Boundaries: 4 Questions for Setting Healthy Boundaries

boundariesWithin a family hierarchy, values, beliefs, traditions, and expectations are handed down from parents to children. The way a family learns, grows, and stays in healthy relationship is contingent on the strength of the boundaries within the family dynamic. The clearer the boundaries, the higher the functioning (Minuchin, 1974).

Boundaries Established in the Old and New Testaments

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God shows us the importance of boundaries. In the opening of the Book of Genesis, a boundary was set, not with the intent of exclusion, but for the purpose of protecting Adam and Eve’s relationship with God. Sorrowfully, due to the Fall, that level of relational intimacy was broken, not only with God, but also between the man and his wife. The result was strife and a broken human family.

In the opening of the Book of Genesis, a boundary was set, not with the intent of exclusion, but for the purpose of protecting Adam and Eve’s relationship with God. Click To Tweet

Later, the children of Israel came out of a pagan society, which required them to relearn and reaffirm their identity, beliefs, values, and expectations based on the laws of their heavenly Father. God endeavored to reconcile His family back to Himself through the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments, which also can be viewed as boundaries, were more than a list of “dos and don’ts:” they were God’s plan for creating a covenant relationship (a bond) with His people. Unfortunately, the children of Israel continued to struggle with maintaining His boundaries, much as some still do today.

Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God again restores and reconciles His children to Himself.

Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God again restores and reconciles His children to Himself.

This time, His commandments/connections are not written on slabs of stone, but in the heart and mind (Hebrew 10:16). Because of His desire for intimacy and connection with His children, God reestablished clear and firm boundaries for the purpose of fostering deep connection with Him. This depicts the true intent of boundaries.

We Are Not Meant to Live in Isolation

Boundaries are intended to create and maintain strong connections within the family unit and other relationships. Boundaries are not intended to distance or disconnect us from others. According to God’s illustration of boundaries, these limits are intended for unity. Boundaries are God’s way of helping us stay in relationship.

So, when examining our marriage, family, and other relationships, the following questions should guide us in determining if our boundaries are godly or ungodly.

1. Do your boundaries line up to God’s concept of boundaries?
2. Are you clearly communicating your needs to others so that they know how to effectively connect with you?
3. Are your boundaries restoring or destroying the relationship(s)?
4. Are you using boundaries to avoid conflicts that could lead to better connection?

Understanding the effects of a fallen world, you are strongly encouraged to use wisdom if you or a loved one is in an unsafe relationship. Please utilize the necessary precautions and resources to ensure safety. Nevertheless, God desires for marriages, families, and all relationships to reflect how He views us. Time and time again, God demonstrates the importance of relationships and how they should be maintained through appropriate boundaries.

Understanding the effects of a fallen world, you are strongly encouraged to use wisdom if you or a loved one is in an unsafe relationship. Consider Lifeline books and resources at Family Ministries.

(A version of this article was published in Family Ministries newsletter.)

Shannon J. Robinson is a licensed clinical social worker in the states of Virginia and Georgia, as well as a credentialed minister with the United Pentecostal Church International. She holds additional certifications in mental health and anxiety treatment, as well as grief counseling. Robinson currently is pursuing her doctorate in social work with a focus on neurobiology and trauma. She is a member of the Center for Apostolic Counseling.

Resources and Links

Lifeline: A Pastor’s Resource for Families in Crisis, Volume 1

Lifeline: A Pastor’s Resource for Families in Crisis, Volume 2