During my first few sessions of therapy, I asked my counselor… “What was wrong with me?” I had been told by several (abusive) people that I was… “Just like your mother!” And as crazy as I was feeling, I was starting to believe them. (It’s a very common abusive/toxic person tactic to tell you things like this to manipulate you into doing what they want.) The counselor just laughed.
It was nice to find out my only “problem” was my lack of boundaries with people, especially with the toxic people in my life.
Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. – Proverbs 22:24-25 NLT
Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. – Proverbs 26:4 NLT
Is this love?
When I was 25, after years of physical, psychological abuse and boundary pushing, I told my mother not to contact me anymore. She had a mental illness that she refused to seek treatment for and my boundary was set in place to protect myself and my children from further harm. This was after years and years of trying, so this was not a flippant decision. I knew there would be a backlash, especially from other family members.
Immediately she let it be known that she would not respect this boundary. She sent other family members to try to convince me I was wrong in my choice. Down the road she showed up at my house unannounced, scaring the crud out of me, after one of her many suicide attempts. Another time she contacted my pastor, expected him to come to her rescue – because she was the victim of my “controlling” behaviors. After speaking to me, and knowing my character, he politely asserted my boundaries again with her.
Her response was to scream at the pastor. (Totally healthy right?) That just confirmed to me that I was again making the right choice to have high boundaries with this woman, for our protection. She tried to hide her mental unstableness but I wasn’t going to cover for her. Further down the road after letting her multiple letters go unanswered, she hired an attorney to scare me, for “grandparents rights.” I did not respond to that threatening letter either. No court papers were filed.
This went on for years, until in July of 2010 when I received the call that told me she was gone. She took her own life. In all honesty, I was relieved it was over but deeply saddened that it had come to that. It was her own choice, so I carry no guilt for the boundaries that I needed to have in place. My family can try to blame me… but I do not have to accept that.
Love will not blame! Love is not controlling. Love is NOT abuse.
Love respects boundaries.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 AMP
Learning the lesson.
I wish I could say that that was the last time I had to experience anyone who treated me with such disrespect and lack of love, but that is not the case. God had to keep taking me around that mountain to teach how to be assertive with boundaries correctly, especially with toxic people. It took a very long time, but I think I am finally learning the lesson. Most of the time. Not an easy one to learn. It takes lots of practice.
When people have walked out of my life, after I’ve set a boundary that they do not like, I do not chase. Nor should I. I think it’s a common dysfunctional misconception that if someone leaves our life, especially family, that we need to go after them. That’s just not healthy. That’s not allowing them to have boundaries.
Respecting Boundaries. Theirs and Yours.
If someone sets a boundary, you do not get to keep hounding them to change their mind. You do not get to decide that you do not like their boundary, so you can keep crossing it. If you send a text and/or an email and they do not respond, you should stop there. The ball is in their court to respond. It is totally up to them. Their choice.
Nowhere in scripture do we see anyone healthy, chasing after other people. We only see evil people chasing those that they try to oppress.
Joseph did not run after his brothers after they sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:28). He wasn’t passive-aggressive towards them either. He didn’t play childish games. Joseph learned to flee from sin. I love Joseph’s way of handling things. He was righteous and full of integrity. He tested his brothers later before he even told them who he was. He singled out Judah for the testing because he was the one to initiate the attack against Joseph. It wasn’t UNTIL he saw their repentant hearts that he allowed them back into his life. What a healthy example.
When God frees you from oppression or from sin… do not run back to that. You are set free. Walk in that freedom. Do not look back. Respect yourself that much to stand up for your own boundaries and standards.
Personally, I trust God to bring back those who have left my life of their own choosing (not mine). Or deal with someone who has sinned against me. I do not chase, or beg, or manipulate. I just pray from a distance.
Have you found it easier to respect the boundaries of others after you’ve learned how to have boundaries for yourself?
God bless your healing journey,
<3 this post. Thank-you.
