Chapter 2: What Does Boundary Look Like?
“We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him.”
1 John 4:16 AMP
I am really enjoying this book by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud about boundaries as it puts quality biblical principles and God-like characteristics at the crux or conclusion of each element for wholistic relationships with boundaries. For example, God says that He is love and that He is not darkness.
I selected the following 10 important lessons for boundaries and in turn true spiritual happiness (internal peace):
1. God and Boundaries
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth;”
1 John 1:6 AMP
This book discusses specific characteristics that God exudes and aligns with the conception of boundaries. God speaks to His creation in the Word (the Bible) and explains what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes. God differentiates Himself from His creation. Those who do not have fellowship with Him will walk in the darkness and will not have God-like characteristics.
“Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.”” Genesis 1:26 AMP
In addition, it further explains that God has boundaries within the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one, but at the same time they are “distinct persons with their own boundaries”. Each one has His own “personhood and responsibilities”, as well as a connection with and love for one another.
We are made in God’s image, but He also gave us free will so we all have personal responsibility within our limits. God always intended that we would have complete authority over the earth and be responsible stewards over the life He has given us. In order to achieve that, we need to develop healthy God-like boundaries. This starts by recognising that we also need to have internal boundaries between our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. Three of these personalities seem intangible, but they actually have their own physical presence because they each have a need that has to be met. We need God to meet each need, especially the spiritual.
“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’ [a firm yes or no]; anything more than that comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:37 AMP
True happiness comes from learning how to say “No!”. It lets others know that you are independent from them and that you are in control of you. Be consistently clear about your no. The word “no” is an important component to setting limits on abuse, being used or manipulated.
“But above all, my fellow believers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be [a truthful] yes, and your no be [a truthful] no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”
James 5:12 AMP
The word no is commonly perceived to be confrontational, but the Holy Spirit will guide you on when and how to confront people, especially the people who we know do not easily accept rejection or disappointment. However, it is not good practice to swear to do something that we truly do not want to do. We must take control of our yes and no so that our words are reliable. If our words are not reliable we will be judged as dishonest and untrustworthy.
“Am I now trying to win the favor and approval of men, or of God? Or am I seeking to please someone? If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10 AMP
The Bible also warns us against us trying to win the approval and favour of others. People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that if they say no to bsomeone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly build resentment.
Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something you should not manage or take on; other times the pressure comes from your own false sense of what you think you should do. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your responsibility instead of enjoying the fruit of self-control.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked [He will not allow Himself to be ridiculed, nor treated with contempt nor allow His precepts to be scornfully set aside]; for whatever a man sows, this and this only is what he will reap.”
Galatians 6:7 AMP
When we know the truth about God, we know that He puts limits on us and illustrates to us where He has built boundaries for our own protection. Realizing the truth about God’s unchangeable character helps us to define who we should be in relation to Him. When a person realises that they reap what they sow they will either define themselves in relation to the positive aspect of that reality or continue to get abused if they try to go against it and negatively reap the bad choices they keep making to please others.
“This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me and given me life.”
Psalms 119:50 AMP
Why are some of us still sacrificing self for mankind when Jesus has already done that? To be in touch with God’s truth is to be in touch with this reality, and to truly believe in our hearts that this reality saves us so we can reap a better and healthy lifestyle.
4. Geographical Distance
“A prudent and far-sighted person sees the evil [of sin] and hides himself [from it], But the naive continue on and are punished [by suffering the consequences of sin].”
Proverbs 22:3 AMP
God provides that the prudent see danger and take refuge by being physically removed from a situation to help maintain boundaries. This method helps us to replenish physically, emotionally, and spiritually after giving to much past our limit, as Jesus often did. The Bible urges us to separate from those who continue to hurt us and to create a safe place for ourselves.
At the same time we must be balanced and not be fully removed from situations as we will also feel left out and experience a loss of fellowship which can lead to negative changes in our behaviour; e.g. depression.
