussion. Instead, the person elicits the help of an uninvolved third-party ally who is anything but objective.

Such an impossible situation generally creates a whole new set of issues. Rather than having only one offender and one offended, everyone ends up offending and being offended, and a complicated mess ensues.

In triangulation, rather than the offended party rightfully taking responsibility for working out a personal problem in a proper and concise way with an offender, the individual seeks support and refuge in a sympathetic third party.

Thus triangulation is rooted in being afraid to confront and creates problems rather than peace. This clearly violates the teaching of Jesus.…

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”

(Matthew 18:15)

  1. What Are Signs of Crossed Boundary Lines?

For some, Tonya Harding’s repercussions … don’t go far enough.

Although she is charged with criminal activity following the assault, both her ex-husband and bodyguard claim she had prior knowledge of the attack and even helped plan it. And the final “go-ahead” to maim Nancy Kerrigan … is given by Tonya, according to her ex-husband.

District Attorney Norman Frink says there is “… substantial evidence to support Ms. Harding’s involvement prior to the assault. She’s not going to plead guilty to it, but I think the facts speak for themselves.” Had a legal agreement not been reached concerning Tonya, Frink had planned to pursue indictments on other charges.

Tonya may be concealing prior involvement, but God sees it all.…

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

(Luke 8:17)

Thank goodness for instant replay! In sports, as in life, those too close to the action or too far from it are not always able to see when rules are broken, when boundary lines are knowingly or unknowingly crossed. And since winning is at stake, important sporting events are recorded by strategically positioned cameras so that every action can be replayed for all to see and for all to judge.

In the case of personal boundaries, no instant replay cameras keep a vigilant eye on us, but there is One whose eyes see it all, for He never slumbers or sleeps or looks away from us … not even for an instant. His eyes steadily record our every move; His mind is constantly aware of our thoughts. His ears are always tuned into our words. His heart is forever discerning our motives.

And with His Spirit empowering us and His written word guiding us, He can conform us to Christ by keeping our boundaries in check and accomplishing His purposes in and through us.…

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

(Romans 8:28–29)

Signs of Crossed Boundary Lines

People who grow up with little or no boundaries are accustomed to having their legitimate personal rights violated and common societal norms ignored. Mistreatment is commonplace, and in their frustration or attempt at self-preservation, people develop a pattern of mistreating others as well, often without knowing what they are doing or why.

Their experience becomes their reality, and they simply live what they learn—they do to others what is done to them. In so doing, over time those with crossed boundary lines tend to exhibit the following signs:

Confrontation skills are virtually nonexistent or they are brutal and ineffective. Rather than dealing directly with each other, they triangulate, are emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive, or they cross other communication boundaries.

Responsibility regarding personal actions is assigned to others. Denial, justification, blame games, guilt trips, and other forms of manipulation replace assuming responsibility for their own inappropriate actions. Many grown children remain financially dependent on parents well into adulthood and many times even after they are married.

Openness, honesty, and transparency are nonexistent. At the very least these skills that are critical for developing true intimacy in relationships are considered foolish and unnecessary or, at worst, threatening and terrifying.

Secrecy is rampant, yet necessary for survival because trust is scarce and people are emotionally distant from one another as a means not only of self-defense but also self-preservation. This is especially true in cases where sexual boundaries have been violated or other forms of severe abuse have occurred.

Systems for enforcing logical repercussions are also nonexistent as are systems of administering rewards for positive behaviors. Inconsistency reigns in every area and confusion and distrust are the result.

Envy is commonplace because no one feels genuinely valued for who they are and what they do. Insecurity is felt by all. Therefore, everyone constantly vies for attention, affirmation, acceptance, and a sense of approval. When one person’s performance outshines another’s, envy is the natural by-product.

Defensive behaviors are well-established and reflect a need to deny feelings of being unloved, insignificant, and insecure. Adult daughters still want to be “daddy’s little princess” and grown sons want to be “mommy’s little prince” rather than becoming emotionally invested and committed to their spouses.

The process of facing the fact that personal boundaries have been repeatedly crossed and then working through the resulting pain of that awareness and making necessary changes takes courage, tenacity, and hope. This is especially true when other family members do not see the need for change or feel the need for healing.

Thankfully, we have a God who is able and willing to not only meet our needs but to give us far more than we could ever ask or imagine.…

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

(Ephesians 3:17–21)

  1. What Characteristics Accompany Codependency?

Jeff Gillooly and Tonya Harding … their marriage is punctuated with violence, restraining orders, divorce filings, and enmeshment, which continues even after the marriage is over.

Who knows what motivates Jeff to conspire to injure his ex-wife’s rival, but codependency seems to characterize his relationship with Tonya. The skater’s former agent Michael Rosenberg says Jeff and Tonya are incompatible and others chime in that the couple fight frequently.

James Golden, Tonya’s stepfather, observes: “If she looked at someone, he would get mad. He’d manipulate her real easy. He has such a possessive nature and is so jealous of her.” In contrast, the Bible describes authentic love.…

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

(1 Corinthians 13:4)

Having a “codependent relationship” is being dependent on another person to the point of being addicted to, controlled, and manipulated by that person. It is the natural by-product of having little or no boundaries because it is driven by the lack of personal wholeness and sufficiency.

After all, if we can’t depend on ourselves to meet our deep emotional needs, then it seems only logical to look to others to meet those needs—to depend on others to fill our emotional emptiness and to give us a sense of significance and purpose in life.

To be needed by someone is certainly ego-boosting and to meet that person’s needs can be exhilarating … but to fail can be crushing, and to be rejected can be nothing less than catastrophic!

The problem for codependents is not their dependency but rather the object of their desire. The fact is, we are all dependent creations, but our desire should be for our Creator … our only true Need-Meeter … and not another dependent creature. As the psalmist wrote …

“I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

(Psalm 73:23–26)

Codependency Is …

  • Marked by an insecure, dependent person spending an inordinate amount of time and energy meeting other people’s needs and desires while neglecting personal needs and desires
  • Based on the belief that the subservient helper, the rescuer, the enabler has no inherent value or worth and can gain significance only by meeting the needs of other people
  • Rooted in the premise that one person not only determines the worth of another person but also has the ability to control that person’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and the processes surrounding them
  • Identified as a relationship dominated by fear and control where power is exaggerated, misapplied, misdirected, and generally abused in an effort to get inner needs met
  • Established by boundary violators who seek to use a series of tactical maneuvers to get their own way without regard for anyone else’s feelings or desires
  • Characterized by the skillful use of manipulation through deception and intimidation, goading guilt, heartrending stories, unsolicited and undesired advice, anger, and even threats

The Bible gives this description of those who are held captive to codependent relationships.…

“… they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

(John 12:43)

  1. What Repercussions Result from Resisting Boundaries?

A big controversy in both Olympic and professional sports is the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Major stars have been caught using the drugs in order to gain an advantage over their opponents, an advantage that has been deemed unfair and illegal.

What especially exacerbates the issue is the number of famous athletes who have been found guilty by a court, or who have, on their own, confessed to using the drugs, or whose names have been brought up as potential abusers.

As a result, many fans and analysts argue that key records, such as the home run record held by Barry Bonds in Major League Baseball, should be erased or at least marked with an asterisk. Other athletes, such as 2000 Olympic track star Marion Jones, have been completely disgraced after being found guilty of using these performance-enhancing drugs.

The result for these athletes is terrible shame, public disgrace, and immense regret. But their demise highlights the most important boundary in sports: fairness.

In order to declare a winner, everyone must play by the same set of rules … the same boundaries. Without them, the idea of picking a winner or setting a new record becomes meaningless. The integrity of sports, then, is found in its boundaries.

Therefore, when boundaries are broken and trespassed, the results are grave for the offenders, whose former glory is forgotten and whose careers serve only as an example of what not to do.

