Setting boundaries is such a vital step in affair recovery, but when we’re trying to honor God along the way it can get confusing and overwhelming. We’ve spent a lot of time studying what the Bible says about boundaries, and today we’d like to share 5 steps for setting boundaries in relationships to help you get started in your own marriage.
First things first – let’s quickly define a boundary.
Boundaries define our borders. They clearly mark where we begin and where we end – who we are and where we’re willing to go. When we set personal boundaries, we’re drawing a line or fixing a limit. We’re clearly communicating where the actions of another will reach the extent of our tolerance and thus divide them from us.
Proverbs 25:28 – A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.
We cannot be cities with broken down walls anymore. It’s time to take control of ourselves. It’s time to stop being defined by someone else. It’s time to let our actions be our own and choose obedience to God. But in order to know where we begin and where we end, we must first define ourselves. We need to know who we are. This is step one.
Setting Boundaries in Relationships Step 1 – DEFINE YOURSELF
If you’re struggling to know who you are and find your identity in Christ, the book of Ephesians is a great place to start. Take some time this week and read it. It’s short – 6 chapters. Read one each day. Write down everything you see about who you are, what you’ve been given in Christ, what God has asked of you, and what power you have in Him.
In the meantime, let’s look at this verse in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 2:9-10 – …You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”
Simply stated friends, we are defined as this: God’s very own possession – chosen by Him! We have been called out of darkness so that we can live in the light. We have been set apart. We must begin to lay our borders in such a way as to only allow in what will keep us in that place of holiness.
Our model is God, and God is no stranger to setting boundaries. He has many standards He’s set and demands adherence if we’re to be in relationship with Him. Those who violate those standards are given the freedom to do so, but they will also not be allowed into his house in that state. Setting boundaries in relationships is simply following God’s example.
Here are a few questions we can ask to define ourselves as we begin the task of setting boundaries in relationships:
- How does God define me?
- What standards should I have because of who God has called me to be?
- What actions are violating the standard God has set about who I am?
1 John 2:15-16 – Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.
Setting Boundaries in Relationships Step 2- DEFINE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
This can be a complicated topic for believers. The Bible can seem a bit contradictory, but the truth is, what we need is discernment. We are called to help one another, but we are not called to be responsible for the conduct of another.
We have to figure out what parts of the situation we can take responsibility for, and what parts we cannot.
Galatians 6:1-2 – Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:4-5 – Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
What it basically boils down to is, we’re responsible for ourselves. When we’re setting boundaries in relationships this needs to play heavily in what we do. We can offer help to others, but only in as much as they want that help. We can’t make them do anything, and it isn’t our responsibility to try.
Here are a few questions we can ask to define our responsibilities as we continue the task of setting boundaries in relationships:
- What are some things I know I am responsible for in this relationship?
- What are some things I know I am NOT responsible for in this relationship?
- What are a few standards I can set that encompass my responsibility, but don’t try to control what is not my responsibility?
Setting Boundaries in Relationships Step 3- CHECK YOUR MOTIVES and ASK FOR WISDOM
Once we’ve established who we are and what our responsibilities are, we have to take a step back and establish exactly what our goals are in drawing those lines. In other words, we need to do a quick motives check. As we do, it would serve us well to also take a second to ask God for His wisdom as we move forward. Ask Him to reveal anything that falls out of line with His will.
This step is to ensure that we’re not setting up our perimeter to manipulate or control someone else, but to genuinely protect both ourselves and those we love. That is the purpose of a good boundary – to protect. This step will also help equip us to clearly and concisely communicate our boundaries when we get to that step.
Proverbs 27:5-6 – An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Colossians 4:5-6 – Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Here are a few questions we can ask to check our motives and seek Godly wisdom as we work on the task of setting boundaries in relationships:
- What do I hope will be the result of setting this boundary?
- Is that goal honoring to God?
- What are some other possible results of setting this boundary?
- How do those possibilities make me feel? How are those feelings affecting my resolve to set the boundary?
- What is God asking me to do in this area?
- After evaluating my motives, do I feel this boundary can be made with integrity and in obedience to God?
Setting Boundaries in Relationships Step 4 – CHOOSE THE CONSEQUENCES AND INSTALL A GATE
This is a difficult step, but if we’ve done the work of the previous steps, we can proceed with confidence. We know who we are. We know what we’re responsible for. We know our motives. And we know what God is asking us to do.
Now, we just have to build that fence to keep out what doesn’t belong and be sure to install a gate. Keep in mind, a gate works two ways. It provides a way for us to send out what doesn’t belong, but it also offers a way back in for those on the outside.
And let’s remember too what the Bible says about the purpose of the consequences to a boundary. It is to allow others to reap what they sow, not to take revenge or make a point.
Galatians 6:7-8 – Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
Here are a few questions we can ask to help us choose consequences in a God-honoring way as we continue the task of setting boundaries in relationships:
- What is the natural consequence of the offending behavior?
- What action can I take to get out of the way of that consequence and allow it to land squarely on the one who is breaking the established standard?
- Does this consequence attempt to take justice into my own hands in order to seek revenge? Or does it leave justice in God’s very capable hands?
- Are my parameters clear? Can I easily communicate what my actions will be in a way that leaves no room for questions or manipulations?
Now that our gate swings out, let’s provide a way back in too. Here are some questions to help us accomplish that goal:
- What actions will prove to me that there has been a heart-change?
- What are some clear steps that the repentant offender can take to restore the relationship?
- Can I clearly communicate these steps in a way that leaves no room for questions or manipulations?
Setting Boundaries in Relationships Step 5 – CLEARLY AND CONCISELY COMMUNICATE THE BOUNDARIES
All that’s left now is to write out exactly what you’ve come up with. Boundaries should be clear and concise. Setting boundaries in relationships involves these 4 components:
- Write your boundary.
- Write your reason.
- Write your consequence.
- Write the way back in.
Be detailed but brief and clear. Put time frames on it. Once it’s all written out, present it verbally and also in writing at the same time. Give an opportunity for questions, but don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Stand firm.
You’ve taken the time to seek God in this. You’ve taken the time to align yourself to His Word. Stand firm! Be obedient. Don’t back down! Remember:
Proverbs 25:28 – A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.
Setting Boundaries Worksheet and Biblical Boundaries Book
Would it help to have all this information in an interactive worksheet that you can download and print? We’ve put one together for you, along with a second worksheet that is filled out with some of our own boundaries as example – just to help you get an idea of how it can be done.
If this sounds helpful, click the link below to get your worksheets.
We also have written an entire book all about setting Biblical boundaries in our relationships. This post is actually an excerpt of one of the chapters. Want the whole book? It’s available on Amazon. Click the link below to get yours.