The Boundary Mistake 90% Christians Make and How to Fix It

Have you ever wondered WHY that person isn’t respecting your boundaries? What are the successful ways of setting boundaries as a Christian?  

Perhaps you think you need to find a better way to communicate or maybe you believe there are just some people who are boundary-proof. 

That’s why today, I want to dive into the ONE mistake that will cause your boundaries to fail every time AND what you can do to fix it.

This particular mistake reminds me of the time my friend Meredith asked me to come with her to the car dealer to negotiate a price on a car.

You see, this was the car she’d always wanted. She dreamed about it for years and she was finally able to afford it. Sort of.

It was still a little out of her price range but she was so close that she couldn’t take wait any longer. She knew how much I’ve saved on car purchases over the years, so she asked if I would join her. Happy to help her avoid over-paying, I said yes. Then I told her I have a few questions and there are a few rules. The biggest question was, are you flexible on colors and options? And the rules were this: 

  1. Let me do all the talking.
  2. Don’t get excited about the car.
  3. Follow my lead, even if you disagree.

DEAL! She was so excited to drive off the lot with her shiny new sports car.

We headed into the dealer. Gabe greeted us on the lot. And from the moment Meredith sat in that driver’s seat, I knew we were going to have an issue. She was so giddy that the salesperson looked like a kid who just scored the biggest lollipop. He knew he already had her, and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

When we finally sat down at Gabe’s desk, the issue went from bad to worse.  

Gabe laid out the price and I pushed back. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Meredith was getting squirmy. Each time Gabe went to speak to his manager to get approval for what I was asking, Meredith needed to be talked off the ledge.

“Let’s not push so hard,” she’d say. “What if he changes his mind?”

Changes his mind about what? Selling you a car? I don’t think so.” But Meredith was terrified her dream car could slip right through her fingers.

So when Gabe came back with his final offer–which I found to be completely unacceptable, especially given that sales were down and there were four of the exact same model on the lot–I knew it was time to say “Thank you Gabe, but no thank you.” Just as I was about to open my mouth, Meredith jumped out of her seat and said, “I’ll take it.”

I pushed myself away from Gabe’s desk and knew my time here was done. There was nothing more I could do to help Meredith get the best price possible on her dream car. Truth be told, Gabe could have charged her double and I think she would have found a way to pay.

You might be wondering, Kris, what does this have to do with boundaries? Everything. In fact, the one mistake that’s keeping you stuck with people who don’t respect your boundaries is the SAME mistake Meredith made—the inability to walk away. 

Now, I’m not saying that you have to walk away from a relationship to get what you want (that’s just manipulative). But I am saying that if you can’t go without whatever they’re offering you, your boundaries won’t stick. 

Before you go thinking that this is just some game of “get my power back,” it’s not. But the truth is, no matter how big or small, they have something you want or need.

Just like in the case of Meredith’s overpriced sports car, you’re likely willing to overpay for what little they’re giving you.

If you can’t do without his/her company.

If you can’t be alone.

If you can’t stand feeling uncomfortable in a disagreement.

If you can’t stomach their reactions, then you will do whatever is necessary to get the relationship back to a symbiotic state–and they don’t have to do anything but wait for you to cave. Just like Meredith.

That’s why they always ‘win’ the boundary war: because they have negotiating power, you don’t. While setting boundaries as a Christian you have to be thoughtful.

You may whine, complain, and even play the victim, but you don’t stand your ground.

Many who make this mistake try to give the illusion of control with follow-ups like,

“OK, I’ll do it this time, but next time…”

“OK, but don’t do it again,”

“OK but I just…” (and then make some pathetic threat that they won’t follow through with anyway.)

When the truth is, your threats are hollow because your boundaries are unstable—and they know it. 

THAT’S what happens when you want what they have. Even if it’s overpriced. Even if you have to sell your soul, you’ll pay, because you can’t live without it.

Now that you know the mistake that keeps your boundaries powerless, how can you set limits that stick? 

Here are the things to consider while setting boundaries as a Christian!

Step #1: Name your need

This is going to be one of the hardest things to do, but I think you’re up for the task. Ready? Grab a notepad or writing device and identify your needs. 

Ask yourself, what do I need from this person? Be careful, don’t start listing all of the things you think they should be doing for you. Rather, identify YOUR need. 

For example: instead of saying, “He should want to spend more time with me,” identify YOUR need for attention and companionship.  

Until you truly understand the need within you, you’ll never be able to set boundaries for toxic behavior and you’ll always pay too high of a price for the little you’re getting in exchange. 

Step #2: Identify the fear

Behind every broken boundary is a fear. For example:  Maybe your sister keeps calling and coming over whenever she wants, no matter how many times you’ve asked her not to.  

In fact, the more you ask, the more brazen she gets.

When you consider setting a firmer boundary, you’re now afraid of how you’ll be perceived by others, with fears like, “Who would do that to their own sister?” These fears can keep you from setting appropriate boundaries.  

Sometimes the need and the fear intersect. For example, “I need others to see me as easygoing” crosses into a fear that others will view you as harsh. 

I encourage you to dig deep as the true fear is more important than the surface fear. In Meredith’s case, on the surface, she feared that she would watch her dream slip away if she didn’t purchase the car that day. But the true fear was that no other car would give her the image she needed to feel important. 

Step #3: Take your needs and fears to the Lord and ask Him to meet it or heal it.

When you allow the Lord to meet your needs in HIS timing, and you allow Him to heal you of whatever brokenness is going on within you, it helps you be more confident to say no to bad behavior, because your whole world doesn’t hinge on someone else meeting your need or quieting your fear. 

Many might think enforcing a boundary is cold and unloving. Yet it’s actually the most loving thing you can do because it puts both parties in a position to seek the Lord (should they choose) instead of keeping the codependent cycle alive. 

If you struggle with only being OK when others are OK with you, please check out my online course called Conquering Codependency Biblically.

Did you know that there is ONE trait guaranteed to attract manipulators? To find out if you are inadvertently drawing these people to you, check out this episode here.

Want to learn how to identify and deal with all the difficult people in your life?  Be sure to grab your FREE Toxic People Survival Guide.

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