A boundary properly drawn is, metaphorically speaking, a portrait of an individual. A person’s sense of self, field of responsibility and duty, one’s choices, values; that which a person admires and abhors, and even a person’s friends—all of these facets are defined by the lines of demarcation that each one of us chooses to draw…or cross.
Sometimes our boundaries lead us in the direction of leaving a friendship, either for a season or for good. When do we know when we need to take a more drastic step in a relationship?
A healthy friendship is one that “stirs up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). It is important to recognize the emotions that are stirred up within a healthy friendship versus an unhealthy one. If we’re consistently feeling drained, depleted, stressed, and angry because of a friendship, it’s time to set some healthy borders. Setting boundaries leaves room for a friendship to grow and for friends to work through conflict in a way that is beneficial for both parties.
Some healthy boundaries include:
- Firmly but gently redirecting the conversation of a gossiping friend
- Saying no to a friend that feels entitled to your resources or time
- Letting friends know when they do or say something that is hurtful, mean or rude
- Stating your thoughts when a friend is pushing or projecting her ideas, actions or feelings onto you
- Asking friends to stop when they are disrespecting or insulting you
- Describing how you want to be treated when a boundary is crossed
Proverbs 22:24–25 warns against friendship with someone who cannot control his anger and wrath. Wrath includes a component of vengefulness and retribution, when a person uses anger to control the other person and make her feel sorry for not doing what she want her to do. Consistently feeling like your friend can’t do anything right in a friendship, or on the flip side feeling as if we’re always doing something wrong, may be a sign that the relationship has turned abusive and it’s time to place a final, firm boundary of leaving the friendship. This is a difficult step, and should be approached in a manner that is clear and with an open door toward future reconciliation. A person who bears the task of ending a friendship, can write a statement of appreciation for the friend and friendship, followed by a clear synopsis about how the friend’s controlling or angry behavior has harmed and damaged the person’s soul and personhood. End with the need for healing and space—the firm boundary—and hope for the friend’s healing as well.