Bridges or Boundaries?

It's very popular to set up "boundaries" in our relationships, but we gain so much more when we build bridges. This 1-minute devotion explains.

I once had a friend who treated me more like her child than her peer. She would boss me around and sometimes talk down to me. 

If I’d followed the popular Boundaries teachings, I’d have cut off contact with her to “take control of my life,” “protect” myself, and be “safe” from her “manipulative abuse.” 

Exaggerated descriptions like those in quotes are becoming more popular as people convince themselves they are victims and don't need to obey God's commands to pursue peace and reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24; Romans 12:18).

Instead of learning how to graciously deal with manipulative people (Romans 12:14-21; Ephesians 5:10), culture tells us to give up when relationships get difficult.

I chose to depend on the Lord, not culture, and I learned how to deal with my friend constructively without being manipulated.(1) God helped me look beyond her annoying qualities to see her good qualities. And one day, she came and asked me to teach her about the Lord. 

Many modern teachings encourage us to take control of our lives. The Bible teaches us to give God control (Luke 9:23-24; Romans 12:1-2). 

We can build protective boundaries or biblical bridges. I want to build bridges.



(1) I did not avoid my friend, but I refused to get angry and I didn't do everything she demanded. One day after she'd told me I needed to attend a certain event, she paused, smiled, and said, "Gail, you always listen when I tell you to do something, but that doesn't mean you are going to do it." I smiled back at her, and we both realized we'd reached an understanding without anger, resentment, or boundaries.

In especially difficult relationships, building bridges may involve setting up guidelines: see Boundaries Versus Guidelines. Check out biblical critiques of various Boundaries teachings in the Boundaries Collection.

It's very popular to set up "boundaries" in our relationships, but we gain so much more when we build bridges. This 1-minute devotion explains.

Bible Love Notes


  1. I don't think you understand the concept of boundaries. Boundaries are not fences keeping people out. They are simply the way we do not allow people to manipulate us or make plans for our lives. No matter what you friend expects you to do, you will not do it. If she kept you on the phone too long you would let her know you need to hang up.Those are boundaries.

    1. I have studied a large selection of articles on the official Boundaries sites. I have purchased and studied two of the Boundaries books. I have researched the author's backgrounds and studied their explanations of their counseling. I have also seen families broken by boundary-makers who follow the Boundaries teachings.

      You say boundaries are not fences, but Henry Cloud, the author of Boundaries describes them exactly in that way: "We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside." (online article:

      And from my extensive research, the books are contradictory, but they definitely encourage readers to take on the role of victims, blaming others for their difficulties, in some cases cutting off relationship with family members, and in other cases giving people inflexible ultimatums. There are some good concepts in the books and articles, but they are deeply entangled with selfish blame-shifting.

      I believe that if Joseph had applied Boundaries to his life, he'd have spent his life wallowing in self-pity and would have refused to help his family.