The lesson: Play within the boundaries and there are rewards. Break the boundaries and there are repercussions—you ultimately lose … even your so-called victories are truly losses in terms of compromised integrity. The truth of this lesson is clearly seen in the lives … and deaths … of Moses and his brother Aaron.…

“On that same day the Lord told Moses, ‘Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.’ ”

(Deuteronomy 32:48–52)

“The punishment should fit the crime” is a well-known and commonly supported statement by those who favor justice when it comes to repercussions for broken boundaries. The laws God established for the nation of Israel certainly reflect this sentiment and should therefore reflect our attitude when it comes to setting repercussions for those who resist the personal boundaries we establish for our relationships.

Some examples of broken boundaries and “fitting” repercussions could include …

  • Money is misused.… The amount is reimbursed and further monetary funds are withheld until the responsible use of money is reestablished.
  • Physical safety is threatened.… Time spent alone together stops until the boundary of self-control is learned through counseling and is well established for a period of at least 6 to 12 months.
  • Lies are told.… Trust is withheld and verification of future information is required until the person shows over time that truthfulness has become a priority.
  • Adultery is committed.… Marriage and individual counseling is utilized, contact with the unfaithful partner is stopped, sexual relations between the marriage partners are suspended until laboratory tests are run and medical treatment has begun for any existing sexually transmitted diseases and until faithfulness is reestablished and trust is rebuilt.
  • Abusive language is used.… Interaction stops and time-outs are taken by both parties until civility in conversations is reestablished as a mutually agreed upon boundary.
  • Inappropriate anger is expressed.… Causes for loss of control are explored and resolved in counseling, and anger management is learned and demonstrated over time.
  • “No” is ignored.… The topic in question is temporarily off limits for discussion, communication is restricted to other subjects, and time-outs are enforced if resistance to being told “no” persists.
  • Time is disrespected.… Appointments are rescheduled after waiting for 15 minutes or a reasonable amount of time, separate modes of transportation are utilized if going somewhere together results in a late arrival, get-togethers are planned to piggyback off other scheduled events so that time won’t be a factor.

When setting repercussions, it is imperative to discuss them and make them clear and to keep in mind that the purpose of repercussions is not punishment but repentance and transformation.

Resistance toward a particular boundary says there is a problem that needs to be resolved, a hurt that needs to be healed, or a behavioral pattern that needs to be changed … for the good of the relationship and for the sharpening of the persons in the relationship.…

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

(Proverbs 27:17)

Shift-the-Blame Game

Question: “My husband walked away from our family and has been unfaithful. Now he wants to come back. In spite of our hurt, the children and I still love him. When I asked him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, he accused me of not being a forgiving and compassionate Christian. He says I’m being punitive, but I think I’m being practical. What is right?”

Answer: Your husband is simply using the “shift-the-blame” game to avoid his responsibility to be tested. He is shifting the blame to you instead of taking responsibility for putting you in this precarious position. He needs to accept the proper repercussion for his promiscuity: testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

This requirement is not to shame or humiliate a guilty spouse, but rather to protect the innocent spouse. It appears that he is still thinking of himself and not you; otherwise, he would be the one taking the initiative to do everything possible to keep you safe. Love takes precautions and protects; it doesn’t risk harm to the object of its focus.

Maintain your commitment to do what is best for your family and refuse to be manipulated. Enforce your boundary of keeping the marriage bed undefiled until he complies.…

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … a time to embrace and a time to refrain …” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5).

Forgiveness vs. Enablement

Question: “What does forgiveness and enablement have to do with boundaries?”

Answer: Forgiveness is not enablement. If a man borrows money from you and later refuses to repay you, you should still forgive him. Release both him and the offense to God, for your sake if for no other, so that you do not become bitter. But you should not enter into another monetary relationship with him. That is where it becomes a boundary issue.

Enabling means you allow others to continue in their bad behavior by either not establishing a boundary or by not enforcing consequences when they violate a boundary you have established.

  • Enablement puts you in a position of being offended again and again.
  • Enabling never helps offenders change, but rather further ingrains their bad habits. However, one consequence for your offenders is that they will not have other opportunities to “use you” or offend you again. That is a boundary.
  • Enablers are classic people pleasers who do not say no when they should say no.
  • Forgiveness puts you in a position of not becoming bitter or holding on to offenses from the past.
  • Forgivers face the offenses and the wrongs done toward them but never make excuses for the offense or make it okay.
  • Forgiveness discourages enablement by shining a spotlight on the wrongdoing and calling it what it is.

If you say yes to irresponsible people when you should put up boundaries and say no, you are actually trying to please people instead of God. The apostle Paul counters that error in thinking by declaring …

“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

(1 Thessalonians 2:4)


In the world of fencing, Boris develops a bad reputation.

It’s 1976 and the Olympic games are underway in Montreal, Canada. The pentathletes for the Soviet Union are gripping their swords, or épées, in anticipation of another competitive event. Following the equestrian events they’re in fourth place and have some catching up to do, but they remain confident because of their then star athlete—Boris Onishchenko—a multiple medal winner from previous Olympics.

He is 38 years old and is determined to earn at least one more medal, but Boris crosses boundaries that sideline him … for good.

Scripture imparts the truth about sin.…

“… you may be sure that your sin will find you out.”

(Numbers 32:23)

  1. What Experiences Help Us Learn Boundaries?

Fencing, swimming, running, shooting, riding horses … Boris Onishchenko has learned all about boundaries from his experiences as an accomplished pentathlete.

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, he helps win a silver medal for his team and then four years later in Munich, he helps them land a gold, while he himself gains an individual silver. In 1971 Boris is dubbed world champion pentathlete before being overshadowed by a rival who secures the title the following three years.

Boris has played by the rules and respected boundaries, but a fencing tournament reveals foolishness.

The Bible wisely communicates …

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

(Proverbs 1:7)

Boundaries are an indispensable aspect of life, such an intrinsic part of living that they often exist unnoticed. Physical boundaries say: “My property is mine” or “My body is mine and your body is yours,” while internal boundaries say: “I am me and you are you.” “This is my responsibility, and there is yours.”

Since we learn boundaries through experience, their number increases over time as we pass through various developmental stages and encounter more and more learning situations. Since our lives are normally initially governed by our parents, they are the major molders and shapers of the boundaries we develop in childhood and then practice into adulthood … and throughout our entire lives. These boundaries can be strong and beneficial, or they can be poor, ineffective, and even harmful boundaries.

Regardless of boundaries learned from parents, we have a perfect Parent in our heavenly Father. He can “reframe” our past experiences and “retrain” us through our present and future experiences. As we surrender to our Lord and allow His Spirit to guide us, we can learn to construct positive boundaries.… We have only to yield to His rightful place of authority in our lives and give ourselves wholly to Him as those who have been born into His family and possess His Spirit.…

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

(Psalm 25:5)

  • We learn boundaries from parents who model boundaries by the way they interact with us, with each other, and with those around them.
  • We learn boundaries as we learn more about God—His character, His attributes, and His expectations of us … and especially His ways of dealing with those who choose to sin.
  • We learn boundaries in the relationships we have with family, friends, and others in our life; however, the most significant relationship is the personal relationship we develop with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
  • We learn boundaries as we are corrected, taught, and disciplined in love by the authority figures around us.
  • We learn boundaries as we begin to understand the connection between receiving rewards for doing right and experiencing repercussions for doing wrong.
  • We learn boundaries from making mistakes, from trying and failing, and from suffering natural consequences.
  • We learn boundaries from listening and gaining wisdom from others, from observing the lives of others, and imitating what seems to work for them.

The apostle Paul said …

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”

(Philippians 3:17)

  1. What Is the Process of Learning Boundaries as a Child?

Boris Onishchenko learns boundaries as a child, developing athletic prowess that brings him great success in adulthood.

But a premeditated plot to secure a victory … a deliberate crossing of boundaries … proves to be his downfall. The fencing portion of the pentathlon is set to begin, and the Russians are taking on the British. Boris brandishes his épée before his competitor, Adrian Parker, and the two stand en garde. Once engaged, an electronic scoreboard detects when their blades reach their desired target and registers a “hit.”

