by Andi Andrew
Boundaries – It’s a popular word these days, but what are they, and why do we even need them? And why do they matter in friendship, especially when pain is present?
In essence, a boundary is a definitive line that defines who owns, controls, and is responsible for something. Fences on property lines exist for a reason: to let each owner know what they need to take care of on the plot of land they own but also not to cross into territory where they have no ownership or jurisdiction. As you navigate difficulty, drama, or even betrayal in friendship, you have to get clear on what you own and what the other person owns. I mean, to make this relevant right now, ask yourself if, in the last thirty days, you have tried to fix something for someone that wasn’t (emotionally or even practically) yours to fix? Maybe you’ve tried to clean up their mess for them or carry a burden that wasn’t yours to carry. Have you taken responsibility for someone’s moods, actions, or words when it was actually out of your hands to do so? Have you said yes to something or someone when you meant or wanted to say no? How does it feel? How did it work out for you? No sarcasm intended; genuinely, how did it go?
Listen, maybe you’ve done all that you can do to set a guard over your heart, forgive, and lean in to love for a friend, in spite of the pain you may feel, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily going to be your close, trusted friend again. What it means is that after you have done all of the above before God, you have to put appropriate boundaries in place to move forward in a healthy, safe manner. What are you willing and unwilling to do in the relationship? Or is there a necessary ending in sight for this relationship because it is no longer safe or healthy?
When you start to set boundaries with someone, be prepared for what will come. It may spark a conversation that will bring about healing and require peacemaking, not peacekeeping. Peacekeeping sweeps things under the rug, avoiding hard conversation at all costs, whereas peacemaking requires truth in love conversations that have the potential to bring about reconciliation. Also, setting boundaries makes it clear what is ours to own, fix, and carry and what is theirs. Boundaries bring clarity, health, and healing for all parties involved, even when things are difficult to navigate.
As much as the weight of relational pain feels like something you’ll carry forever, setting healthy boundaries will change the game for you and for them. And when you sense yourself starting to carry the burden for someone else’s choices, you may simply practice saying out loud this line that we use in prayer ministry as we walk people through a forgiveness prayer: “Their issues (whoever they are) are not my issues. They are not for me to fix, and they are not for me to carry.” Remember, you cannot manipulate someone else’s free will or force them to clean up their act; you can only clean up and take care of your side of the fence.
My husband preached on boundaries to our community of believers, and in short, here are his reasons why boundaries matter:
1. Boundaries are about valuing ourselves and others. When we practice healthy boundaries, we are empowered to build relationships grounded in love.
2. Boundaries inform us. If someone crosses one of my boundaries, the world doesn’t fall apart, but it’s as though a warning light appears on my dash. It’s information.
3. Boundaries protect us. We are each called to guard our hearts. So, that includes our values, thoughts, feelings, passions, sins, weaknesses, history, and strengths.
Often, we don’t set boundaries because we fear conflict or the loss of a relationship. Neither of those is a good enough reason to avoid setting boundaries in our lives. The truth is, the person may leave; they may say harsh, untrue, or cruel things; they may slander you and sling guilt your way; but when you set boundaries, you become aware of what is theirs and what is yours. You are able to walk powerfully, even through painful seasons.
*Parts of this article were taken from Andi’s new book, Friendship-It’s Complicated: Avoid The Drama, Create Authentic Connection and Fulfill Your Purpose Together.
Andi Andrew is the author of She Is Free, Fake or Follower, and Friendship–It's Complicated. She is also the founding Pastor of Liberty Church, a multisite church she pioneered with her husband Paul. In 2015 she launched She Is Free, a movement that exists to engage and equip women to encounter God and expand the Kingdom in their spheres of influence. In January of 2022, Paul and Andi moved from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina where they currently attend Seacoast Church. Find more at andiandrew.com.