How to Set Biblical Boundaries as a Christian

🌺 Published by Gina

Tired of constantly clashing with friends/family who have no boundaries? Here’s how to set boundaries as a Christian.

 How to Set Biblical Boundaries as a ChristianPinGuest post by Gina of GinaMPoirier.com

Do you have a family member, friend, co-worker, church leader or even a spouse who is stressing you out with their lack of boundaries?

They might be well-intentioned, but when it comes down to it, their words and/or actions are hurting you.

 

As a hypothetical example, let’s say your mother-in-law has impossibly high expectations whenever you come over. You inevitably hurt her feelings almost every time you visit.

She vents to your husband, who feels stuck in the middle—and then you feel hurt that he won’t stand up for you. It’s not fair to you because she expects you to read her mind!

 

Related: How to Deal with Toxic Family Members Biblically

 

Is there a way to protect yourself from hurt, without completely breaking off the relationship?

It’s a tricky balance when you want to be humble, loving and forgiving Proverbs 31 woman, without being a doormat.

There is a way, and it’s called setting Boundaries.

 

Boundaries can be uncomfortable. Other people may not like them. But if we’re to follow the Bible’s example, they’re the most loving thing we can do.

 

What Are Christian Boundaries?

 

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.

—Drs. Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries

 

Christian boundaries are loving limits you set in your relationships.

They help you determine which things are your responsibility, and which things are the other person’s responsibility.

As outlined in the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, God sets the example of what boundaries look like in his relationships with humanity. Starting in Genesis 1 and continuing throughout Scripture, he instructed them what to do and what not to do.

He gave them choices, and there were consequences for those choices, good or bad. Every person would then take ownership of their decisions.

Regardless of people’s choices, God has never changed in his love and his goodness. But he is very clear about his expectations.

Likewise, as godly women, we too can love other people by setting boundaries in our relationships.

 

 

Speaking of setting boundaries… The BEST resource I’ve found for figuring out how to set good, fair, Christian boundaries is “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

In this very popular New York Times bestseller, Drs. Cloud and Townsend offer a TON of great Biblical insight on what behaviors are appropriate and not, how to set boundaries, and how to stick up for yourself without being a jerk OR a pushover in the process.

If you ever wonder, “How do I set limits and still be a loving person?” “Where should those limits be?” or “How can I learn to say no without feeling so guilty,” this book will absolutely help.

I’ve recommended it to quite a few people now, and I know you’ll really enjoy it and benefit from it too. Definitely worth checking out!

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking through one of my links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps cover the many costs of running this site and allows me to help provide for my growing family. Thank you!

 

 

How to Set Christian Boundaries in 4 Steps

 

When we practice boundaries, we take ownership of four things:

  • Our thoughts
  • Our feelings
  • Our bodies
  • Our decisions

Likewise, we let other people take ownership of their thoughts, feelings, bodies and decisions, rather than taking responsibility for what really isn’t ours.

You can set up healthy Christian Boundaries in 4 basic steps.

 

1. Take a Brutally Honest, Prayerful Assessment

 

When dealing with a toxic relationship, the first thing you’ll want to do is pray about it. Be honest and tell God about your feelings (I recommend out loud or on paper). Ask for wisdom, as in James 1:5.

Here are some questions you could pray through to help you get gut-level honest.

  • How are you feeling about the situation and why?
  • What do you wish it could be different?
  • Is the other person sinning against you? How?

You could also seek counsel about the situation, but be careful that you’re not gossiping or trying to turn people against the offender. Be discreet and seek to get input, not just vent your frustration.

 

Related: How to Stop Gossiping Once and For All

 

2. Define Your Boundaries

 

Once you’ve gotten honest about the situation, it’s time to take ownership of what’s yours—and let go of what’s not. In this way you’ll define your boundaries. Remember, you’re responsible for your thoughts, feelings, body and decisions, no one else’s.

Continue to do this in prayer and with a trusted advisor, if possible.

 

Your hypothetical mother-in-law says you make her feel unappreciated and unloved. You know that you don’t own her feelings; she does. But she’s not following the same rules you are.

If this is a pattern, you could define boundaries in this way:

“When my mother-in-law starts blaming me for her feelings, I will apologize for anything I did that was sinful or disrespectful, but nothing more. I’ll tell her I’m trying my best and that I hope she forgives me. But beyond that, the conversation will be over.”

You might also have to explain your limits to others who are involved. In this scenario, you could say to your husband that you are not responsible for his mother’s feelings and neither is he. He might not get on board, but if you have good boundaries, that’s on him!

 

Related: When Your Husband Makes Decisions You Don’t Agree With

 

If you’re not sure what limits you should set, consider the following questions:

  • Is someone blaming me for something that is their responsibility?
  • What is reasonable for someone to ask of me, and what is not?
  • What are my expectations from this person? Are those reasonable?
  • What do I need to communicate so that my limits are understood?

