Boundaries Let the Good in and Keep the Bad Out

BoundariesBoundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt. 7:6) so that people will not steal them. They keep the pearls inside, and the pigs outside.

Sometimes, we have bad on the inside and good on the outside. In these instances, we need to be able to open up our boundaries to let the good in and the bad out. In other words, our fences need gates in them. For example, if I find that I have some pain or sin within, I need to open up and communicate it to God and others, so that I can be healed. Confessing pain and sin helps to “get it out” so that it does not continue to poison me on the inside (1 John 1:9; James 5:16; Mark 7:21 – 23).

And when the good is on the outside, we need to open our gates and “let it in.” Jesus speaks of this phenomenon in “receiving” him and his truth (Rev. 3:20; John 1:12). Other people have good things to give us, and we need to “open up to them” (2 Cor. 6:11 – 13). Often we will close our boundaries to good things from others, staying in a state of deprivation.


Click to Tweet: The important thing is that property lines be permeable enough to allow passing and strong enough to keep out danger.


In short, boundaries are not walls. The Bible does not say that we are to be “walled off” from others; in fact, it says that we are to be “one” with them (see John 17:11). We are to be in community with them. But in every community, all members have their own space and property. The important thing is that property lines be permeable enough to allow passing and strong enough to keep out danger.

Often, when people are abused while growing up, they reverse the function of boundaries and keep the bad in and the good out. When Mary was growing up she suffered abuse from her father. She was not encouraged to develop good boundaries. As a result, she would close herself off, holding the pain inside; she would not open up to express her hurt and get it out of her soul. She also would not open up to let support from the outside in to heal her. In addition, she would continually allow others to “dump” more pain into her soul. Consequently, when she came in for help, she was carrying a lot of pain, still being abused, and “walled off” from support from the outside.

She had to reverse the ways her boundaries worked. She needed fences that were strong enough to keep the bad out and gates in those fences to let out the bad already in her soul and let in the good she desperately needed.


From Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Click here to learn more about this New York Times bestseller.


  1. Stephen Stilley says

    I am a work in progress but I’m still a long way from where I want to be. How long does this take?

    • Sherri C says

      Developing different skills and learning new ways to communicate is a process that takes commitment but one that is well worth it. It will feel like it takes more energy in the begining. You will begin to realize how much it took to live life expending energy on things you were not called to do or be! You will get clear on your strengths and weaknesses and become a better you. I highly recommend Henry’s book Changes That Heal to read after reading Boundaries!

    • Tanya says

      Stephen, truly we are all works in progress. My story is similar to “Mary’s” in the story, except the abuser was not my dad. I began ten years ago to be healed when I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and began a relationship with Him. Where He has gently opened my eyes and about 5 years ago I began a more concentrated effort. I have studied and observed and had to let go of several people that I cared about that are not bad people, but I have let them control and manipulate me in the past. If they are willing to allow our relationship to change then they are allowed back in cautiously.
      I have lost LOTS of people. Husband, family, career, really a whole part of my life. Often people say they want you to change, but when you do, they don’t always like the new you, or they say you’re being selfish.
      The people that are sticking it out with me are priceless. There are three really close people and maybe 5 that are on the outer circle. This includes family. What I find if you are really to get free, is that you will not have the emotional capacity for many people close to you. You will have to focus on yourself so that you can be healthy enough to help others later.
      I feel so much more free. And I surprise myself with my assertiveness sometimes. But it feels good. I am not mean, but I am far more direct with my needs. And I’m helping those I love have better boundaries. I truly see how boundaries show love to ourselves and others. Not everyone will concur. It will hurt sometimes. But you are helping yourself and you’re trying to help them. They just might not be ready yet.
      Just the fact that you’re reading this type of article and acknowledging your need of boundaries is excellent! You’ll do well. And everyone’s walk is their own. Just begin again and keep moving forward. Sometimes running, sometimes crawling. It’s the rest of your life so enjoy it. It’s valuable.
      Best wishes-

      • Denise says

        Thank you Tanya – your response is exactly what I needed to read today. Having a bit of a self pity party this morning. you give me hope. I’m in the process of letting go… ALOT of unhealthy and unavailable people (husband, family and long standing “friends). It’s a lonely right now and liberating at times. A small small circle of healthy secure Christian friends are helping me to heal and learn/practice new behaviors. As well as reading anything and everything about boundaries. Thank you for sharing

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