5 Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries
As I journey through life, the phrase “hindsight is 20/20” becomes more apparent with each day. There are moments when I look back on my life, thinking, “Wow, I wish I had known then what I know now.” And one of those things is knowing the signs of unhealthy boundaries. Last week on the blog, we talked about the importance of setting healthy boundaries. If you haven’t checked that out, click here. This week we are shifting gears and focusing on five signs of unhealthy boundaries. As you read through them, reflect on whether or not you identify with any of the five signs.
It is an unhealthy boundary if it shuts down your values.
What is important to you? Maybe the first thing that came to your mind was your faith or your family. What if I asked you to make a list of your values as a Christian woman? Is service on your list? Maybe kindness or justice? Regardless of what shows up on your list, it is important to note that our values are an essential part of our identity and often is what is thought of when someone mentions our name in conversation.
Values are the foundation upon which you make your life choices. They are an essential and important part of your life. Still, it would be silly of me not to acknowledge that there are often moments and spaces where those values are challenged. Would you agree?
Having your values challenged is not where an unhealthy boundary lies. Challenging values is, in fact, a good thing because when you have to refute why you believe something, it helps you strengthen your grounding in that particular principle or gain a new perspective. Listening to other’s values also enables you to grow in compassion and understanding. Through listening, we create the space to learn of similar values in others that we may have missed.
However, we run into trouble when we allow our values (our non-negotiables) to be altered or changed due to others’ influence. We must pay particular attention to people and spaces that choose to tear down our values. It’s significant to our faith walk that we place emphasis on creating spaces and fostering relationships where our values are respected.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.'” 1 Peter 3:8-11 NIV
It is an unhealthy boundary if it causes you to compromise loving your neighbor.
A foundational part of Christianity is to “love one another.” And we know that anything that compromises God’s Word is a sign of an unhealthy boundary. Let’s repeat these words, anything that compromises God’s Word is a sign of an unhealthy boundary. So, if your circumstance does not align with God’s Word, it is a sign that you are out of bounds.
However, if you are in a situation where you receive a check in your spirit, go with it. Do not ignore the nudges from the Holy Spirit. If someone or something is compromising God’s Word, walk away. It may be you need to love this person from afar.
Did you know the term “love” appears in the Bible (NIV Version) 551 times? This concept of love is vital to our identity in Christ, especially in today’s social climate, where it seems that everything and anything is trying to tear us apart from each other. But, thankfully, God’s love still reigns and still has power, and we as believers have the responsibility to love our neighbors as God loves us as in 1 John 4:9-11,
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11 NIV
It is an unhealthy boundary if it takes your focus from God to the world.
I passionately believe that if the devil cannot get to you, he will do his best to distract you. This idea is particularly true with those of us who have chosen to ground ourselves in faith. As Christians, we must recognize the things that take our focus off God are likely the result of an unhealthy boundary. These unhealthy boundaries can eventually lead us to lose sight of the Cross. That’s powerful, yes?
Godly boundaries allow us to live life with intention and purpose. It is vital to our spiritual growth that we recognize unhealthy boundaries in our life and the lives of those we interact with. Strong, healthy boundaries help us to stay focused on God as we live a God-centered life. The deeper aligned we are in God, the more clearly we can see Him, hear Him, and follow Him.
Therefore, we are encouraged to keep our eyes focused on God and give careful consideration to the paths before us so that we may choose the Godly path and avoid the path of sin.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV
It is an unhealthy boundary if it makes you compromise your most authentic self.
Have you ever experienced a situation where you felt the need to compromise who you were in order to be seen or included as a part of a group? Or perhaps you felt the need to dim your light to be accepted? If you ever think you need to change who you are to be a part of anything, my dear friends, walk away. If you are not accepted for who you are, it’s not for you.
Understanding your identity in Christ is vital to your spiritual walk. Anytime you feel like your identity in God is compromised, take notice – this is truly a sign of an unhealthy boundary.
If you are in a situation that requires you to modify who you are, you need to reevaluate the relationship. Never allow the opinions or judgments of others to influence your beliefs in God or yourself. Be true to you!
There will be times when we forget who we are in Christ if we are not intentional with our faith walk or spiritual growth. When we are firmly rooted in who God says we are and recognize the truth of our identity in Christ, we are emboldened to live with authenticity. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the confidence to show up as our authentic self without a mask or facade. It is genuinely freeing when we show up as our genuine self, no pretenses, holding nothing back.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.‘” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
It is an unhealthy boundary if you want to fix others more than they want to fix themselves.
One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with is wanting to fix everything for everyone. Whenever someone was hurt, I wanted to fight their battles for them. When my friend went through a difficult season, I wanted to be the friend who went out of her way to do all I could to remind her that she is an amazing woman. The truth? I was drained and exhausted…all the time.
To be completely honest, I still struggle when I see someone hurt and wounded. I have a huge heart, and it is a burden to carry due to my compassion for others. It wasn’t always this way. Life has a way of changing us through our experiences. I just hate to see others struggle, so I go out of my way to support them in my desire to help them feel better or be happy. My intentions were meant for good, but I was way over my boundary lines!
A Christian Counselor shared with me, “Robin, it’s not your battle to fight.” And the light came on! That ah-ha moment when I realized that perhaps, just perhaps, I feel so drained because I am trying to carry a weight that is not mine to carry. Listen to me carefully – you must let go of the habit of trying to save (fix, repair) everyone. That is not your job. That is God’s job. Am I saying that you should completely ignore your responsibility as a Christian to love, serve, be a voice for the unheard, and live as Jesus did? No. But I am saying that giving your heaviness to God is an act of faith in itself. Not everything is meant for you to carry or correct.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:1-5 NIV
Establishing Our Boundaries
I hope you take the time to reflect on these words. Do you identify with any of the five signs? Maybe your prone to compromise or carry someone’s burden. Whatever the issue, I encourage you to pray through the scriptures and create boundaries for yourself. Allow God’s Word to guide you as you develop healthy boundaries. Ask God to show you any areas in your life where your boundaries need to be restored.
And remember, God himself established boundaries for us and instructed us on the importance of sound boundaries. Boundaries protect us and those around us. Is there any area of your life where you need to develop or rebuild boundaries? How can I assist you in your journey? Please reach out if there is anything I can help you with. I promise I won’t try to fix it, but I can listen and pray with you as you establish your boundaries. Until then,
Keep on Shining!