Welcome to our new series! Where we asked you to submit your questions and topics that you would like us to answer or address. One of the most repeated themes in the questions that have been asked, is to do with boundaries.

  • How do I set boundaries in my marriage?

  • At what point does helping someone out, stop helping them and hurt them… or me?

  • Why can’t I ever say “no” without feeling guilty all the time?

  • Why do I have this desire to please others all the time but yet I never seem to be able to?

  • Why do people always take advantage of me?

  • Why does my life feel so out of control, no matter what I try to do to control things?

  • Why can’t I get my kids to listen to me?

I wanted to address this topic as we go into Thanksgiving week, and many of us will be gathering together with people who in the past have not respected our boundaries. The majority of conflict between people is based on the fact that each of them has a differing opinion about where boundary lines should be drawn.

Whether we realize it or not we are influenced by boundaries every minute of every day.  Our skin is a boundary that keeps our insides from spilling out, we park within boundaries (or we should!) whenever we go shopping. Most of us also try and stay within the boundaries of the law each day.  We automatically stop when we see ahead that the light has turned yellow or red, we stay on our side of the road, and the middle line provides a boundary for us that we don’t cross.  We have fences around our property that says ‘your property ends here and it’s also where my property begins.’ We all have an invisible line drawn around us that is the boundary of our personal space. We have all had the experience of feeling uncomfortable when the boundary is invaded without our permission.  

We are familiar with these sorts of boundaries and they provide a reliable consistent way in which we can relate to our physical world without experiencing harm.  

Think of all those physical boundaries that we observe each day.

Imagine what would happen if we ignored these boundaries or didn’t realize that they existed

It would be utter chaos, our lives would become confused, and the things that we are used to providing security for us would no longer be reliable.  We would feel extremely vulnerable, it would be like being involved in a game where you had no idea of the rules, you would be too scared to step outside for fear of serious injury!

The boundaries of our physical lives have been clearly laid out for us, we know and have been taught where they lie, but many of us are not so clear about emotional boundaries, where they should be placed in order to conduct our emotional lives without serious injury to others or ourselves.

This is often because the home we grew up in lacked clear and healthy emotional boundaries.  

Maybe abuse violated your boundaries, or maybe you were never given permission to be yourself, always having to fit into someone else’s idea of who you should be and how you should act.  

Whatever the case was for you, you did not have the correct information to establish a clear picture of what is ‘normal.’ As a result, what ever you grew up with becomes ‘normal’ for you.  

The problem is that every one grew up in a different house with a different idea of what was ‘normal’ behavior!

What is an emotional or personal boundary?


It defines who I am, who I am not, and what I am responsible for.

We need boundaries in our relationships, healthy ones, just as much as we need them in our physical lives.  They keep us ‘together’ just as effectively as our skin does!

When we recognize that our boundaries have been violated or ignored we are then faced with several options

  1. To build a fortress of protection around ourselves so that we will never be hurt again

  2. Go compliant and allow people free run through our lives, telling ourselves that’s the way to get people to like us.

  3. To build boundaries into our lives that control the way people have access to our treasure.

The problem is that the first two options come almost instinctively to us. Depending upon our circumstances or personality we either build huge walls fortifying ourselves form the world never letting anyone close to us, keeping out the bad but also unfortunately keeping out the good, or we allow the bad to remain so that we can occasionally experience the good.

We need to realise that boundaries are not fortresses they are walls with gates that let the good in and keep the bad out.

These walls protect the three things that define who we really are: our feelings, our beliefs and our behavior. They are boundaries that will give others clear signals about the rules of relationship with us.  

We can use words, geographical and emotional distance and time, to put boundaries in place. God has made each of us with the need for physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries, and when these boundaries are functioning we are healthy, and happy!  


Symptoms of boundary trouble

We know we are sick when symptoms appear, When we have a problem with boundaries in our lives there are also symptoms, which begin to appear.