 

3. Establish Consequences

 

Once you have defined your limits, you will also want to define consequences for when those limits are broken. If the other person continues to violate your boundaries, what then?

After all, it won’t do you any good to read all your favorite Christian websites, listen to tons of Christian podcasts and get great tons of awesome relationship advice if you don’t put what you’ve learned into practice in real life.

 

So, how do you do this, practically speaking?

This might mean removing yourself from an emotionally harmful situation. It can be a tricky line to walk, but I like to consider Jesus’ example. He said to turn the other cheek, but he also stood up to those who opposed him and walked away when he wanted to.

Consequences should be chosen prayerfully—and preferably ahead of time, so that you’re not making a decision in the heat of the moment.

 

Let’s say your mother-in-law always gets in a huff whenever you go to her house because you don’t put her dishes away correctly. If she continues to harass you, you have the power to decide that you won’t be going to her house if she treats you that way. The family can meet elsewhere.

 

This is the step that can be painful and may also require courage. But it’s also the most powerful when done in a calm and respectful way.

And don’t forget—in order for consequences to work, you actually have to follow through with them! Once you’ve made a decision, stick to it.

 

Related: How to Respond to an Adult Child Living in Sin

 

4. Reassess

 

A wise friend once told me that boundaries are like fences, not brick walls.

While it’s important to stick to the boundaries you’ve decided upon, you might not need to stick with them forever, and there may be exceptions.

Hopefully, once other people see that you’re serious, they might start changing their behavior.

 

For the sake of argument, imagine you go a year without incident with your hypothetical mother-in-law. At that point, you might consider adjusting your boundaries. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, maybe you can be a little more flexible.

 

Figuring out boundaries as a Christian is hard, and you’re never really done with this process. As long as you have conflict with other people, you are dealing with boundaries.

 

I’d love to hear from you: Is there a situation you need to set boundaries in as a Christian? How might these steps help?

 

Guest post by Gina of GinaMPoirier.com.

 

PinGina is a happily married mom of three, stress management coach and writer who helps overwhelmed, exhausted moms find peace and purpose in the everyday. Check out free resources for Christian moms at ginampoirier.com.

Gina

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Thank you. This was Very helpful. I love your wisdom on this topic. I currently have boundary issues with my Biological Mother and have been praying and asking God how to handle her Mental Illness and lac lack of boundaries for herself and myself and my children. God is good, and I am grateful for this article. God Bless You.

  2. Honestly, this is all I need to read right now!
    Thank you for sharing this insights. I find it very liberating.
    Most of the time, I struggle to set boundaries that at the end of the day, I’m the one who is affected emotionally and feeling left out. I should learn to say “ NO” and stop catering some family members. Seriously.

  3. I struggle with setting boundaries around a couple of women friends. One is constantly asking for in-the-moment favors (“Hey, could you bring me my jacket?” or, “Hey, my Starbucks order wasn’t ready when I got there and I had to leave. Will you go pick it up for me?”) and the other will boom out, “WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW?” or she will grab the best part of whatever is on the table for 3-4 people to share. I realize these are more reflective of poor upbringing than anything else – bossiness, demanding, grabby – but I still manage to find myself so flattened by their poor manners that I don’t know what to say in the moment. I have changed my ringtone and text tone for both of them so that I don’t automatically answer/read their message without putting up an internal boundary. I was raised to be polite and not to stick my nose in other’s business, also to be independent and to not make demands of things I can do for myself. Any help for these ‘in the moment’ situations would be good to hear! Thanks –

    1. I can totally relate to being around these types of people! A lot of this really is upbringing. I hope you are able to find peace in these situations.

    2. Eileen, I know it can be tough to set boundaries “in the moment.” The best advice I can offer is that you’ll get better at it with practice. Maybe think through some of the most common scenarios with these friends and come up with a plan with how to respond so you won’t be caught off guard. And of course, pray that you’ll have wisdom when those moments arise.

      If you’re seeing patterns, you might also want to sit down with these friends individually and have a humble heart-to-heart. It sounds like their behavior is damaging the relationship, and if you want to remain close with them, they should know their weaknesses. If they can’t handle an honest conversation, they probably aren’t great friends.

      Hope this helps!

  4. I have a friend who corrects my speech sometimes and interrupts me when talking. After leaving her presence I feel aweful. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you ?

    1. Brenda, I echo Brittany’s question. I think if you follow the steps outlined above, you should be able to identify some reasonable expectations you have for her as a friend and communicate them.

