Permission to Set Boundaries

For every strength there is a weakness.

I used to take pride in my ability to empathize with people. I was thankful for my compassionate heart–and maybe even prideful that I enjoyed taking care of people.

Isn’t that what Jesus did?

Shouldn’t everybody?

It was my first year working on  staff at a church, and I loved every minute of it, almost. There was one big problem. My “big heart” often caused me to be away from my family more than I should because when it came to needy people, I seemed to be the “extra-help-needed” people magnet.

I think it was my smile and easy nature. I don’t know, maybe they had never met anyone from Oklahoma before.

But it was also because I’d never heard of boundaries. Well, I probably had heard of them, but when it came to ministry, I didn’t have a clear understanding of the wisdom of boundaries. I didn’t know the signs to look for. I just wanted to help people.

Looking back, the experience was like throwing a child into a pool expecting her to figure out how to swim. I almost drowned. 

In my book, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called, I wrote about trying to help women who were kindred spirits with Mary Magdalene before she was healed of seven demons. They suffered with mental illness, depression, addiction, and loneliness because nobody could be around them. After five years of ministry, I was ready to run into a cave and hide for ten years. And I kind of did.

“Perhaps Mary M.’s family and friends desperately tried to love and help her, but their love failed. I naively thought that my love could rescue these ladies from the hell they faced every day. But after years of being beaten and bruised emotionally by those forces of darkness, I realized that only the love of Jesus can bring healing. Mine cannot” (p. 88).

First Rule

  • You are not anybody’s savior.

That’s a tough one. Didn’t Jesus tell us to go out and save people?

No, Jesus told us to go make disciples.

When do we know a boundary has been crossed or one needs to be set?

When we begin to experience resentment or anger.

Christine Inge writes about self awareness in her article 5 Sure Signs That You Need to Set healthy Boundaries. She writes:

The anger pulsed through me like a red hot lava. And the resentment boiled over like a pot filled with too much water and pasta. The exhaustion was soul deep, splintered and sharp. Christine Inge

Oh girlfriend, I’ve been there.

The number one signs that you need to set a boundary is resentment and anger.

Second Rule

  • Know thyself. Self-awareness is the Holy Spirit talking to you. Listen to the Spirit. Obey.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and down’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Boundaries are not selfish. They are wisdom.

Tired care-givers often have trouble saying no and avoid speaking the truth in love. They are more readily drawn into trying to rescue other people and without realizing it may end up enabling selfish or irresponsible behavior in the people they’re trying to help. They may get so enmeshed with the people they care for, trying to continually to please them and walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting them, that they “lose themselves.” They lose track of what they need and what’s important to them or what God has called them to do. At some point they may realize that they’re not being their true, God created and God redeemed self. Jesus Set Boundaries

I found this truth in a blog article published in 1998. It may be twenty years old, but this wisdom doesn’t fade. The author writes to those in ministry, but the truths apply across the  spectrum of life. And as Christians, it can be very confusing when we should help someone, or when it’s okay to say, “No, not today.”

Third Rule

  • Boundaries let God be God and facilitate healthier relationships. Sometimes we hinder people rather than help them when we don’t know when to say no or stop helping. This is true in parenting too.

We cannot minister well if we are worn thin, bitter, and suffocating.


To know yourself and be secure that you are loved is essential to all relationships and activities. The better your boundaries of self-awareness and self-definition are the greater your capacity to offer empathy and love to others. Good boundaries help you to care for others because you have a stable foundation to operate from and are not distracted or depleted by personal insecurities or blind spots. (That’s why it’s not “selfish” or unloving to have boundaries and “take care of yourself.”)-Bill Gaultiere

This is key. Our lack of boundaries comes from our own insecurities. This is huge. When we experience the signs that we need to set boundaries, go to God and ask Him what insecurity in you is feeding this unhealthy relationship.

[bctt tweet=”Our problems, heart-aches, frustrations, and conflicts are always invitations to healing. #boundaries” username=”wordsbyandylee”]


My friends, setting boundaries is biblical. Come study with me.


Bible Reading Plan

Sneak Peek and Printable

Proverbs 22:24: Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered,

  • What do you do if you are already friends with them? Pray for God to get to the root of their anger. Pray for the Lord to help you set boundaries with this person like never being alone with them.

Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

  • The Bible does tell us to help one another, to be kind, but the word “burdens” means something really big like a boulder. Knowing this, how would you now interpret this verse. Will this help you say no when you feel the person can do what they’r’e asking of you?

2 Corinthians 8: 13-14:  Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality,

  • The goal is equality. But we know there are people we help who could never pay us back. Yet, at the same time, in the church God’s master plan is that we take turns helping  each other. What does this verse release you from or spur you on to do?

Titus: 3:10: Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

  • Division is of the enemy. He wants nothing more than to divide churches, families, and friendships. The warning is not manipulative or an ultimatum but truth spoken that their words are divisive and must not continue. Do you know any one who may need this rebuke? Is that person you?

Proverbs 21:19: Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

  • I’ve tried so hard not to be one of these and in turn, I’ve probably let things go when they needed to be communicated. So, pray. Pray for God to temper your tongue with your husband and help you communicate needs with gentleness and respect.

Proverbs 8:27-29: I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

  • The tide is one of my favorite tangible demonstrations of God’s wisdom and power. Boundaries are needed. Ask God to show you where you need to flow like the tide, where you will only go so far for the best of those you love as well as yourself.

Download or print the scriptures and prompts here. 

Virtual Bible Study Group Every Day

Join my daily broadcast on Facebook. (Just follow me.) It’s live at 8:20 AM ET. Come on over to my kitchen and sit around my table for some soul nourishment as we dig deeper into each “bite” for the day. You can watch them later on YouTube too if that’s better for you.


I remember experiencing freedom when I began to implement boundaries in my life, and I’ve honestly seen the people I’ve set those boundaries with find breakthroughs and healing because I wasn’t trying to be their healer anymore. I no longer wore the burden of keeping them happy.

Learning about boundaries gave me permission. I needed it. You might to.

Here you go.

Permission to set boundaries.


Digging Deep in healthy relationships,



PS. If this was encouraging, and you don’t want to miss any Bite of Bread reading plans and posts, subscribe today! You’ll receive a 22-Day Devotion on Psalm 119 called Finding the Beauty {Full} in God’s Word.Just click here to dig deep to live fully. 🙂 


P.SS. Check out my friend Allison Bottke’s 7 book series on setting boundaries. 


  1. […] If you want to explore more biblical insights on setting boundaries, visit Wordsbyandylee. […]

  2. […] because we can’t be right with Him until we are right with others. (Sometimes you need boundaries. Healthy boundaries are not the same as burning a […]

  3. You make so many valuable points here, Andy. As a counselor and in my personal life, I learned that boundaries were necessary for my own health and for the well-being of others. When we set boundaries, we’re actually modeling how to set boundaries even if people don’t see it that way. Sometimes I’ve even said, “I need to set a boundary here to take care of myself,” or “This is how you set a boundary.” I hope it planted some seeds, but I know it helped me to be clear.

    1. Hi JoAnne! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience as a counselor. I love your wisdom.

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