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Boundaries help us protect, take care of, and respect ourselves and others, but it's not always easy to recognize, express or enforce our boundaries. This group is about what boundaries are - discussions about all things related to boundaries.

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What are Boundaries?

The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. It means being able to tell people when they are acting in ways that aren't acceptable to us, but in a way that is respectful and loving at the same time. Many of us confuse caring with being a doormat, saying "Yes," when we want to say "No," but feeling guilty or "unchristian," if we decline to help, give or participate in things. Just because we're Christians we're not doormats. There's a difference between being a servant and being abused.


Boundaries are NOT about controlling, manipulating or influencing another person's actions, beliefs, lifestyle or life. Boundaries are the rules and guidelines we establish for ourselves. For instance, my father yelled, screamed, cursed and beat me growing up. I came to believe that was normal and I let other people treat me like that. When I learned about boundaries I decided I didn't like being yelled at, hit or threatened.  So, when someone raises their voice or yells at me - like my boss used to do. I express my boundaries.


I told my boss, "When you yell my name across the office I feel like you're screaming at me. I feel embarrassed. I'm happy to get up and come over to help, but I would like you to use the phone. I won't respond anymore when you yell."  He gave me all these reasons about why he didn't want to, and I listened and smiled and said, "I understand it's inconvenient for you, and I won't respond to being yelled at anymore."  He couldn't really say too much, Human Resources was not going to back him up for wanting to yell at me!! I didn't tell him NOT to yell at me, only that I would not respond to him if he did. I couldn't control HIS behavior, but I could control mine.


"Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation - although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate.  The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is:  when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome."

Discussion Forum

Great Books, Websites and Videos About Boundaries

Do you have a favorite book, website or video you'd like to share about boundaries? Please post a link here along with a brief description or comment! Thank you!Continue

Tags: boundaries

Started by Becky Dec 18, 2010.

Do you know how to say "No"?

Ever have someone ask you to help out with a bake-sale, or to teach a class, baby-sit, or do something for them or the church? You don't have time and you really wouldn't want to do it anyway, but…Continue

Tags: no, say

Started by Becky Dec 18, 2010.

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Comment by Wanda Day on January 4, 2012 at 7:53pm

Oh my, how I understand! As I re-read your answer, I was thinking about how we become resentful to something we have said yes to that should have been  no. Where is the love of God in that? If we are giving, it really should be with a cheerful heart.  I didn't grow up with boundaries either. I didn't know what boundaries were until I attended a group for boundaries in 2001.  Beth question on the generous part is where I struggled for a very long time and still do at times. But, when I get it right, I feel empowered, like I matter. My no for the new year was to a call to come feed the homeless. I had been home all day and just wanted to do nothing. I felt guilty and struggled for saying no but I knew I would be resentful in serving. The next day, I felt as if I should call to find out if everything went ok but it was out of guilt. I finally accepted the fact that it was okay to set a boundary and not feel guilty. I accepted that it was okay not to do anything if I choose not. Also, it didn't make less than a Christian because I didn't serve.

Comment by Becky on January 4, 2012 at 7:27pm

Thanks Wanda! It was looooong, but I love talking about boundaries. They are something we never get perfect at doing. It's a struggle to make and enforce them — especially if we didn't grow up with them. I'm learning to say "No," and "Let me get back to you on that," and giving myself time to decide how I FEEL about whether I want to do something. I tend to say "Yes," just because I know people want to hear it and I want to please them. I had pneumonia over Christmas and found myself resenting clients because I had promised them that even though I was very very sick and it was Christmas that I would work on their jobs!!! How co-dependent is that?! THEY weren't working, but I felt guilty for not working! We all learn one day at a time!

Comment by Wanda Day on January 4, 2012 at 7:01pm

Welcome Brenda. Becky that is a great answer to Brenda's question. All I could was laugh when you stated that we won't ask for help. I'm still in the process of learning how to do that. There is nothing more to add to what you have said. I started my year of by saying no. It felt great.

Comment by Becky on January 4, 2012 at 4:12pm

Welcome Brenda! Thanks for joining! This site isn't very active, but I'm praying that changes with new members! I love talking about boundaries, and am a survivor myself.  As far as your question, we all struggle with what they are and how strict they should be, so you're not alone. Some of us have more practice than others, but we're all learning as we go. We don't reach a plateau where we suddenly know all there is to know about boundaries. It's like cooking. Some things you're really good at making and others, not so much. Some of us set great boundaries with some people or in some settings. Other people or settings (work or new social scenes for instance) may be more difficult to navigate. Relax and realize that every time you "get it right" or "blow it" you've learned something about your own boundaries.

Many survivors tend to be "too generous" because we didn't have that boundary line that separated us from them as we grew up. We think we're being generous, but in reality we're often still becoming enmeshed in and with other people.

The two things I do to help me decide if I'm "being generous" or "being codependent" is to let the person ASK for my help before just seeing a need and leaping to fulfill it. That's hard—especially for Christians. Before you let people convince you that that is "unChristian," remember Jesus NEVER just healed people UNLESS they asked. They had to want it and ask him for healing. So, that tells me that just jumping in and giving anything from unsolicited advice to unsolicited help is not healthy or Biblical. We can be generous in giving to organizations. The woman who gave her last two cents to the synagogue was very generous. But people are different. Many of us never learned to ask for help (lot of survivors don't or won''t ask for help because of trust issues), and learning to ask is how we learn to trust and heal. By having people rescue us or by our jumping in  before we know exactly what kind of help a person needs can cause more harm. If I see a woman stranded with her car hood up and looking scared and worried, I'll ask, "Do you need help?" and wait for an answer. I would no sooner grab my jumper cables and start working on her car without asking than I'd jump off a ten-story building. But a lot of people do just that when they jump in and "start helping" or "feeling generous" before they're asked for help.  See?

