Is Your Family Holding You Back?

meme with the photo of a woman sitting on a wall overlooking a city. It says, No one can become a truly biblical adult without setting some limits, leaving home, and cleaving somewhere else.When some individuals begin to develop boundaries, they say, "But my mother (or father, or sister, or brother) is my best friend." They often feel fortunate that, in times of family stress, their best friends are the family in which they were raised. They don't think they need an intimate circle of friends besides their own parents and siblings.

They misunderstand the biblical function of the family. God intended the family to be an incubator in which we grow the maturity, tools, and abilities we need. Once the incubator has done its job, it's supposed to encourage the young adult to leave the nest, connect to the outside world (see Genesis 2:24), and establish a spiritual and emotional family system on one's own. The adult is free to do whatever God has designed for him or her.

Over time, we are to accomplish God's purposes of spreading his love to the world, to make disciples of all the nations (see Matthew 28:19—20). Staying emotionally locked in to the family of origin frustrates this purpose. It's hard to see how we'll change the world when we live on the same street.

No one can become a truly biblical adult without setting some limits, leaving home, and cleaving somewhere else. Otherwise, we never know if we have forged our own values, beliefs, and convictions—our very identity—or if we are mimicking the ideas of our family.

Can family be friends? Absolutely. But if you have never questioned, set boundaries, or experienced conflict with your family members, you may not have an adult-to-adult connection with your family. If you have no other "best friends" than your family, you need to take a close look at those relationships. You may be afraid of separating, individuating, and becoming an autonomous adult.


Learn more about how to say no and really mean it by reading The New York Times bestselling book, Boundaries.

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  • Amy on

    It could be possible to do both, move closer and be independent. You could have a fresh start in a new community, a new church where no one knows you as someone’s spouse or parent, and still be within a modest visiting distance.

  • DK on

    ^This! :-(

  • Sue F on

    My family of origin didn’t have boundaries…don’t even think they know what the word means. It took me until I was in my 60’s and reading the books of Dr Cloud and Dr Townsend to really get a grip on things. I loved the books about the button pushers and also the entitlement trap. So enlightening!

  • Erica Farley on

    I think family, especially parents also will hold their children back from living their life out of fear of the unknown. Parents or relatives who haven’t stretched themselves throughout their life, try to keep other family members from stretching themselves. It’s like a pail full of crabs. One crab tries to get out and the rest try to pull him back down.

  • Sean C. on

    Great article, I recently stopped contact with my mother due to a lack of boundaries which has created an enmeshment with me, my wife, and our children. Over the last year I’ve confronted her with behaviors that indicated abuse of medications which she acknowledged about 3-4 different times. She revealed during a conversation she had with my wife and I about our poor parenting that she actually was abusing medications quite consistently for the past 8 years which was the catalyst for us pulling away. However through this I’ve realized how enmeshed our relationship really was and how stunted I’ve been in my growth and development as a man. One quote from her was “Your (name omitted – 5y/o) daughter doesn’t know the difference between Mom, dad, or Grammie.” That was a big revelation in how she thought of herself in regards to our family and relationship. Unfortunately my father passed when I was 16 and never had a good male mentor. Regardless, I’ve purchased the Boundaries book and workbook and look forward to getting through it help my development. I’m also reading Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters which has been insightful in regards to the importance of fathers in daughters lives.

    Sorry for the boundaries throw up.

    Many blessings,


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