Before long Boris does indeed get a “hit,” but it appears to spectators that he is a few inches short from contact. The British call for an inspection of the scoring equipment to look for a technical malfunction, but all is operating properly. Boris gets the win, and next competes with a man he’s been fencing with for decades. This will turn out to be, however … their final showdown. Boris should have heeded the following Scripture.…

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

(2 Timothy 2:15)

God has determined that children are to learn boundaries within their family unit from loving parents who have personally established healthy boundaries. Sadly, not all parents are committed to God’s plan.

If parents never established personal boundaries, how can they teach their children the importance of boundaries? The development of children follows a predictable course based on the type of parenting they receive. This is why the Bible emphasizes the importance of wise parenting.…

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

(Proverbs 1:8)

  • As a parent responds to an infant’s cries, the baby begins to …

—  Learn that someone is available to meet needs

—  Experience a sense of having value and worth

—  Bond with available caretakers

—  Find security in bonding relationships

  • As the sense of security increases, the child begins to …

—  Experiment minimally with the environment

—  Separate minimally from parents for small increments of time

—  Establish limited personal autonomy

—  Experience the exhilaration of exploration

—  As feelings of confidence and security grow, the child begins to …

—  Take more initiative to explore

—  Move back and forth between the security of parental relationships and the challenge of separation

—  Experience greater excitement and increased confidence

—  Lay the foundation for formulating legitimate boundaries

When the God-given needs for love, significance, and security are not appropriately and adequately met in childhood, self-confidence and healthy independence are not developed and a foundation for the development of a “codependent” relationships is laid. When rejection rather than unconditional love is experienced, our “love bucket” (our internal capacity for love, significance, security, and acceptance) begins to leak and cannot be filled until those “holes”—or wounds—are healed. Only the love of our perfect heavenly Parent can reach deep enough and be pure enough to bring about such healing in the hearts of these wounded individuals.…

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.… He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

(Psalm 34:18; 147:3)

  1. What Are Basic Fundamental Truths about Boundaries?

Boris Onishchenko learns a basic fundamental truth about boundaries—there can be severe repercussions when they’re crossed.

Jim Fox, a member of the British team, had been eyeing Boris during his engagement with Adrian Parker, and he, too, is suspicious of his supposed “hit.” Boris and Jim begin to fence, and soon Boris lunges and scores a “hit,” but Jim manages to avoid contact. Boris’ épée before the scoreboard is “like waving a magic wand,” according to Jim, and he wants to have it examined.

Upon closer inspection … it appears the épée has been dismantled and put back together again with controversial components.… Scripture is not silent about such deception.…

“Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.”

(Proverbs 26:26)

When God gave the first couple, Adam and Eve, a boundary on what they could and could not eat, they were initially compliant because they knew the Boundary-Giver to be trustworthy. It was not until Satan created doubt about God’s character and motive did each choose to disobey God.

Had their perspective not changed, their beliefs and behaviors would not have changed. Had they not considered the possibility of God’s withholding good from them, they would have remained cooperative.

Now that sin thrives in this world, it has clouded the perspective of many with regard to boundaries. Like everything good God has put into place in His creation, boundaries have been maligned and misrepresented as being unloving and undesirable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Boundaries in relationships are just as necessary and beneficial as boundaries in the physical world.…

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”

(2 Corinthians 1:12)

The following reveal some misconceptions that people have regarding boundaries.…

  • “Can I set limits and still be a loving person?”

According to God’s Word, you absolutely can not truly love a person without setting limits.…

—  Love is doing what is best for someone, which requires establishing boundaries to identify and separate what is best and what is less than best.

—  Love cannot exist without boundaries to define where one person ends and another person begins.

—  Love is not being boundaryless and losing yourself in another person’s existence, but rather it is entering into a cooperative sharing and experiencing one another’s unique gifts, talents, perspectives, and understanding.

—  Love requires saying yes to that which is beneficial and no to that which is harmful.

—  Love is not two people morphing into one, but it is the joining together of two different and distinct personalities in spiritual unity, mirroring the love that Jesus declares for us.…

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

(John 15:9–10)

  • “What are legitimate boundaries?”

Good boundaries foster right relationships and, at the same time, guard against wrong relationships. Boundaries keep us safe and intact while preventing us from being abused and fragmented.

Legitimate boundaries …

—  Define our individual separateness and protect the treasure—untapped potential, unique personality, natural abilities, and spiritual gifts—that God has entrusted to us

—  Enhance and encourage the development of Christlike character within us through mutually respectful relationships

—  Prevent us from establishing bad boundaries that arbitrarily shut out meaningful interaction with others

—  Build walls containing doors, allowing us to have safe interactions with others

Proverbs, the biblical book on wisdom, says …

“The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives” (Proverbs 16:17).

  • “What if someone is hurt or upset by my boundaries?”

By their very nature, boundaries can offend others because boundaries set limits. However, there is a big difference between offending and harming.

Boundaries put a limit on another’s ability to hurt and harm us. Boundaries do not cause hurt and harm … unless, of course, they are created with the intent to use and abuse others.

—  Having boundaries will be frustrating to those who would manipulate you by making untrue statements like, “You made me feel.…” The truth is that people have a choice in their feelings and the beliefs on which those feelings are based.

—  Having no boundaries makes you a puppet on someone else’s string and robs you of the freedom to choose how you will live your life apart from being controlled by others.

—  Having boundaries does not mean you are to be insensitive or oblivious to the legitimate feelings of others, but you are to base your decisions on God’s principles rather than on emotions … your own or someone else’s.

—  Having boundaries means that you realize you are responsible and accountable to God for your own choices, as is everyone else.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

  • “How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?”

Relationships must be chosen wisely. Not all people will share your purpose for life or your perspective on life. Not all people will be God-sent or God-blessed.

Not all people will strengthen your hand in the Lord or encourage you in developing Christlike character.

Therefore, in making decisions as to those with whom you will share yourself and your resources …

—  Establish biblical limits on how your time, love, energy, and finances will be expended, realizing God’s priorities for you and your resources.

—  Establish legitimate means of identifying another’s true need, discerning whether it is God’s will for you to meet that need and ascertaining how you will meet the need.

—  Establish guidelines to avoid “giving in” to people who want you to do something for them when it is clear that it is something God intends they do for themselves.

—  Establish the fact that denying someone’s request may produce initial resentment, but if there is mutual respect and trust between you, the other person will realize the validity and necessity of your boundary.…

“Carry each other’s [overwhelming] burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.… for each one should carry their own [legitimate] load” (Galatians 6:2, 5).

  • “Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?”

Guilt and fear come from the misconception that godly servants never say no. The truth is, the perfect Servant did not do what everyone asked of Him … nor was He always available to everyone.

He said no to everyone and everything His Father said no to, and He said yes to everyone and everything His Father said yes to. He wasn’t depending on others to meet His needs for love, significance, or security but was dependent on His Father.

His Father determined Jesus’ purpose, not other people. And when you take that position and have that perspective, you will stop feeling guilty or afraid and will start feeling free and empowered.

As you seek to line up your perspective with God’s perspective, realize …

—  God is love, and He lovingly established clear and concise boundaries for His creation, making it a mistake to perceive boundaries as violating any principle of love or causing guilt or fear when they are respected and kept.

—  God’s Word is clear that perfect love casts out fear; therefore, boundaries based on love do not produce fear or guilt.

—  God never imposes on you a spirit of fear or timidity but of power, love, and self-discipline (boundaries).

—  God made the human race in such a way that guilt and fear prevent intimacy, while boundaries protect confidences, love, and sound thinking.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.… For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid [fearful], but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (1 John 4:18; 2 Timothy 1:7).

  • “How do boundaries relate to submission?”

Boundaries almost entirely rely on submission to be effective. Jesus submitted Himself to the will of His Father … to the boundaries laid out for His words and deeds.

You are to follow Christ’s example and submit to His will for your life … to the boundaries He has laid out for your life and the purpose for which you were created.

In seeking to set godly boundaries and practice biblical submission, remember …

—  Biblical submission is not expressed in breaking godly boundaries but in deferring to them.

—  Biblical submission is the voluntary compliance given to another for that person’s good and for the good of the relationship.