When you worry about "being generous," that tells me you're worried about what other people will think of you. Will they think you are selfish if you don't give? Boundaries are about taking care of OUR needs and OUR values and how WE have decided we will allow ourselves to be treated. Other people's feelings about our boundaries are their responsibility, not ours.

If my boundary is something that causes someone else to feel unloved, un-enmeshed, unhappy or lonely, those are feelings they have to deal with. If I tell a friend, "I have a boundary. I do not talk to people who yell at me, or criticize me or are verbally abusive to me. If you yell at me or call me a dork, or stupid, or silly, I will leave the room or hang up the phone. If you do it again and again, I will end our friendship and not talk to you at all." That may make them made, embarrassed, hostile or defensive, but those are their feelings and I'm not responsible for them. If I were, I'd be tying myself in knots to make everyone happy, and would never take care of me. So, yes. It does make sense to me. You are still concerned about what other people think and what they want FROM you rather than looking at what YOU need to feel safe inside your skin.

Think of boundaries as a set of clothes. Depending on the weather or conditions outside you will wear more or fewer clothes. Other people are like the weather. Depending on how comfortable with them you are, you put on more clothes (more boundaries) or fewer clothes (fewer boundaries.) You can also change your boundaries any time with anyone. You don't have to have the same boundaries with all people. You may choose to let your friends tease you or hug you or comment on your hair, but you don't want your co-workers or strangers to do the same.

Determining your boundaries is hard! I started off by listing what I didn't, I don't want people yelling at me or criticizing me or offering me unsolicited advice about how to run my life. So those became boundaries. Later I realized I like being respected and treated like an adult, not a child. So I had to think about what people did that made me feel like a child, or feel disrespected. For me that meant being asked at the last minute to do things, as though people assumed I didn't have plans. So I told people, "I like to have at least 48-hours notice if you'd like me to participate in some event." I have close friends who can call me anytime, but outside of that circle, I expect respect and notice.

Remember, you learn by failing. That's how we all learned how to walk— by falling on our butts over and over. Eventually you get it. You're still a little wobbly, but in time you learn to walk, to run, to jump and to balance. Setting boundaries is the same way. But you have to practice. You have to get out there and DO IT! You don't learn by sitting on the couch and theorizing. We learn by doing, failing and trying again!

Comment by Brenda Turner on January 4, 2012 at 1:32pm


I'm new here and thought I'd join this group since I'm also an abuse survivor (more than once in my life) and so setting boundaries is vitally important to my recovery as well as my life as a follower of Christ.


I have read Cloud and Townsends book more than once.  I've never done any studies on it though (group studies).

But my biggest struggle right now is not to set or keep my boundaries - but to determine what they should be and how strict.

Setting boundaries is essential - but when does it cross the line of generosity?

Does this make any sense to anybody? 

Comment by Becky on June 14, 2011 at 7:20pm

Ah, good insight! And so true! Christ warned us that those who follow Him will be tested. Satan has no need to tempt non-believers. He already owns them. He focuses his efforts on unseating those who bring God glory - attempting to get them to doubt God and engage in behavior that is shaming, not glorifying to God. Those who *fall* and those who struggle are fighting the good fight.

Eph: 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."


TRUE believers in Christ and close to God are MORE likely to be the target of satan and his powers simply because they are so close to God. Rather than judge those who fall I think it's so much more realistic to say, "There but for the grace of God go I." I think that's why God values total faith in Him so much. Not, "I'm trusting God to provide, but I'm also building up my 401K and retirement fund." I don't think it's really faith if we have a Plan B we're really counting on!


I love small discussion groups too! I've only taken a couple of Beth Moore classes, but enjoyed them. Sounds like you're loving the things God called us to love - friends, friendships and relationships within the Body of Christ.

Comment by Becky on June 14, 2011 at 6:48pm
That sounds like a great class Anne! What a fantastic title for it too! What do you like best about it? What makes it such an eye opener for you? It may make it an eye-opener for us too!
Comment by Becky on January 22, 2011 at 9:17pm

Sorry to hear that Midgie, but glad the opportunity to reread the book has come up again. I grew up in the most dysfunctional family in the world. There were NO boundaries. My brother took my things and broke them. My father took money I made and said it was his because I belonged to him and everything I had belonged to him. He would walk into the bathroom when I was showering - even when the door was locked. I was never allowed to say "No," to anything for any reason. By the time I got out of the house at 17 I was a walking doormat. I didn't read the book or learn about boundaries until I was 50!! I just did everything anyone asked me too. My way of saying "No," was to get sick, have accidents, miss a bus, anything to avoid having to say no. I  was passive aggressive, doing a poor job so people wouldn't ask me to do it again. I was miserable. If I did say no I felt so guilty, depressed and selfish I'd have been better off saying yes and hating it! I finally learned to work 3 jobs so I could blame having to work - "I would but I have to work," became my mantra.


Now I say "No," all the time.  I work for myself and people assume that means since I don't have "a real job" as they say, that I'm free to run their errands, talk to them for hours, or help them with their projects. I say "No," about 50 times a day. It's been great practice! God is doing wonderful things for me!! I think all his books are wonderful. The website above was even more valuable to read as I read Boundaries. I hope you'll share what you're learning here!

Comment by Midgie Bardo on January 22, 2011 at 7:24pm
I'm just beginning to read the book "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend again.  I read it years ago - actually did it as a study in a Sunday School class.  It seems to have rubbed away, however, along with my personal boundaries....  It was even suggested to me by our Prayer Pastor at church that I read it.  We're having issues with an individual in our small group who we've allowed to run over everyone's boundaries....

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