As the Proverb says, “ Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23).

Boundaries: When do you make them?

One of the most subtle struggles that we have in the Christian life is knowing when to say no. Often, it can be just as difficult to tell someone “no” as it is for the person hearing it. Moreover, our culture of instant gratification and lack of patience can make a seemingly mundane task an enormous work of heroism. Still, there are times in our lives and relationships where it becomes necessary to draw the proverbial line in the sand. Boundaries can make or break relationships, and “tough love” is sometimes just love applied to the given circumstance.

Boundaries are important for us. They allow us to walk through our lives while protecting our hearts from abuse from those who would take advantage of us. However, they are also beneficial for others and for maintaining healthy, balanced relationships. Boundaries are as important in marriage and family as they are in the workplace or in society. Without setting boundaries, we risk having ourselves led astray by the mistakes of others, or we risk violating the space of others — inserting our agendas and opinions where they are not wanted and shattering the trust of the relationship. Above all, healthy boundaries foster healthy relationships.


1. Step back:

Relationships can be frustrating in that they test our patience and our ability to restrain ourselves. However, it is important to remember that you can only control your own actions, and not anyone else’s. Thus, it is good to focus on how you can respond to circumstances than on trying to change the circumstances themselves. When you’re tempted to respond to the situation, take a step back and evaluate the situation objectively. Ask yourself “will this response honor God and make the situation better?” If we can set boundaries on our own actions, we will be far better prepared to respond.

2. Guard your heart:

Sometimes we feel that setting boundaries is not in line with the Christian command to be self-sacrificial. However, this is a misapplication of Jesus’ teaching. Rather, God has given us a responsibility to protect our own heart in as much as we are told to love others. As the Proverb says, “ Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23).

3. Find support:

It is always easier for us to apply biblical principles to our life if we surround ourselves with a strong support network. Surround yourself with people who know and understand your struggles so that they can continue to uphold you and keep you accountable. As Solomon puts it, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes. 4:12).

By Chaplain (Maj.) Bryant Casteel

JBM-HH Family Life Chaplain