—  Biblical submission glorifies God, not a person, and results in humility, not power or pride, in the heart of the one to whom you submit.

—  Biblical boundaries begin in a relationship of mutual submission, with each attempting to do the most encouraging action possible for the benefit of the other.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

  • “Aren’t boundaries selfish?”

Godly boundaries are based on love and are never self-seeking. They are based on what is in the best interest of everyone concerned.

God has deemed it to be in the best interest of everyone to have boundaries that protect His children and ensure that His purposes are accomplished. In fact …

—  Godly boundaries are an expression of selflessness, often requiring personal sacrifice and hard work to both establish and maintain.

—  Godly boundaries are often risky, evoking negative reactions from those who resent having limits set on their behavior or who do not want to take responsibility for their inappropriate behavior.

—  Godly boundaries are required for relationships to be both beneficial and biblical.

—  Godly boundaries are set as an act of love, not as an attempt to control or manipulate someone for personal gain.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15–17).

  1. What Is the Root Cause of Bad Boundaries?

Inside the handle of Boris Onishchenko’s épée is a layer of leather that conceals a complex wiring system.

When a pressure pad is pressed, it automatically triggers the scoreboard sensors that a “hit” has been made. The root cause of bad boundaries for Boris is the desire to win at all costs, to expand his Olympic medal collection even if it means meddling with his épée.

The British fencing team manager, Mike Proudfoot, says Boris’ method for cheating is “a real engineering job. Not just a ham amateur’s effort. They had to dismantle the weapon to discover it.” Not only is Boris disqualified from further Olympic competition, the entire Soviet pentathlon team is forced to withdraw. Jim Fox respects boundaries by playing by the rules and helps lead his teammates to Olympic Gold!

Scripture strongly conveys …

“If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!”

(Proverbs 11:31)

God is love, and He made us for loving relationships. His love is the basis for our boundaries and the glue that holds our relationships together. His plan includes time for infants to receive this love as they bond with their parents to form attachments that lay the foundation for future boundaries.

When you love others, bond with them, express your own boundaries, and help them to achieve healthy boundaries, you exhibit God’s love in action. Relationships are vitally important for people to survive and thrive.

The Bible abounds with Scriptures about love because God is love.…

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.… Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

(1 John 4:16, 7–8)

3 God-Given Inner Needs

In reality, we have all been created with three God-given inner needs: the needs for love, significance, and security.

—  Love—to know that someone is unconditionally committed to our best interest

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

—  Significance—to know that our lives have meaning and purpose

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57:2 ESV).

—  Security—to feel accepted and a sense of belonging

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).

The Ultimate Need-Meeter

Why did God give us these deep inner needs, knowing that people and self-effort fail us?

God gave us these inner needs so that we would come to know Him as our Need-Meeter. Our needs are designed by God to draw us into a deeper dependence on Christ. God did not create any person or position or any amount of power or possessions to meet the deepest needs in our lives.

If a person or thing could meet all our needs, we wouldn’t need God! The Lord will use circumstances and bring positive people into our lives as an extension of His care and compassion, but ultimately only God can satisfy all the needs of our hearts. The Bible says …

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

(Isaiah 58:11)

The apostle Paul revealed this truth by first asking, “What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” He then answers his own question by saying he is saved by “… Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25).

All along, the Lord planned to meet our deepest needs for …

  • Love

“I [the Lord] have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  • Significance

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

  • Security

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

The truth is that our God-given needs for love, significance, and security … can be legitimately met … in Christ Jesus! Philippians 4:19 makes it plain.…

“My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Since actions are based on beliefs, boundaries reflect what we believe. If our beliefs are wrong, our subsequent thoughts and behaviors will be wrong, and our boundaries will also be wrong. In other words, bad boundaries result from bad thoughts that come from bad beliefs. It is always wise to give thought to the basis for your boundaries because what you think in your heart reveals what sort of person you are.…

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

(Proverbs 23:7 NKJV)

  • Wrong Belief:

“If I set boundaries I will push people away and I will never get the approval and acceptance I need in order to feel good about myself, nor will I receive the love, significance, and security I need.”

Right Belief:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

  1. What Is God’s Ultimate Plan and Purpose for Boundaries?

God is all about relationships, and we are created in His image. Our hearts seek to be bonded, and the one eternal bond is with God, established through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate yearning of our soul—to be with God.…

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 8:38–39)

Plan of Salvation

4 Points of God’s Plan

#1   God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.

—  What was God’s motivation in sending Jesus Christ to earth?

To express His love for you by saving you! The Bible says …

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16–17).

—  What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth?

To forgive your sins, to empower you to have victory over sin, and to enable you to live a fulfilled life! Jesus said …

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”

(John 10:10 NKJV).

#2   Your Problem … is Sin.

—  What exactly is sin?

Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing what is wrong. The Bible says …

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17).

—  What is the major consequence of sin?

Spiritual death, eternal separation from God. Scripture states …

“Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God.… The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23).

#3   God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.

—  Can anything remove the penalty for sin?

Yes! Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins. The Bible says …

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

—  What is the solution to being separated from God?

Belief in (entrusting your life to) Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father. Jesus says …

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.… Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved …” (John 14:6; Acts 16:31).

#4   Your Part … is Surrender.

—  Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.…

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple, must deny themselves and take up their cross [die to your own self-rule] and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26).

—  Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of earning God’s approval.…

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

The moment you choose to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior—entrusting your life to Him—He comes to live inside you. Then He gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:

Prayer of Salvation

“God, I want a real relationship with You.

I admit that many times I’ve chosen to go my own way instead of Your way.

Please forgive me for my sins.

Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins.

Come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior.

Change me from the inside out and make me the person You created me to be.

In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”


What Can You Now Expect?

If you sincerely prayed this prayer, look at what God says about you!

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

(John 8:36)


Rosie Ruiz is an administrative assistant for a metal company and a marathon runner.

In the world of racing, she is a “no-name,” unnoticed by women who are rivals and is never the subject of media attention. In 1980 she enters her second competition, the prestigious Boston Marathon, and finds herself in a field of about 450 female participants.

The person in the spotlight at the marathon is the esteemed Bill Rodgers, who is expected once again to be the first to lunge through the tape at the finish line and to chalk up three consecutive titles. But when it comes to the female runners … there will be a surprise finish.

God knows the outcome, as well as the motives of the heart.…

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

(Jeremiah 17:10)

  1. Key Verse to Memorize

To compete with 5,364 runners in the Boston Marathon you can’t be timid, and self-discipline is a key component to hopefully making it across the finish line,

For Rosie Ruiz, a Cuban-American, participating in the race appears to be like a dream come true, an unparalleled opportunity to be associated with sports history. The 26-year-old even looks the part too. Rosie has a long, lanky figure with short hair, indicating she seemingly is ready to run with the best of them.

When the big day arrives, Rosie sports a T-shirt bearing the race identification W50, and it will be an image few runners that year will forget.…

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

(2 Timothy 1:7)

  1. Key Passage to Read

Yes, there is a time for everything, and at the 1980 Boston Marathon it’s a time to be victorious for Bill Rodgers … and Rosie Ruiz!

Rosie trots across the finish line in just over two and a half hours, giving her 1st place overall in the women’s division and the third fastest time among female marathon runners ever in any marathon. Her life is forever changed as the accolades start pouring in.

Massachusetts Governor Edward J. King crowns Rosie the women’s champion, and before long she is wearing the coveted laurel wreath associated with the race. She also is given a medal and a silver bowl, and obviously enjoys being photographed with Bill Rodgers.

Boundaries are not only essential for fair competition in athletics, but they are also a basic requirement in every area of life. This principle is clearly expressed in the Ten Commandments. When God established a covenant with His chosen people, Israel, He clearly defined boundaries for their relationship.…

“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.’ ”

(Exodus 20:1–17)

  1. How to Have a Transformed Life

But only hours after the race is over … there are rumblings … of a ruse.

Is Rosie Ruiz really the female victor of the 1980 Boston Marathon? A couple of men spot her running through a crowd of spectators while the race is still going on, and in the most bizarre twist of the apparently brazen plot, Rosie is spotted riding the subway during the race! One woman recounts that Rosie isn’t even sweating.