  5. Hi, great. article from a fellow Gina, haha (my name is Gina too)- recently my second cousin and aunt told me I was in a cult for being Christian, I don’t want to be around them, they’re just really aggressive people regardless of the subject matter (not that I really ever bring up religion around them) My parents invited them to my family birthday dinner, I did not, and now they’re coming but I don’t want them there as harsh as that sounds. I see them often, but lately haven’t been going to family events they are at. I don’t know how to set boundaries or if I should or just let it go. I struggle with this all of the time with people , how do I not be around someone/ set boundaries but love every one…Any help or advice would be appreciated, thanks!

    1. Hi Gina, sorry I didn’t see this until now…I don’t know any clear advice except to just pray! I think we try to be as gracious as possible, but there are times when it’s very clear someone has crossed a line. Pray for that clarity and hopefully the next steps will be clear.

  6. Gina:

    Coming across your blog today was a huge blessing for me. I’m currently dealing with being a newly wed and my Christian husband uses biblical manipulation and verbal abuse to get his way. It’s been very hard for me to set boundaries when he uses biblical truth against me. I’m trying to understand what a submissive, obedient wife really looks like. I will purchase this boundaries book. Thank you and God Bless!

    1. Thank you! That’s so tough, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that in your marriage. But I’m glad you’re recognizing that it’s not okay to be treated that way. Praying you get the help you need.

  7. I like how you have quoted from an adult Biblical Leader Personality Types Guide Book on how to stock up for yourself and set boundaries. My brother and I yearn to guide our community to read the bible more. We would appreciate it if an educational expert helps us out on this.

  8. If family members have turned away from God and participate in things that don’t fit in with my beliefs, is it ok to set a boundary there and to ask that those things not be done or talked about in my presence? Can that still be loving?

    1. Hi Beth, I think it depends. We can’t expect people to act like Christians when they haven’t agreed to be Christians. If they are talking about something that is offensive and hurtful, that’s one thing and I would think it’s okay to tell them that you’d rather not participate in that conversation. But if they’re just sharing about their lifestyle, it’s a little less clear. I would pray for wisdom and try to imitate what Jesus would do to be loving, but also firm in your own convictions.

    2. Absolutely. They have the right to discuss whatever they want, but you have a right to not listen to it. You can simply tell them kindly but firmly, “You’re welcome to talk like this if you want, but I won’t listen to it. I will leave.” You can’t force THEM to do anything, but you can absolutely decide on your actions for yourself.

  9. I have ptsd from being around people all of my life who have zero boundaries.I have been raped,kidnapped beaten to the point of permanent brain damage and have been put into poverty because of so called Christians family members and being around drug addicts drugs and rough people.I go to church where everyone teaches to just forgive and forget.I have to know where I am going before I go,who is going to be there,and what they will be doing in case I cannot get away fast enough.jesus had a lot of boundaries.My daughter is now an agnostic,tatooed up and plays in a band in dark bars where they blaspheme God everyday.I goto a councelor,say no a lot,but no one listens and doesn’t care.I don’t give advice and am tired of being the worlds doormat.If I get screamed at just once I leave.Every church I have been to teaches that we cant have money,look nice or have anything.I get screamed at everywhere I go.No support groups,no aa,and no family gets near me,so I am alone most of the time.I just say I don’t know a lot.Everyone blames someone or their childhood.We reap what we sow and all I get is that we live in a fallen world.Everyone tells me their problems in church and out and when I say I don’t want to hear their problems they call me names or tell me to just forgive.I cannot save,change or hold anyone yp.I hate talking about religion politics or money.Everyone is into rank,titles and money.An alcoholic or addict has to be taught they are not allowed in my yard,my home,or my life.And they cannot be trusted.Yes we are all sinners,but there are certain sins that will send you to hell.I do not care about the famous,soap operas or very many television shows nor do I travel.I have seen the worst people can do.I live in fear now and am hypervigilant have nightmares and have been accused of having a hardened heart.One addict is one too many.My husband takes care of me.if I have nice clothes or nice things I get percecuted.Some of these so called born again people have ruined my life.I cannot fly by the seat of my pants anymore because these types of people exhaust me.I even tried to commit suicide to escape them.I get called judgemental.I don’t know where to go for help.I question everyones motives and trust no one.Everyone blames their past and their childhoods.We live in a secular gimme gimme world.Suffering is an option.I have gotten to the point where I have given up on church altogether,but my husband makes me go.I cannot be around a bunch of men because they have always abused me.My husband has to go with me everywhere I go.If I am left alone or go anywhere I go here comes a stranger.Everyone I know twists the word of God to use it to abuse others.No is a complete sentence.No one ever listens to me.I have given up on my family churches and the human race.Everyone blames God and He has nothing to do with what the abuser does.They choose to do it and seem to get away with it,or they move onto another victim.I am angry and have been to the mental hospital six times.I don’t do prisoners addicts thugs or alcoholics.I isolate from society.No one understands what a boundary is.I live in fear and get distracted when people come at me too fast.I have to keep a roof over my head.My trust has to be earned now over a period of time.All I hear from anyone is just get over it.I cant be anyones messiah,I am permanently disabled.This culture offends me with their filth.

