She sat across from me shaking. She recounted a conversation with the father of her children. Though he’s never laid a hand on her, she’s afraid. He’s verbally abusive. She’s exhausted, scared. Her life is far from the picture-perfect image she planned when they married. When she’s strong, she can hold the boundaries, but right now she’s completely at a loss for what to do next.
He received a text with threats and things his coworker wouldn’t say in person. He deletes the text. The next day at work, nothing is said, but the intimidation doesn’t go away.
She gets off a phone call with her friend. She’s shocked, shaken and dumbfounded at the words that came at her. The friend twisted her words into accusations and character attacks. They’re both Christians – where did this malice come from?
In each of these scenarios, personal boundaries are violated. Boundaries are essential for keeping perspective in relationships. But it’s hard to keep the lines firm when you’re trampled and defeated.
Towing the line is hard. Ending relationships, quitting a job, separating yourself from toxic friends and family isn’t simple. It takes commitment to establish boundaries and strength to hold them when others tear them down.
Yet boundaries are essential for mental and emotional health. Like physical fences, relational boundaries keep bad things out and protect precious things inside. When our kids were toddlers, we built a chain-link fence around our yard to keep our children away from the busy road. We valued their safety more than the beauty of our property. Boundaries boil down to valuing your health more than outward appearances or what others think of you.
Passive-aggressiveness and intimidation slides under the radar, unseen to the eyes of others. But when someone intimidates you over time, boundaries get blurred. You get accustomed to giving into the irrational and controlling behavior of the other person. You feel trapped.
This isn’t the life God has planned for you. God’s truth sets you free, it doesn’t keep you in bondage (John 8:32). If you’re struggling with establishing or maintaining boundaries with someone who’s toxic, there’s hope. You can’t change the other person, but you can walk in the way of freedom.
The person attacking you has problems they’re dumping on you. You have control over your reactions and how much you’re going to let them control your mental and emotional health.
If you’re in an abusive relationship with a spouse or child, seek professional help from a local domestic violence agency, community mental health center or crisis hotline. If you need guidance in establishing boundaries with co-workers, friends, or other family members, Cloud and Townsend’s book Boundaries is one resource in additional to professional mental health services.
If you’re struggling with boundaries, don’t go it alone. You need strength. Reach out for help today.
If you’ve been successful in establishing boundaries, what has helped you? Would you be willing to share your story with us? We’d be encouraged to hear from you. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org