As it turns out, after exiting the race Rosie does indeed board a subway and gets off about a mile from the finish line to sprint her way to “victory.” Bill Rodgers is asked how he feels now looking back at the post-race celebration that turned out to be a shameful sham. “Wow, it was weird,” he recalls, shaking his head. “It was really weird.”

It’s as if she believes her own con, according to Bill. And then she tells him several days after the race: “I want to bring out the truth.” All the while, Bill says, she looks as sincere as a nun.

Rosie Ruiz desperately needs … a transformed life.

Scripture is clear about the root of Rosie’s troubles.…

“Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”

(Proverbs 12:20)

Reaching the Target: Transformation!


Target #1—A New Purpose: God’s purpose for me is to be conformed to the character of Christ.

“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” (Romans 8:29).

—  “I’ll do whatever it takes to be conformed to the character of Christ.”

Target #2—A New Priority: God’s priority for me is to change my thinking.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

—  “I’ll do whatever it takes to line up my thinking with God’s thinking.

Target #3—A New Plan: God’s plan for me is to rely on Christ’s strength, not my strength, to be all He created me to be.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV).

—  “I’ll do whatever it takes to fulfill His plan in His strength.”

My Personalized Plan To Be a Boundary Builder

Use the following acrostic of the word boundaries as a tool to help you become an effective boundary builder.

I will …

Begin to build healthy boundaries

—  God loves me and wants me to have healthy boundaries.

—  It’s not too late to begin learning how to set new boundaries.

—  Change will be difficult, but I know the Lord will be my strength.

“The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives” (Proverbs 16:17).

Overcome the fear of others’ disapproval of my boundaries

—  Personalize and memorize:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

—  Personalize and memorize:

“We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

—  Personalize and memorize:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Understand that boundaries are biblical

—  God established boundaries from the very beginning.

—  God has personal boundaries.

—  God expects me to live my life according to the boundaries He has laid out for me in Scripture.

“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).

Notify others of my boundaries (family, friends, coworkers)

—  Recognize my resources and responsibilities.

—  Communicate clearly what my convictions are.

—  Share sensitively the reasons I am establishing healthier boundaries.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Develop relationships with people who have healthy boundaries

—  Seek out people to be around who have healthy boundaries.

—  Ask God to bring mature people into my life to befriend me and help me.

—  Become more aware of boundary violations and address them—a sign of being healthier!

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).

Admit my limitations and keep on trying

—  Identify people I need to forgive who have violated my boundaries.

—  Ask forgiveness of those I have offended by trampling over their boundaries.

—  Commit to keep starting over again when I fail.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Realize that boundaries were formed from infancy and that it will take time to learn how to set and maintain new ones

—  The bonding process in infancy is the most powerful influence on boundary building, but it doesn’t mean I can’t build healthy boundaries as an adult.

—  Identify and evaluate the boundaries I formed in childhood and determine which ones may be counterproductive in my life now.

—  Make a plan to replace the harmful, unhealthy boundaries I formed in childhood with new, beneficial ones.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19).

Identify healthy boundaries for myself and commit to maintaining them

—  Communicate my boundaries.

—  State what I will do if people cross my boundaries.

—  Follow through when my boundaries are crossed.

“My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know” (Job 33:3).

Encourage my family members to establish boundaries

—  Share my decision to establish healthy, beneficial boundaries

—  Express my gratitude for their differing but meaningful roles in my life

—  Invite them to join with me as I seek to please God and be the person He created me to be

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.… Therefore encourage one another and build each other up …” (Romans 15:4–5; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

See my identity in Christ

—  God chose me.

—  God adopted me.

—  God redeemed me.

“He chose us in him before the creation of the world.… In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.… In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:4–8).

Potential Angry Reactions from Others

Question: “How should I handle potential angry reactions from others when I attempt to set boundaries?”

Answer: There are typically two different methods that people utilize in an effort to get others to do what they want them to do or not do what they don’t want them to do. While there is nothing fun about them, they are referred to as “games.” …

  • The Guilt Game

—  As you start to establish healthy boundaries, others may try and make you feel guilty. That is false guilt.

—  You may be accused of not loving others because of putting up boundaries. That is false guilt.

—  If you begin to feel that others may not love you or if you begin to question whether you really do love them because of your boundary building, pray this Scripture.…

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.… in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4).

  • The Blame Game

—  As you begin to establish boundaries and to take charge of your life, others may become angry with you for having to adjust to the “new” you. This is a ploy to get you to go back to your old ways of being manipulated and controlled through guilt.

—  Having healthy boundaries means not manipulating others and not being manipulated by others. To be the slave of another’s emotional game playing is a sign of having no boundaries.

—  Be faithful to remember: A properly focused conscience that knows the will of God will do what is right.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Starting Good Boundaries

Question: “How do I begin the process of setting good boundaries?”

Answer: The best way to start the boundary-setting process is by consulting with the Creator and reading His Word for living a life that is both pleasing to Him and fulfilling for you. Before you build a city, you lay a solid and steadfast foundation, and that foundation is the Word of God.

Another important step is consulting with several people you know who have firmly established, biblical boundaries. Glean some sound advice from them as to where you should start. Be sure to …

•     Step 1:


Pray for the Lord to reveal to you your need and how to move forward.


•     Step 2:


Pinpoint where your boundaries are weak.


•     Step 3:


Partner with someone who will hold you accountable.


•     Step 4:


Prepare to see changes in your relationships with others.


•     Step 5:


Permit yourself small rewards along the way. Boundary building is hard work!


•     Step 6:


Provide a support system of friends and family for when you go into potential “danger zones” that can trigger old responses.


•     Step 7:


Prioritize the people or areas that you want to set boundaries for—don’t try to tackle all of them at one time.


As you commit your plans and efforts to God and as you begin the process of working with your accountability partner, remember …

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:9)

  1. How to Build Healthy Boundaries

Bill Rodgers models healthy boundaries and goes on to become a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon.

But for Rosie Ruiz, the 1980 Boston Marathon isn’t her first “ruse on the run.” In her very first race, the 1979 New York City Marathon, it is later discovered that Rosie starts the race, pulls a fast exit after about 10 miles, rides a subway, and jaunts her way to the finish line in Central Park. She finishes in 24th place with a time of two hours, 56 minutes, and 29 seconds.

What is the motivation for such unhealthy boundaries? Some say it is as simple as wanting to promote herself while itimidating and impressing coworkers.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

(John 8:44)

Athletes work hard to develop strong muscles so that they can compete and win. Strong muscles require an exercise plan, a great coach or trainer, and regular, challenging exercise. No athlete can build strong muscles if someone else lifts the weights, works the practice sessions, and takes direction from the trainer.

You also must have a plan, a counselor or mentor, pastor or friend who will walk alongside you as you rely on God to help you gain control of your life. And you must continually face the challenges required to maintain healthy boundaries.…

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

(Isaiah 40:31)

6 Sure Steps for Success

#1   Admit that you have a problem: Athletes can’t improve their performance without first identifying the problems they’re having.

Acknowledge that you’re the one with the problem of lacking boundaries.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24).

#2   Be aware that you may not want to do the hard work of change: Some athletes say they hate certain aspects of working out, but they do it anyway because they know that if they don’t, they won’t win.

Admit that you’ve often been your own worst enemy.

“Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place” (Psalm 51:6).

#3   Care about yourself: Athletes concentrate on their own challenges and leave the challenges of others to trainers and coaches.

Agree to let God change you. Determine to leave others in His care.

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13).

#4   Don’t try to go the distance the first time: Marathon runners don’t start out running 26 miles. They build up to it—1 mile a day, 2 miles a day, and so on.

Allow yourself to make small changes before you take on bigger challenges.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2–4).

#5   Enforce the boundaries you set: If an athlete doesn’t force himself to push through challenges, he won’t succeed.

Accept the challenge to enforce boundaries.

