When to Use Boundaries

Recently I wrote a post, Blinded by Boundaries, that indicated there are times when boundaries are not necessary—when grace is the better choice. But I feel as if I need to back up a bit and explain what boundaries are, and how you can and should use them.
I’ve hesitated to delve into a post on boundaries because it’s such a complex subject and often varies depending on the situation. But I feel that the time has come to be clear about the ins and outs of boundaries.
There are two types of boundaries …
Defining Boundaries are all about who you are, your beliefs and your value system.
Protective Boundaries are “… Designed to ‘guard your heart’ (Proverbs 4:23), and your life, from danger or trouble.”*
My focus today will be on “Protective Boundaries.”
One of the most important and often misunderstood aspects of boundaries is that “… A boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person. You are not demanding that your spouse do something—even respect your boundaries. You are setting boundaries to say what you will and will not do.”**
Allow me to illustrate the difference this way –
Imagine a castle with a wall around the city and a huge drawbridge where people can enter or leave. Boundaries keep us safe, like the wall around the city. But part of that wall is the bridge that allows people into the city. We don’t want to completely keep people out, so we have a bridge and gateway that allows the right kinds of people and treatment in, and keeps the wrong kinds—those who want to hurt us—out.
But some people think of boundaries as the army that’s within the walls of the city, leaving the city to go attack another army. In other words, the army is forcing the people of the other city to do what they want. That’s not boundaries. That is simply manipulation and/or force.
Remember, you cannot change another person with boundaries. You can only influence or inspire that person to change.
How do you know if you need “Protective Boundaries”?
  1. If you are being emotionally, physically or sexually abused, you need them.
  2. If you are being asked to do more than you can manage physically or time-wise, you need them.
  3. If you are being asked to compromise your “Defining Boundaries,” you need them.
  4. If you are being asked to do something that may lead to disrespectful treatment, you may need them.
It is most difficult to understand when to use a boundary with the fourth type of boundary violation. This is the area I spoke of in my post, Blinded by Boundaries. In this case, you’ll most likely need to seek counsel, as well as, do a lot of self-reflection and prayer to determine your course of action here.
The factors to consider with this are –
  • How long has this treatment been going on?
  • How many times have you respectfully explained your concern to the offender?
  • How well have you communicated the change you would like to see in your offender’s attitude or actions?
  • How deeply have you sought to forgive your offender for this offense?
  • Is there a deeper lesson or challenge that you need to learn from God regarding this situation?
  • How long have you prayed about the matter?
  • What have you sensed God wants you to do or not do?
In weeks to come, I will be addressing how to set boundaries. So, be sure to check back!
*Taken from Beyond Boundaries, by John Townsend
**Taken from Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

3 responses to “When to Use Boundaries”

  1. i think you handled this well and very practical on the list of when you need boundaries…good stuff


  2. Thanks, Brian. I appreciate you stopping by!


  3. you are so wise, friend. God has taught you so much… and now he’s teaching us through you.


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