Four Guidelines to Set Healthy Boundaries

set healthy BoundariesAt Cedarbrook I’ve been speaking about Relation-SLIPS…those stupid things  we do that undermine our relationships. One of the most common relationslips is to not set boundaries. I want to offer you four guidelines to help you set healthy boundaries.

People who fail to set boundaries allow anyone into their life. They lose control of their life and often simmer in anger for it.

Now, before I give you some tips on how to set boundaries, I want to answer the question that some people have: where does it talk about boundaries in the Bible? Or, did Jesus have boundaries? Those are fair questions.

People who fail to set boundaries allow anyone into their life. They lose control of their life and often simmer in anger for it.

Jesus Had Boundaries

Jesus definitely had boundaries. Here are a few quick examples:

  • Luke 4:1-13: Jesus used boundaries when he was being tempted by the devil, defining what he was willing and not willing to do.
  • Luke 4:28-30: The people wanted to kill Jesus but he walked away. He wouldn’t play by their rules.
  • Luke 5:14-16: People came to Jesus for healing but he withdrew to pray and rest.
  • Matthew 12:46-50: Jesus’ mom and brothers called him out of a meeting but he refused to listen to them, saying that people who chose to do God’s will were his true family.

You see, Jesus could only lay down his life once. Before that, he had to decide how vulnerable he was willing to make himself in each encounter. He used boundaries to help people understand his limits.

Four Guidelines to Set Healthy Boundaries

Now, let me give you a few ideas for setting boundaries (see other related posts below):

  1. Set boundaries to protect yourself, not punish others. Too often we wait until people have used and abused us before we set a boundary. But by then, we are often so mad that our “boundary” is actually a form of punishment. We come across harshly and offend people.
  2. Set boundaries before things get awkward. The answer to my first point is to set boundaries early on. Don’t assume people will respect your space. I mean, how can they if they don’t know what your space is? It’s not rude or selfish to communicate your boundaries. It’s helpful.
  3. Set boundaries with respect and without apology. Let people know that your boundaries are to help YOU, not because you don’t like them. And don’t feel like you need to apologize or explain yourself.
  4. Set boundaries with appropriate consequences. Where there are no consequences, there are no boundaries. In sports, you pay a price when you step out of bounds.
    • Consequences should equal the trespass. Small transgression, small consequence and vice versa.
    • Enforcement should be without drama. When consequences are communicated in advance you can naturally enforce them without overreacting.
    • Increase consequences until your boundaries are respected. In another post I talk about the four degrees of boundaries. You start small and keep increasing the pain until you get the results you want.


When you set boundaries, you define the “rules of the game.” Games with rules are much more rewarding.