#6   Continue to move forward: Athletes have to accept that one day they will not be able to perform at peak levels, even if they haven’t achieved their dreams. Everyone has to let go and move forward with life or stay stuck.

At last, move forward, grieving your losses as you seek to fulfill your God-given purpose.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Teach Healthy Boundaries

Question: “As a parent, how can I help my children develop healthy boundaries?”

Answer: Just as children must learn to respect authority, children must also be taught how to build and maintain healthy boundaries. Consider the following foundational elements necessary to develop healthy, appropriate boundaries with children.

  • Allow your children to say “No” and to hear “No” without fear of rejection or loss of love.

—  If their “No” is justified, compliment them.

—  If their “No” is unjustified, stay caring and calm and reason with them.

—  If they rebel against your reasoning, realize that they are still hearing the truth spoken in love. In time, the seeds of truth can take root and bear fruit. Jesus said …

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

  • Bonding time with your child as an infant is the most important, but bonding time at any age will only strengthen your relationship. It is from this foundation of bonding that your child develops the ability to develop healthy boundaries.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16).

  • Consequences are the logical and natural results of our actions. Your child needs to receive repercussions related to bad behavior. For example, if your child hurts someone, the repercussion would be to do something kind for that person. If your child says hateful words, a logical repercussion to retrain that behavior would be for you and your child to go to the person and ask for forgiveness, and then to sweetly speak complimentary, encouraging words to that person.

“You have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion—and give your neighbor no rest! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:2–5).

  • Discipline grounded in love is basic training for boundary development. Discipline is teaching boundaries, rewards, and repercussions, as well as being proactive in instruction and training in righteousness.

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11 NASB).

  • Encouragement equips, energizes, and empowers our children to feel loved. At the foundation of boundary setting is bonding, which is love. Unconditional love encourages our children to form healthy boundaries.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Set Healthy Boundaries

Question: “Why do parents need to set boundaries in the first place?”

Answer: Just as God set boundaries for Adam and Eve when He first created them, you need to set boundaries for your children. In truth …

  • Boundaries demonstrate your loving care. As a parent, you should not feel guilty when setting and maintaining boundaries. You are loving well when you hold the line on limits.

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).

  • Boundaries earn respect. Do not be afraid of losing your child’s love by establishing boundaries. In following God’s loving example, respect for your authority is a natural result of protective boundaries.

“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:9).

  • Boundaries are beneficial, not punitive. Don’t look at boundaries as punishment. Good boundaries provide structure and security.

“May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels” (Psalm 122:7).

  • Boundaries are honored out of respect and trust, not followed or coerced by force. Do not try to manipulate your child through fear or guilt. Instead, rely on established rewards and repercussions to motivate your child to act responsibly.

“We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, and the guilt of our ancestors; we have indeed sinned against you” (Jeremiah 14:20).

  • Boundaries are not detrimental, degrading, or demeaning. Upholding your boundaries is a discipline, and learning to develop and maintain boundaries is a positive skill for your child to learn.

“Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded” (Proverbs 13:13).

  • Boundaries protect your child much like a filter, keeping out harmful influences while allowing positive benefits.

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).

  • Boundaries may eventually need to be altered or adapted according to your child’s continued growth. As your child matures and your level of trust deepens, you may choose to expand boundaries accordingly. Remember to clearly convey changes of boundaries, rewards, and repercussions.

“For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.”

(Proverbs 6:23)

  1. How to Practice the Do’s of Parental Boundaries

What “do’s” of parental boundaries may not have been practiced in the raising of Rosie Ruiz?

She goes on to break even more boundaries, only this time her offenses occur off the race course. In 1982 she is arrested on charges of forgery and larceny, and then 18 months later she turns herself in following an arrest warrant accusing her of conspiring to sell 4.4 pounds of cocaine to undercover agents. This time Rosie doesn’t act alone—she has two female coconspirators also facing drug charges.

Infamy … makes the name Rosie Ruiz more memorable than rightful marathon champions.

The Bible, however, reveals the importance of a good reputation.…

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

(Proverbs 22:1)

While boundaries are good and necessary for instilling self-discipline and self-control, most children and teenagers do not necessarily look on them from a positive perspective. Rather, they view them as constraining their freedom and spoiling their fun. It is not until they experience some of the true benefits of boundaries that they begin to embrace them and eventually internalize them as their own rules or code for living.

In the meantime, it is important to take into account that most young people have a keen sense of fairness and are quick to demand justice when they perceive an unfair boundary has been set or an unjust repercussion has been imposed … especially against them. Parents and other authority figures who are known for their fair-mindedness and impartiality will quickly gain the respect of the youth in their charge and will likely find them loyal and receptive to reasonable boundaries.…

“If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.”

(Proverbs 29:14)

The Do’s of Practicing Parental Boundaries

“My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

(Proverbs 6:20)

DoMold the will without breaking the spirit of your child.

  • A child’s will is molded by applying appropriate boundaries when the child seeks to go in a direction contrary to what the parents perceive to be God’s will.
  • A child’s spirit is uplifted by being valued as a unique creation of God and by being treated with courtesy, kindness, fairness, and respect.
  • A child’s spirit can be broken through overreacting or having too many rules, criticizing or teasing, false accusations or inflexibility, impatience or harsh punishment.


A wild stallion has some intrinsic value; however, the most valuable horse turns with the slightest nudge from the rider’s reins. The goal of the master is to break the will of the horse, but not the spirit. The goal of a parent should be to mold the will of the child without breaking the spirit.…

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

(Colossians 3:21)

DoCommunicate your expectations clearly.

  • Make eye contact with your child when communicating.
  • Prior to any problems, describe in detail what you expect of your child regarding structure and limits.
  • Enter into an agreement with your older child or teen and ask for a statement verifying an accurate understanding of your expectations.
  • When it is time for your child to honor the boundary you have established, give one gentle reminder.


Don’t say:

“Don’t you think it is time for you to do your homework now?”

Do say:

“Remember, you agreed to start doing your homework at 7:00. It’s 7:20, so what do you need to be doing now?”

“… we instructed you how to live in order to please God.…”

(1 Thessalonians 4:1)

DoEstablish negative repercussions for misbehavior.

  • Clearly communicate the repercussion.
  • Prior to a problem, ensure your child understands and accepts that the repercussion will be enforced.
  • Allow your child to experience the repercussion for rejecting or violating a boundary.


Tom, age 13, rides his bicycle with his friends on weekends but has agreed to never ride after dark. If Tom disobeys, he will not go with his friends the next time they go riding together on the weekend.

If he breaks his agreement a second time, the repercussion will be doubled and he won’t go riding with his friends for two weekends.

“Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.”

(Proverbs 19:18)

DoEncourage and develop responsibility.

  • Allow your child to make age-appropriate choices and decisions.
  • Permit your child to experience the repercussions of wrong choices and the rewards of right choices.
  • Give increased freedom when your child is responsible.
  • Restrict freedom when your child is irresponsible.


Seventeen-year-old Karl is told, “You may take the car to the ball game and to the pizza parlor afterward, but do not go anywhere else and be home by 11:30.” If Karl disobeys, ask, “Where did you agree to go in the car and when did you agree to come home?” … “Why did we make this agreement?” …

“Yes, the agreement was made for your safety and my peace of mind. So, per our agreement, you have chosen to not use the car for the next two weeks.”

“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.”

(Proverbs 17:25)

DoAssign beneficial chores with boundaries.

  • Chores need to be assigned to everyone in the family.
  • Chores need to be explained as benefitting the entire family.
  • Chores need to be clearly defined and detailed.
  • Chores need to be compatible with your child’s age and capabilities.
  • Chores need to be given an assigned time for completion.
  • Chores need to be consistently enforced by making sure they are completed.


Don’t say:

“Michael, you are to mow the lawn once a week.”

Do say:

“Michael, since your responsibility is to take care of the yard before you leave each Saturday, be sure to remember to use the edger around the curb and sidewalk. When you have finished, put the clippings in a yard bag and place it inside the trash can by the alley, then clean and put the equipment where it goes in the storage shed.”

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

(Proverbs 14:23)

DoReward positive behavior.

