Personal Boundaries With Toxic People

Jun 2, 2014 | Life

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 boundaries brenda yoderkeep 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

This article is informational and not a substitute for professional help. If you are in an emergency situation where your health and safety or that of your children is threatened, call 911 or seek immediate professional assistance.  Brenda does not receive any compensation of any kind from Cloud and Townsend, authors of Boundaries materials. As always, use information from this article at your own discretion.



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  1. Carolyn

    Amen! I have been dealing with passive aggressive and abusive loved ones all my life. What I found works best is to accept that they have an uncontrollable infectious illness that the devil has planted in them. When the alerts go off that the behavior is about to begin I visualize a tall stone wall that the hurtful words and actions bounce off of. Then I grab ahold of God’s shield and protect my heart and mind, exhaling deeply so I don’t allow the words and actions to get inside infecting me. Seeing this as an illness helps me respond with love and compassion so that I can continue loving the person. This response usually defeats the evil. Hardest part is to hold my ground with my decisions.

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Thank you so much for your honesty Carolyn. You’ve learned tried and true strategies that work for you – a great example. It’s hard to stand your ground – thanks for that honesty. May God give you strength and power each time you need to do that. May His strength be perfect in your weakness.

  2. ellen790

    Yes, yes, yes! I’ve struggled with being the ‘bad person’ when setting boundaries with passive-agressive behaviour / culture. The thing that has helped has being okay with being perceived as the ‘bad person’ because it’s healthy (and God-honouring!) to set boundaries to protect my marriage and my family, as well as my mental health – despite what others think.

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Yes, yes, Ellen. You have to be vigilant in the goal and affirmation of why it’s okay to set boundaries and to have those around you who affirm those commitments, too. Thanks with your testimony! What an encouragement “despite what others think.” Thank you!

  3. A Yoder

    awesome post !!

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