  1. Depression. This comes when we realise that our lives are out of control, we feel overwhelmed by life and at a loss!  We feel trapped and can’t see any way out, no matter how hard we have tried things just don’t seem to improve.

  2. Resentment. Resentment comes when we can’t handle the external control that others have over us and we grieve the loss of freedom.

  3. Rage or anger problems.The result of someone constantly being pushed against their objections, this builds up over a long period of time until only a little thing pushes them over the edge.

  4. Obsessive Compulsive problems. Where people develop ritualistic routines to gain control over something in their lives

  5. Loss of freedom in relationships, people are either directly controlled by others (a person who can’t say “no” is usually attracted to a person who can’t hear “no.”) or are indirectly controlled through guilt, fear and manipulation.  They always feel like they are treading on eggshells in the relationship.

  6. The inability to complete tasks or achieve goals. If we don’t have boundaries we are not in control of our ship, we don’t know where we are going or what we are doing.

  7. Extreme disorganization. People who find it hard to set boundaries will allow everyone else’s priorities to intrude into their lives. They will constantly be interrupted by the needs and wants of others and will be unable to focus on what they should be achieving.

  8. Decreased energy levels. As a result of doing things because I’m compelled to, rather than being called to.


Myths about boundaries


1. If I set boundaries I’m being selfish, you are actually being a good steward of the treasure that God has given you.

2. If I set boundaries I am going to lose the love of others.  If the people you are in relationship with can’t hear you say ‘no’ to them every so often then the thing that you are describing as love is not love it is a manipulated counterfeit.

3. If I set boundaries I will hurt others.  Does a pavement hurt a drunk?  Boundaries only hurt if you keep running into them and ignoring their existence.  The truth is that by not setting boundaries with people, we are allowing them to develop and continue behavior that is offensive and this will be the thing that hurts them in the end.

Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses”

Pain teaches us things, it will teach others things too. Just because they feel bad, does not mean that they are being harmed.

  1. Boundaries mean I’m angry.  Boundaries are proactive not reactive. When you set boundaries in the right place you actually get less angry because you don’t ever get to the point where you “have had enough and are ready to explode”

  2. When others set boundaries it injures me. That’s because you are looking to others to meet your needs, and making them responsible for the things that are your responsibility.

  3. But they have done so much for me. When someone has done so much for us the right response is gratitude not guilt.  Love is always a free gift and when you respond to love in guilty compliance you are not being loving.

  4. Once I set a boundary it can’t change. You are in control of your boundaries.  Circumstances change and so can boundaries, mature people can always negotiate.  Eg; the kids

Boundaries are walls with doors or perhaps a fence with a gate is a better description.  They are not meant to function as a fortress.  How do you know if you are building a fortress?  Others will not be able to see inside!  

  • if you use the walls to hide who you are on the inside,

  • If defense is your first reaction when people approach.

  • if you struggle to have honesty in your relationships with others

Then you are at risk of being a fortress builder.

The Apostle Paul was having this problem with the Corinthian church.

2 Corinthians 7:11 Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you. Our hearts are open to you. 12 If there is a problem between us, it is not because of a lack of love on our part, but because you have withheld your love from us. 13 I am talking now as I would to my own children. Open your hearts to us!”

You can’t exist in healthy relationships behind fortress walls, you need honesty and open hearts.

Setting boundaries is not a fight for your rights but a freedom to choose.


Now there are physical principles or laws that God has set in place in this world that no matter how hard we try to change or alter them we can’t.  The law of gravity, the seasons, the law of seedtime and harvest.

It shouldn’t surprise us then that there are also principles and laws that govern the way we function on an emotional level.  

It is these laws that we need to use as guidelines, or as guides to help us set healthy boundaries in our relationships.

If you have a boundary problem it will be one of these laws that is being fought against has been ignored or broken.



Galatians 6:11 “Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!”     

This principle says that if we sow irresponsible behavior, then we will reap pain and the consequences of that behavior.  

If someone else sows irresponsible behavior then they too should reap what they have sown.  