  • Give your child praise regarding character traits.

“Your room looks great! I’m proud of your faithfulness to finish the job well.”

  • Give your child “thank you’s.”

“I really appreciate your willingness to bring in the groceries. Thanks for your help!”

  • Give your child recognition in front of others.

“Jim, I wish you had heard the compliments about the way our lawn looked after Peter mowed it.”

  • Give your child attention.

“Lisa, I heard you have learned to dive from the diving board. I would love to see you dive.”

  • Give your child respect.

“Chris, I respect your need for privacy. I won’t enter your room without knocking.”

  • Give your child smiles and physical affection. Children need to be lovingly touched by their parents—with plenty of hugs, kisses, pats on the back, or a hand on the shoulder.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

DoMaintain consistency.

  • Both parents need to come to an agreement on issues regarding the child, even if they disagree in private.
  • Make only promises you know you can keep.
  • Give careful thought to a request before denying it.
  • Refrain from requiring too many major changes at one time.
  • Evaluate your boundaries and their accompanying rewards and repercussions on a regular basis. Change them as your child grows more responsible.


If you and your spouse disagree on a reward or repercussion, discuss the situation in private. Listen to each other as you share feelings and reasons for or against the correction. Come to an agreement or compromise so that there can be the security of consistency in your child’s life.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

(Proverbs 24:3–4)

  1. How to Maintain Your Boundaries

On the day that Rosie Ruiz steals the spotlight at the 1980 Boston Marathon, the rightful female winner, who maintains boundaries and rightly deserves attention, is virtually snubbed by the media.

Jacqueline Gareau of Canada crosses the finish line in two hours, 34 minutes, and 28 seconds and indeed is the fastest woman at the world-renowned race. She is a French-Canadian who has been described as an object of grace over the years, bearing no ill will toward Rosie and living life in full optimism.

“I just laugh,” the 60-year-old former competitor reflects. “It doesn’t bother me. I really don’t think about her anymore.”

But marathon great Bill Rodgers is quick to defend Jacqueline, believing she got robbed of her rightful honor. The Boston Athletic Association is eager to stand by her side as well. Jacqueline is awarded two gold medals, and Bill observes: “It was her ultimate biggest win and I doubt the public is aware of her. She lost the moment. I always say that the most famous marathoner of all time is Rosie Ruiz. I guess infamous is more accurate.”

Bill models the call of the following Scripture concerning Jacqueline.…

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

(Romans 12:10)

After setting boundaries, it is very common for the people around you to test them to see whether you really intend to keep them in place. They have been accustomed to getting what they want, so they will try very hard to get you to go back to your past behavior. However, remember that just like in any sport, boundary lines are in place to help everyone. Remember this counsel from God’s Word …

“My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and to insight, ‘You are my relative.’ ”

(Proverbs 7:1–4)

  • Pay attention to your feelings and watch for early warning signs that let you know you are beginning to lose sight of your boundaries.

—  Remind yourself why you personally set the boundary in the first place.

“I set the boundary because .”

—  Remember, repercussions are okay.… They exist because difficult people choose to violate the boundaries … not because you set the boundaries.

—  Rehearse what the Word of God says.…

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

  • Plan ahead by role playing with a friend … or even just by yourself in front of a mirror … how to say no.

—  Begin with simple situations where saying no has little impact; for example, saying no to a telemarketer who calls during your favorite television show. “I’m sorry but I don’t have time to talk with you. I’m sure your cause is a worthy one but I must say no. Thank you for calling … good-bye.” If they are persistent, just repeat what you have already said and gently hang up the phone.

—  Be aware of how you feel after hanging up the phone. Thank God by reaffirming that the boundary was good for you.

—  Believe that as you continue to enforce your boundaries … it will get easier to exercise self-control and maintain your boundaries.

“gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:23).

  • Recognize that any feeling of guilt over setting your boundaries is false guilt because you have not done anything wrong. It is okay … and even healthy for you to establish and maintain personal boundaries.

—  Appreciate the importance of consistency with your boundaries in helping others honor them.

—  Apply the repercussions when your boundary has been violated.

—  Always keep the end goal in mind as you persevere.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

  • Rejoice as you continue to keep your personal boundaries and find yourself “set free”!

—  Trust that God will give you strength for this journey.

—  Think about the other people in your life and honor their boundaries … recognizing that their boundaries are important to them … and are not a negative statement about you. Don’t take boundaries set by others personally. Their personal boundaries are set to protect them, not to offend you.

—  Thank God that He gave you such value when he sacrificed His only Son for you. Therefore, you are worthy … as His child … to protect yourself with boundaries.

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:2–3).

  1. How to Respond When Boundary Lines Are Crossed

According to Bill Rodgers, Jacqueline Gareau’s public response to crossed boundary lines has been “amazing.”

“She doesn’t have any ill feelings to Rosie at all,” Bill further shares. “To lose this moment is pretty hard to deal with. She just kept cool under fire. She never said anything terrible about Rosie. She didn’t say anything negative about the BAA [Boston Athletic Association]. She was just cool, and she’s the same way today.”

Considering Jacqueline’s incredible athletic accomplishments, it is “amazing” that she has been so genteel toward someone described as a genuine cheat. She wins nine marathons, competes on the Canadian Olympic team, wins the extremely fatiguing Mount Washington Road Race three times, and is named Canadian Marathoner of the 20th Century.

Jacqueline manifests a forgiving heart toward Rosie, a vital virtue in Scripture.…

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

(Matthew 6:14)

We all have physical, moral, and personal boundaries that should not be violated. Do you know your specific boundaries? Do you know how to respond when your boundary limits have been trampled? Do you know where to draw the line?

To help identify your boundaries, pay attention when your emotions are intense, dark, shaming, or guilt-ridden in response to something someone has said or done to you.… Your boundaries are being crossed.

The following responses will help you educate those in your life who are verbally and emotionally crossing the line.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

(Proverbs 27:6)

•     Inform:


“Do you realize that you are speaking loudly?”

“Do you know how your words are sounding?”

“Do you know that you are saying things that are making me feel uncomfortable?


•     Identify:


“Please lower your voice.”

“Please stop using that kind of language.”

“Please explain your anger.”


•     Implore:


“Stop insulting me with your words.”

“Stop these painful outbursts.”

“Stop hurting me in this way.”


•     Insist:


“You must stop speaking to me in that tone of voice.”

“You will have to change this way of communicating with me.”

“You may not continue to hurt me in this way.”


•     Instruct:


“This is how I want you to speak to me.”

“When you communicate with me, this is what I expect.…”

“When you (name behavior), it hurts me. This is what I want you to do.”


•     Invite:


“I am open to working this out when you can be reasonable.”

“I care about you and our relationship, but I need you to change your ways when communicating with me.”

“I am willing to go to counseling with you if you agree.”


•     Impact:


“I am now leaving in order to protect myself.”

“Because this behavior is unacceptable to me, I am going to distance myself from you for a time.”


“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

(Proverbs 29:25)

  1. How to Communicate Boundary Changes

Following the Rosie Ruiz scandal, numerous racing officials have made boundary changes with marathon runners to better ensure ethical behavior on the race course.

Besides increased video surveillance, RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) Race Timing Systems track where runners are for certain checkpoints. A transponder is attached to the athlete and emits a unique digital code that is picked up by radio receivers along the race course.

Transponders are available in various sizes and shapes and can operate at many different frequencies.

Stronger boundaries are established … to foster sure victories.

Scripture directs that honesty and integrity should characterize all that we do.…

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.”

(2 Corinthians 8:21)

Life is made up of different seasons that sometimes require transitional conversations in order to ease the discomfort that change often creates. When grown children leave home, and especially when they get married, they are entering into a new season of life that not only impacts them but their parents as well.

It is during these times that relationships necessarily change and therefore need to be redefined. Having loving conversations with parents regarding boundary changes during these periods can be extremely helpful and meaningful, encouraging growth and solidifying the relationship.

Our roles are changing, and we want to proceed with sensitivity and a tender heart. Pick your battles. Show respect and honor.