“For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders (non-believers)? Do you not judge those who are within the church [to protect the church as the situation requires]? God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside [the faith]. REMOVE THE WICKED ONE FROM AMONG YOU [expel him from your church].”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 AMP
If the person who is causing you harm goes to your church the first step is to ask a fellow church member to join you to speak with them to negotiate peace and avoid more division in the church. However, if this does not fix the problem try to create space and distance between you and the individual and let the church leaders decide what to do.
5. Emotional Distance
““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is recognised and judged by its fruit.”
Matthew 12:33 AMP
Emotional distance is a temporary boundary which gives your heart space to be safe, but this is never a permanent way to live. Sometimes we are are too quick to trust people in the name of forgiveness. We must forgive, but we should not forget that the other person is not producing good fruit that is worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8). When we forgive we must guard our hearts until sustained change is obvious in the other person. We must cautiously watch and examine for change not just over a one week period but over a few months.
6. Other People
As a believer it is important to have fellowship with a church rooted in God’s word to give strength to ward off the blows against unbelievers. We also need to keep fellowship because the input and teaching of others can assist us with setting boundaries.
Many people have been falsely taught that boundaries are unbiblical, mean, or selfish. However, that is false. We need good biblical support systems to help us to stand against the devils lies and the guilt we feel inside that keep us in bondage and away from boundaries that incite positive change.
“For even while we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10 AMP
It is clearly written that anyone who is not willing to work will not eat. Hunger is a consequence of laziness. A person who is irresponsible has consequences for their behaviour. God does not enable or entertain irresponsible behaviour. So why do we enable this type of behaviour?
There is severe discipline for him who turns from the way [of righteousness]; And he who hates correction will die.” Proverbs 15:10 AMP
The way we behave has consequences and if we refuse to have God-like boundaries we will continue to suffer. Proverbs repeatedly tells us that setting limits on our attitudes and beliefs by accepting instructions from the wise will save our lives from pain and suffering.
8. Emotions and Attitudes
“But a Samaritan (foreigner), who was traveling, came upon him; and when he saw him, he was deeply moved with compassion [for him], and went to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them [to sooth and disinfect the injuries]; and he put him on his own pack-animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” Luke 10:33-34 AMP
Feelings should never be ignored and sometimes we must place them in charge of our choices as we do things more willingly without compulsion. The Bible encourages us to own our feelings and be sober-minded so that we are alert and have proper discernment. Our emotions can motivate us to do a lot of good for others, like the Good Samaritan. Many times Jesus had compassion for people to whom he ministered to.
“He replied to them, “Why also do you violate the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition [handed down by the elders]?” Matthew 15:3 AMP
The harsh reality is that attitudes are learnt very early in life; regardless if they are good or bad. Our attitudes dictate a huge function of who we are and how we operate. People who have never reflected about themselves have never questioned their attitudes and beliefs.
“Poverty and shame will come to him who refuses instruction and discipline, But he who accepts and learns from reproof or censure is honored.”
Proverbs 13:18 AMP
Sometimes lack of self reflection on our attitudes and belief can allow us to fall prey to poverty and shame which trap us and make us feel stuck which in turn make us feel confused and later depressed.
“but I did not want to do anything without first getting your consent, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.”
Philemon 1:14 AMP
Paul sent back property saying that he did want any favours that he wanted to avoid it seeming forced instead of voluntarily”. Joshua effectively said the same thing to the people when he said, “If it is unacceptable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 AMP
Paul says, if we choose to live by the Spirit, we will live a fruitful life, but if we choose to follow our sinful nature, we will only know suffering and death.
“for if you are living according to the [impulses of the] flesh, you are going to die. But if [you are living] by the [power of the Holy] Spirit you are habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body, you will [really] live forever.”
Romans 8:13 AMP
Making decisions based on the approval of others or on guilt and manipulation breeds resentment, a product of our sinful nature when we give others control over us.
““If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens and pays attention to you, you have won back your brother.”
Matthew 18:15 AMP
In reality, we cannot set limit on others. We can only set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly because we can’t change them or make them behave right. God is a great role model as He does not set limits on people to make them behave. On the contrary we all have free will and God limits his exposure to evil and unrepentant people, as should we.
We are not being unloving if we separate ourselves to protects from others abusing us. It’s important to take a stand against things that destroy love.