Boundaries: What They Are; Why They Matter

"...establishing or renegotiating boundaries (is) crucial."

When you get serious about purity, you’re hopefully not only staying clean and developing a purer lifestyle, but also be developing a servant’s heart. That’s critical, but let’s also remember the Lord’s teaching on boundaries and confrontation:

“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witness every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 15-17)

That’s some confrontation! And notice, Jesus isn’t just talking about someone who’s sinned, but someone who’s sinned against you. He’s saying in clear terms that within the Church, your close relations need to be guarded against un-confessed, or un-addressed, conflicts.

This makes establishing or renegotiating boundaries crucial. As you correct the way you’re relating – that is, as you become more honest, patient and consistent – you might also become aware of problems in your marriage, friendships or business relations that also need correcting. And that may be the time to confront a long-term problem.

What to Confront

At times, someone’s behavior may either be so seriously wrong, or so consistently wrong, that it needs pointing out. This is especially true if the behavior is seriously damaging the relationship – maybe even causing it to fall apart. In cases like that, you’re not doing the other person any favors by allowing him or her to continue in that sin. In fact, you eventually become a partner in it, because while you are always responsible for what you do, you’re also at times responsible for what you allow.

So if any of the following are regularly coming up between you and someone you’re close to, then I’d seriously suggest a confrontation is called for:

  1. Consistent and repeated name-calling or obscenities.
  2. Humiliation in front of others, during which you’re yelled at, criticized, or in which personal information about you is discussed.
  3. Persistent dishonesty.
  4. Persistent rejections of your affection and interest.
  5. Teasing that demeans you, after you’ve asked the other person to stop it.
  6. Gossip or other behaviors that divide relationships.
  7. Repeating and rehashing your past sins, even after you’ve confessed and repented of them.
  8. Intrusion into parts of you life the other person hasn’t been invited into.
  9. Refusal to honor terms that have already been agreed on.
  10. Financial defrauding.
  11. Sexually inappropriate behavior of any sort.
  12. Physical violence in any form.

If these apply, the next step is to prayerfully and responsibly address them.

How to Confront

Before confronting, examine yourself.

Remember Jesus’ warning:

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’, and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 3-5)

So be sure you’ve looked at, confessed, and dealt with your shortcomings. In all fairness, the person you confront may know about your sexual struggles, and may rightfully wonder why, at this time in your life, you’re concentrating on his or her sins, rather than your own.

Get some additional wisdom

Discuss this with your Pastor, or accountability partner, or group. Tell them what the problem is in the relationship, how it’s affecting you, and how you want to deal with it.

State Your Intention

Make sure the person knows you want your relationship to improve, and that she or he is so important to you that you hate for anything to come between the two of you.

Explain that you’ve been working on yourself and the sin in your own life, and will continue to do so. But there’s also an ongoing problem you’ve got to address.

State the Problem

Be as precise as possible. Don’t talk about generalities (as in “You’re rude to me” or “You’re demeaning me”) but stick to specifics. Try to give at least three examples of the behavior that’s causing the problem, and make the examples as recent as possible.

State Your Request

Again, be very specific. Tell the person you’re not asking for them to feel bad. You’re asking instead for a change of behavior in the future.

Hopefully, the person you’re having this discussion with will be open to your ideas, and will want to work with you towards better boundaries and policies. Often, though, that’s not the case. A person may resist you by either denying what you’re saying, minimizing its importance, or showing complete indifference to it.

In cases like that you may need to point out the following:

  1. “I can’t make you change your behavior, but I hope you at least understand the damage that’s being caused if you don’t.”
  2. “Even though right now you can’t seem to see how important this is, I hope you’ll think it over and maybe we can talk about this again.”
  3. “I’d like us to see a Pastor or counselor together, because we’re not getting anywhere with this.  It looks like we need some outside help.”
  4. “If things don’t improve, I don’t know what steps I’ll need to take. I’ll have to get some counsel for myself, pray on it and think it over. I promise to try to do what’s right, but I will have to do something, because this isn’t acceptable.”

Then, if the person you’re dealing with is still unwilling to talk with a third party, get some wise counsel for yourself. Learn how to deal with or, if necessary, work around a difficult relationship.  It’s not ideal, but it can be done.

I hope you’ll always have the courage to confront your own wrongdoing. And, when necessary, I hope you’ll draw on the additional courage to confront another’s as well.

(If you’re wanting to read more about this topic, check my book The Game Plan, available here)



Jedidiah Feliciano Thorpe | Jun 16, 2011

AmeN! relevant an need

Tnmickey33 | Jun 16, 2011

I wish I had understood this earlier. I was told these things by someone I was doing this to. But I wanted things my way and couldn't or wouldn't see beyound it till it was to late. thanks for this post.

Tnmickey33 | Jun 16, 2011

Thanks, This is a great post. needed greatly.

Jessica Wilson | Nov 10, 2011

This is great.

Abhilash Nair | Nov 10, 2011

I don't know u people personely but i want to be your friend so add me as ur friend.

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