If you realize that you have not made the separation from your family of origin to your new family, you may need to communicate your boundaries.

  • Define your new relationship:

“Mom and dad, I love each of you. I am thankful to have you as my parents. I am thankful that I was raised by you. Now that I am married, I am making a new family. We will communicate with you, visit you, and always love you. But there will be some changes in traditions because I am establishing traditions with my new family.”

  • State what is acceptable and what is not:

“It is not acceptable for you to talk with me in that tone of voice.” Or, “It is not acceptable for you to talk with my family if you use unkind words or speak in that tone of voice. If you choose to cross this boundary, the repercussion is that we will leave.”

  • Separate from your family of origin:

“I realize this is the way we always did things growing up. We share great memories, and I want many of those same ways for my family. I am married now, and we are creating some of our own ways of doing things that work for our family.”

In Your Marriage

Marriage is the union of two people … “and the two will become as one flesh” (Mark 10:8). Boundaries are about defining your respective selves.

Marriage can become a fertile ground for boundary issues to sprout and grow if not properly addressed. A healthy marriage consists of two complete people who together create a place of love.

They do not need each other to be complete, but they share a complete love and union between themselves.

  • State what you need:

“I love you and love our time together, but I also need time to be by myself and explore interests of my own.”

  • Establish boundaries about how you will be treated:

“I love you and want our marriage to work, but if you choose to treat me in this way, there will be consequences. If you , I will .”

  • Define how you want to be talked to:

“I will not be talked to in this hateful way, especially in front of the children. If you choose to speak to me disrespectfully, I will ask you to leave our home until you can speak in a kind voice.”

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(Ephesians 5:33)

In Your Friendships

  • Define your relationship:

“I am glad we have so much in common, especially our love of scrapbooking and our faith in Christ.”

  • Establish boundaries:

“It’s great that we can get together once a month to share dinner and scrapbooking ideas at each other’s home. Let’s meet at my house next Thursday.”

  • Reinforce limitations:

“I’m sorry you can’t meet this week, but Thursday evening is the only time I have available.”

  • Maintain boundaries:

“I truly can’t meet another day this week, so let’s get together at our regular time next month.”

“A friend loves at all times.…”

(Proverbs 17:17)

In Your Parenting

  • Establish limits:

“You may use your inside voice when you play in our home and your outside voice when you play in the yard.”

  • Define consequences:

“You have chosen to , and the consequence is .”

  • Train for delayed gratification:

“I know you want this toy now, but you will have to wait until you have saved up enough money from doing chores.”

  • Explain appropriate behavior:

“In our home we use our hands to help and love; we do not hit.”

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord.…”

(Psalm 127:3 NASB)

In Your Workplace

  • Stay within the parameters of your job description:

“I was hired to do this job description. I am being asked to do things that are not a part of this job description. I understand when occasional things come up, but it is becoming the “norm” and not the exception. If I cannot do my job as defined in my job description, I will need to contact the Human Resources Department.”

  • Define your work space:

“This is the office area where I need to work. If you would like to come in, please set up an appointment or knock. It’s important that you not just walk in because I have much work to do and must finish it when I’m here. Thank you for respecting this boundary so we can work together as team players.”

  • Work within the boundaries of your hours:

“First, I want you to know how grateful I am for all that I have learned since I’ve been here and for the opportunity to contribute to (company). I would like to mention an item for your consideration. (State request.) I was hired to work ‘X’ number of hours per week. I understand when there are occasional emergencies or deadlines. I want to be a team player, but four out of the last six weeks I’ve worked overtime. I want to keep the boundaries of my work time and family time. I need you to respect this boundary.”

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation” (Romans 4:4).

Frequently Asked Questions

Too Much Help

Question: “How much help is too much?”

Answer: Consider the following boundary issues:

—  By allowing a needy person to be dependent on you, do you feel more significant?

—  Under the guise of being a “giving person,” are you being a modern-day martyr in order to attract attention?

—  Do you ever think, How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?

—  Examine your motives. Pray that you can discern the driving force behind your need to help.

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).

Rejected by In-Laws

Question: “My parents have rejected my wife ever since we’ve been married. They don’t include her in family functions. I go without her to weddings, birthdays, and graduations. How can I get my parents to accept her?”

Answer: As her husband, you are called to love your wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). A tangible way to express your love for her is through actions that convey you value and cherish her and are willing to “lay your life down” for her. Until now, you have been accepting of your parents’ hurtful choice to exclude your wife from family functions.

For your parents to accept your wife, they need a motivating “reason” to accept her. Presently they have no motivation because no consequences have been attached to their failure to accept her. As long as you go alone to family affairs, you are communicating that excluding her is permissible. This is dishonoring to your wife. As a member of the extended family, it is only right that she be invited to normal family functions.

Therefore you must explain to your parents that in the future, either you and your wife will both come or you will both stay home. And you must be consistent 100% of the time, unless you or your wife literally “can’t make it.”

Consider conveying to your parents the concepts contained in the following statements.…

  • “I love my family very much and always want to be at family occasions.”
  • “Because I’m married, my wife is part of our family and should be included in our family functions.”
  • “Since the two of us are united as one, if you don’t accept my wife, then you don’t accept me.”
  • “When you don’t respect her by ignoring her, you are also showing disrespect to me because she is my choice for a lifelong mate.”
  • “Beginning today, I expect for my wife to be included in our family get-togethers and to be treated with acceptance or else we will both stay home. Ultimately, the choice is yours.”

The Bible presents the following principle in both the Old and New Testaments, in four different books of the Bible—Genesis, Matthew, Mark, and Ephesians.…

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

(Ephesians 5:31)


Question: “My teens have become the targets of a cyberbully. What can I do to protect them from being bombarded with this kind of abuse?”

Answer: With the increase in use of cell phones and e-mails, cyberbullying is a serious issue. If your teen is being bullied online or through mobile or social messaging, it is critical that you take immediate action.…

  • Use parental controls, filtering software, and online tracking programs.
  • Talk with your teen and be sensitive to changes in mood relative to online activity.
  • Look at their communications with them and immediately address abusive messages. Don’t be dismissive or flippant. These verbal attacks are hurtful and harmful, and your teen needs your protection and steadfast support.
  • Communicate all cyberbullying to the appropriate school administrator and authorities.
  • Make copies of all abusive and threatening correspondence and keep in a file as documentation if needed for further action.
  • Delete abusive messages with your teen so that they know you are there for them.
  • Talk often and pray with and for your teen.
  • As you help your teenagers take actions that will protect them, also remind them that their identity is not in what others say, but like Jesus, who was unjustly slandered, they are to entrust themselves to the ultimate Judge who judges justly.…

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ ”

(1 Peter 2:21–22)

Tough Love for Teens

Question: “I had my teenage son arrested and jailed after he was caught drinking with some of his friends. Did I handle this situation correctly?”

Answer: Yes, you did the right thing. Consider these reasons for letting your son spend time in jail:

  • Underage drinking is illegal.
  • When a person is in the wrong, they need to suffer the natural repercussion (pain) of their wrong behavior. The pain needs to outweigh the pleasure of the sin … otherwise people will keep going after the pleasure.
  • As a parent who loves your son, you have the responsibility to discipline your son and correct his behavior. Tough love … often is precisely what teens need.
  • Look at the heart of this insightful Scripture: “ ‘The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?… No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:6–7, 11).

“Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

(James 5:20)

Because the concept of boundaries began with God,

the best relationships have boundaries.

They protect both your heart and your home.


Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked “NKJV™” are taken from the New King James Version®.

Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked “ESV™” are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Biblical Counseling Keys should not be construed as a substitute for one-on-one, Christ-centered counseling when needed.

We acknowledge that mistakes or omissions could occur in our many Scripture references, writings, and citations.

Although the editors have sought to avoid all errors, some may have been overlooked, for which we take full responsibility.

The considerate reader would render us a great service by calling our attention to any such error.

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2013.9.27/1 (NIV)


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[1] Hunt, J. (2013). Biblical Counseling Keys on Boundaries (pp. 1–58). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.