This law was set up to stop us from destroying ourselves, it was set up so that we would learn and grow from our mistakes to become responsible people.  

Many people with boundary problems interfere with this law that God has set in place.  Here’s how they do it.  Somebody they are in relationship with, sows irresponsible behavior but instead of letting that person reap the consequences of that behavior they step in and try to ‘help’ the person.  

What happens instead of helping them, they end up reaping the consequences in their own lives in an attempt to shield that person from the pain and consequences of their actions.

A couple came to see a counsellor about their son.  They were deeply disturbed at the many problems he had and the mess that his life was in.  At the first appointment the counsellor asked them to outline the problems that their son had.  “Well he’s irresponsible with his money, is constantly in debt and in trouble with the law for not paying fines etc.  He has a significant drinking habit that also has landed him in trouble with the police.  He is supposed to be in university but has never attended a lecture all term.  So why isn’t he here today the counsellor asked.  “Oh, he won’t come he doesn’t think he has a problem he’s gone skiing!” Well I think he is right the counsellor said.  “What do you mean?” the parents asked angrily of course he has a problem, in fact he has at least three or four of them!  “No” the counsellor replied “I bet if I asked him right now he hasn’t got a problem in the world, he’s out skiing enjoying himself, it’s you who have his problem!” “What we need to do here is to give him his problem back so that he can feel the pain and want to fix it”

Some people think that they are doing a ‘noble’ thing in “protecting” those they love from reaping the consequences of their actions, constantly bailing them out and bearing the brunt of someone else’s negative behavior.  God says if you sow then you will surely reap.  When we are doing this we are playing God, we are violating the boundaries that He has set when we step in and try and fix the problem.

If the person sowing the behavior isn’t made accountable for it then someone else will end up reaping the consequences and this is not how God ever intended for this law to work.




This brings us to the next law of which says that we are responsible TO others not FOR others. Those parents are responsible to their son to be the best parents they can be for him, but they must make him responsible FOR his own choices and actions.

We are responsible TO others and FOR ourselves.

How many of you can think of a person that in the past you have in some way carried (maybe emotionally or financially) for an amount of time?  Now just think about that person for a moment.  How many of you can see that as a result of you carrying that person they are significantly more responsible and appreciative?

When we take the responsibility FOR someone we are in the business of creating emotional infants. You see the Bible clearly defines for us the role in helping others, or carrying things for others in.

Galatians 6:4-5 “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”

This word ‘load’ means ‘responsibility’ in other words there are some things that are our responsibility to carry that should never be carried by another person.

Included in the things that we are responsible to carry are things such as

  • Our attitudes

  • Our behavior

  • Our feelings

  • The words we speak

Many of us try to offload these things onto others blaming anyone and everyone for our attitude, our behavior, the way we dealt with our feelings but we can’t blame others for ANY OF THESE THINGS, we are responsible for them entirely.

Yet in verse 2 of the same chapter it says that we are to carry one another’s burdens.  

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”        

The word ‘burdens’ here although translated the same into English, is an entirely different word from the word ‘load’.  The word ‘burdens’ is not talking about responsibility at all but it is referring to those things that are too heavy for us to bear.  Things such as grief, loss, the pain of divorce, perhaps the picture here is of a wounded soldier, being assisted and supported by his fellow soldiers.

Our job is to help others with what they cannot do for themselves or carry themselves NOT what they will not carry or do for themselves or find it too hard to do for themselves.

Some people feel that they will hurt others or cause them pain by setting boundaries.  This may be so but we also need to understand the difference between hurt and harm.  Things that hurt don’t necessarily harm

The good news is that God respects our boundaries and in fact has created us with a free will to choose to let him in or leave him out of our lives.

He wants to have a relationship with you He wants to feed a heart that is hungry for relationship, hungry for a love that will not fail, a love that won’t take advantage of you, and a love that is unselfish.  He is asking for permission to be let in!

God says this to you today:

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.



Coming up at Influencers...