How To Forgive: Set Boundaries

How to Forgive: Set Boundaries

This is part two in a series on How to Forgive.  In part one I said that you need to BE THE HERO.  The second idea I have for you is to set boundaries. The thought here is that it’s really hard to forgive someone if they are still offending you.

I talked to a couple of people this week that not only had people actively offending them but these people were inciting others to offend them as well (mostly family members). I told them both that they have to get some distance between themselves and these people…they have to bring some separation… otherwise it will be just too hard to forgive. They can’t be listening to these people. They’ll drag them down.

It’s at times like this that you have to immerse yourself in the words of God more than ever. Make sure your worth as a person and your identity comes from God and not what people say about you. This is the topic of my book, Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

You might be in a situation where you are continually offended by the same person in the same way.  No matter how many times you’ve confronted them and forgiven them, they don’t seem to get it – and it’s getting harder and harder to forgive. They just keep hurting you over and over.  What do you do then?  My word of advice for repeat offenders is to set boundaries.

Boundaries give consequences for bad behavior.

People often ask, where are boundaries in the Bible? Let me give you a couple of examples.   The apostle Paul was teaching in a synagogue.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him… Acts 19:8,9

Paul gave his heart and soul to these people every day for three months but some people didn’t respect him or his ministry. They trash talked him. Finally, Paul said, “That’s enough. I won’t allow you to speak to me like this anymore.” And then he took action to create space. Any time you see a consequence in the Bible you are seeing boundaries in action.

Another example from Jesus of boundaries is when he told his disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” if people didn’t accept their message. In other words, don’t bear their abuse, just move on to someone who cares.

Are you too nice?

The reason that some of us have so much trouble forgiving is that we allow people to keep messing with us. We are too nice. Many of us justify it by saying that we are Christians and Christians have to be nice. But that’s typically just a cover for your fear of confrontation. Am I right? You are afraid to say anything. But it’s better to say something out of love than be “nice” and have a heart full of hate toward someone. Sit your offender down and say,

What you are doing or saying is not okay. If you keep it up I’m going to find  ways to put distance between us.

I have more to say on boundaries. Look for my next post on this topic.

Question: What’s the hardest thing about setting boundaries for you? Leave your comment below.

This post was adapted from my book, STUCKhow to mend and move on from broken relationships.

  • Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three) (
  • How to Forgive: Be the Hero (

6 thoughts on “How To Forgive: Set Boundaries

  1. Pingback: How to Forgive: Setting Four Levels of Boundaries | F. Remy Diederich –

  2. Lisa

    I’m new to realizing the value of boundaries. The hardest thing about setting boundaries for me is realizing I needed them before the offense. It seems different settings call for different boundaries and I’m not always aware of what I need ahead of time. My toughest lesson in boundaries (still gleaning wisdom in hindsight)was when my husband was in full time ministry. He and I had different views on where boundaries should be placed with certain members behaving like bullies, and especially with the ones picking on my husband as a target. He had a very high tolerance for nonsense, where I did not. I wanted to protect my husband but he didn’t think he needed it. So I had to step back in respect and let him take what looked like a “beating” to me…which was very difficult for me. Could you please share some thoughts how to deal with differing boundary lines in marriage/ministry where differences are permitted and unity is highly valued.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      This is good input to hear. Thanks for sharing. I’ll think more about this and talk to my wife before I post at length. It might be a week or two. The short answer is that we do have to respect the boundaries that our spouse chooses to have but when their lack of boundaries impacts us then our boundaries need to kick in. For example, your husband may need to increase his boundaries toward others so what happens to him doesn’t impact you. Check out my post from today on the Four Levels of Boundaries. This might also help. Thanks for the input.

  3. Liz

    I have been struggling with the issue of forgiveness for a long time and it was in marriage whereby my husband thought I deserved being ridiculed by his people because I am a woman. This got worse when he brought in his girlfriend and allowed her to abuse/harass me. He always cited that I am christian and the bible said I should make available the other cheek. I agree with you that setting boundaries is important and have only realised that after reading your articles but at that time it only happened by God’s grace as what came to mind was just getting away from him to protect myself and my kids. When that happened, God gave me the power to stand on my own and able to cater for the kids needs and my own and that infuriated him and he hurled more abuse but since I had moved away from the country, he abused my relatives. To cut story short, thanks so much for your articles. I understand better what forgiveness is from my perspective. i want to remove the burden and move on. it will help me to deal with divorce and be able to face it without the guilt.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      I’m glad I can be of help. God does not want divorce but he doesn’t want abuse either. Jeremiah said that God divorced his people when he sent them to Babylon. So even though God hates divorce he will resort to it if his people are covenant breakers. Abusers are covenant breakers. Stay strong in God.

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