    1. Hi Valerie, wow it sounds like you have been through a lot and I hear your pain. I’m so sorry. I pray you can find some genuine friends who can love you and support you.

    2. Wow! I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all of that. I’m glad you are seeing a counselor. Are they helping at all? Not all counselors are created equal AT ALL, so if the one you’re seeing isn’t 1. a Christian and 2. very well qualified, you may want to consider seeing someone else who can be more helpful for you. Also, one thing that REALLY helped me when I was trapped in a dark place years ago was going through “The Steps to Freedom in Christ” by Neil Anderson. Cannot recommend it highly enough for you, but definitely find a trusted, strong Christian to go through it with you.

  10. This was a really helpful blog post thank you. God has been and is teaching me a lot about boundaries at the moment. I am also being led out of ‘institutionalised church’ for various reasons, mostly theological and the Lord is teaching and leading to what ‘real’ church is, rather than ‘houses of men’ as someone calls them. One past situation with boundaries though, involved a Narcissitic woman who I naively thought God had brought into my life because I had started to go to the local church ( despite being a Christian for many years) I mistakenly thought I had made a new Christian friend, but after the initial ‘love bombing stage’ as coined by some, it became clear that things were one sided i.e. she expected us to flock around her but although saying she would attend some things organised by us, then went back on her word and never did, She then went to the extreme with a self-created elders’ meeting ( although they weren’t apparently according to other church ‘leadership’,) and created quite a drama over things she had done, projecting onto me, whilst acting the ‘wounded princess’. I sought advice from a mutual friend, who had distanced herself from this women because she found her selfish and had suffered things like being taken off the tea and coffee rota when she disagreed with her etc and she told me she wouldn’t attend such a meeting. After careful consideration, I decided to go anyway, partly because I trusted the ‘elders’ she had appointed and in the end everything did seem fair and not as I had expected – ie they didnt neccesarily side with her but remained neutral and just wanting to mediating. This is credit to them as mature Christians who must be in their 60-70s and whom had sat beside me regularly at prayer meetings every week, but also I imagine to the amount of prayer and help I asked from God beforehand with the whole situation which caused considerable stress. However I did find in the meeting that the male elder when I explained I had felt the need to set some healthy boundaries, half ridiculed or ‘warned’ against the idea as it didn’t seem ‘Christian’ to him but more of a ‘psycological thing’ and that ” You wouldn’t really tell someone you are setting boundaries. I understand by half what he means as , yes, you woudnt talk about them maybe just set them and then stick to them, but I had felt the need to explain. I found I was constantly seeking to apologise and make sure everything was okay with her whilst she never acknowledged the hard season I was going through )beloved dog dying) or equally anything she had said and done to me. There was very much a ‘club mentality’with the church and if you were married or soon to be, as she was, to a newish convert by the church no less – you were ‘in’ but, if you were single, you were perhaps tolerated but viewed as a bit of a freak? She would orchestrate it just very subtley so I always felt like the one in the wrong and she came out the victim. I witnessed her smile like a kind of side smile looking up at me whilst in church after we became estranged and it may have been embrassment ie when you know you should acknowledge someone but don’t but it also seemed very creepy and manipulative to me – again this could indeed be my own projection! iAs I had sent a text to be biblically okay/ sought forgiveness for any offense I had unknownlingly caused, witnessed by a friend and not recieved a response, I then said, okay now I need to set boundaries and actually had to go non contact for my own sanity and say that I had done everything on my own part as Jesus commanded me but couldn’t be in her ‘mean girl’ games anymore ( such a shame this amongst Christian sisters?!) well a bit of backing and forthing via Facebook text and she making it out like she hadn’t ignored anything or hadn’t been inforgiving( although she clearly held grudges and did not accept any apology) – she ha stormed out of a coffee shop with a face of hatred and thunder, with her Gran and daughter because another lady from the church had taken me for coffee there?! Her mum, who I also knew from occasional teaching days and bible studies, who I was dreading seeing at a teaching day admist all of this actually came up, gave me a hug and asked how I was! Not at also with daughter! Anyway, the thing that stuck with me about this, concering this blog was how ‘boundaries’ are sometimes seen as ‘not Christian’ by relgious people or ‘church goers’ but that there are many clear examples of Jesus having and setting boundaries in the bible to maintain a good relationship with God and others. For anyone else who may happen to read this and maybe has received misguided ( albeit well meaning ) ‘guidance’ concerning boundaries not being biblical please just go and look in the bible for yourself and see how they ARE indeed bblical. Many thanks again for your blog.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}