Jen Grice says
It is a difficult lesson to learn. I am struggling with setting boundaries with my parents at the moment. I have hd a lot of realisations lately about my upbringing and life after my mother passed away and my father remarried. Thank you for sharing your experience and advice.
Jen Grice says
Jen C. says
I am just coming to a place of healing and deliverance from the past. This includes setting healthy boundaries and respecting other peoples. Thank you for putting it so clearly.
Jen Grice says
You’re welcome, Jen! Glad to have you along on this journey.
I didn’t know that about your mom. I’m sad she took her life. That’s tragic especially when she could’ve been helped.
I cut off my siblings when my mom died. I still talk to two of them… My full blooded sister and my half sister who isn’t from my mom. We have the same dad. Anyway I was pressured to make nice with them 2 years ago so I wrote a letter to each of them hoping to discuss the problem. Instead I got one letter back from my older sister and she apparently spoke for all 5 of my siblings. In the letter she told me I wasn’t loving because I hadn’t showed up to a wedding or other things I had been invited to. She failed to mention her Christmas parties that she had been having for 5 years but neglected to invite me and invited everyone else. I felt like an idiot that I had even attempted to try with them.
Now days I don’t bother. I get heat for it from my sister. She tells me I’m holding a grudge. I am not. I just don’t care. It’s called indifference. I got tired of the games, the projecting, and the shaming all the while pretending they were the victims. I’m the black sheep and I don’t care. It’s easier to not be in their lives than to be abused and manipulated.
The story of Joseph has always been my favorite. Repentance is the only road to reconciliation, not cheap grace that just forgives everyone without any act of admitting the wrongs. I refuse to live like that but it’s cost me my family. Thankfully I’ve gained back my mental health… Still working on that with my marriage but time will tell on that one.
Jen Grice says
Hey, fellow black sheep here too! There is a difference between “holding a grudge” (while remaining silent or stonewalling) and putting up boundaries and not speaking to someone who hurt you, repeatedly. The first is a manipulation tactic to control another person. The second is how we protect ourselves and keep ourselves healthy. Toxic people, who manipulate others will always think that those with boundaries are trying to manipulate them because that’s how they handle things. Those who get healthy know we’re just doing what’s best for ourselves with no motives to control or harm anyone else.
Hi Jenn! I’m learning boundaries now. I put one down for my husband, that if he ever hit myself or my children again we would be over. He had been both physically and verbally abusive for over 12 years (our whole marriage).
It was my first time placing a boundary and STICKING to it (very few boundaries before then anyways). 2 days later he physically restrained our 8 year old in a painful way. I found out later he was physically abusing my 14 year old daily too. I chickened out for a few days, but finally when he was verbally abusive to the teenager AND their friend who was over, I said enough was enough.
I moved out the next morning. He went to rehab after having no choice but to leave our home (my boundary!), as he’d recently started drinking heavily. Since then, all his communications are controlling or manipulative. I’m waiting for him to be served the divorce papers as I write this.
My pastor says to wait to see if he will change in rehab, but that means not having legal protections in place to protect my kids from kidnapping as he threatened to do. It means being responsible for his future debts as he buys toys CONSTANTLY and tries to buy us off. It means my kids can’t have legal protection for when he is and is not able to visit with them. It means he legally can make the police make me allow him in my home since his name is on it too (but it’s my income paying for it).
My husband only did rehab because he had no choice. He refused to go to his family instead, then whined about the time and costs of the place (6-12 months, $1000/month). Yet, my kids and I are better off financially since he left!! No bill problems and I’ve NEVER had this much money in my checking account!
God is blessing me through this period for sure. I took almost 2 months to decide to divorce, as I prayed and studied the Bible and read resources about abuse like your blog.
Thank you for being one of my resources! I feel God is pointing me in a very specific direction at the moment, but I’m praying hard along every inch of this journey to make sure this is where God wants me going too.