The Power of Painful Consequences

BoundariesTrespassing on other people’s property carries consequences. A “No Trespassing” sign usually carries a threat of prosecution if someone steps over the boundaries. The Bible teaches this principle over and over, saying that if we walk one way, this will happen, and if we walk another way, something else will happen.

Just as the Bible sets consequences for certain behaviors, we need to back up our boundaries with consequences. How many marriages could have been saved if one spouse had followed through with the threat of “if you don’t stop drinking” (or “coming home at midnight,” or “hitting me,” or “yelling at the kids”), I will leave until you get some treatment!” Or how many young adults’ lives would have been turned around if their parents had followed through with their threat of “no more money if you quit another job without having further employment” or “no bed if you continue to smoke marijuana in my house.”


Click to Tweet: We need to back up our boundaries with consequences.


The Apostle Paul is not kidding in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 when he says that “if anyone will not work, don’t let him or her eat.” God does not enable irresponsible behavior. Hunger is a consequence of laziness (Proverbs 16:26).

Consequences give some “barbs” to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living according to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.

Question for Reflection:

Do you find it difficult or easy to set or maintain consequences with others when they “trespass”onto your emotional or relational property? Why or why not?


Boundaries is available for small groups! Looking for a great resource to use with your church small group, Sunday School class, or local Bible study? Check out these four powerful small group studies based on the Boundaries material.


  1. christine says

    Um, the marriage could be saved if the abusive person got treatment? I think you have to be very careful using that example. Serious abusers never change and this gives false hope to those in “hitting” situations. (Serious abusers are the fools and evil people that the bible warns us about – and to STAY AWAY from them – unsafe people) Yes, the person getting hit should leave. But being vague like this – you’re marriage could be saved – gives false hope to those being abused. You leave, he promises to change, he’s shown improvement, he comes back, you end up in the hospital again. Repeat cycle. There has to be an end in here. And yes, your boundary books cover that, however, the hitting example is way to causal for someone who hasn’t read your books. So…please choose your words more carefully for those who don’t understand.

    • Betty-Anne White says

      On average, an abused woman will leave 9 times before she stays away. If, she thinks the first time she leaves there is ‘no hope,’ she may delay her leaving. No one wants to leave with no hope.

      Another point, far more men don’t hit when they are confronted the first time they use rough behavior or the first time they hit. We don’t hear about those men much, typically we only hear about the ones who won’t stop.

      So, his point is valid, change is more possible when the consequence happens early on, rather than waiting until the 15th or 20th time.

    • LaDonna says

      The abuser needs to leave. If the abused leaves, the legal issues of abandonment will be played by the abuser’s attorney like a harp!

    • says

      I agree! Many problems, such as the example used, are simply too complex and deep rooted to be ‘fixed’ in a short amount of time. Going to treatment is a good first step though. It is only the first step in a problem such that used as an example.

    • Rebecca says

      I agree that abusive situations are far different than dealing with a reasonable, non-abusive person. Plus, abuse comes in so many forms besides being hit. My marriage ended because I kept my boundaries and wouldn’t tolerate abuse or affairs. Tbh, I would love a “Boundaries” book that specifically focused on abusive people and gave more details advice on how to stop being a magnet for those types of people. I get it that they are attracted to people with qualities they lack, but after that nothing makes sense logically.

      • says

        I will pray for you. I agree that could be helpful. Hopefully people in your life could also be boundary helpers for you and protect you from people who could be harmful to you.

  2. SA says

    You can stop physical abuse by leaving or threatening to leave but without recognizing the it can turn into emotional abuse and what that is, you can become stuck in a horribly abusive home without the physical pain. Stuck for 40 years while he commits adultery for 20 years and you don’t know he’s doing it and he never changes bc his mistresses tell him he’s not a problem. Any setting boundaries where leaving or threatening to leave is necessary MUST be followed with the abused and abuser getting help. This is epidemic in ‘the church’. God is furious with the state of ‘Christian’ marriages.

  3. joyfulspirit says

    Ecc 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of men is fully set in them to do evil.

  4. A google user says

    Not everyone has the financial resources to walk away as a means to erect a boundary. How can do so when one cannot walk away without loosing one’s source of income, especially when children are involved?

    • Cathy Gheen says

      Or if it has been going on and you have been married 40+ years. Giving up your home, your lifestyle and your retirement is not an easy choice. Sometimes the books make it sound so easy….follow through on the boundary consequence and it will get better..if it doesn’t then separate/divorce. The consequence can actually be as harder or harder on the spouse who did not break the relationship apart than on the one who did!

      • Erica Ramseur Morrison says

        If you are in that situation and it’s been 40+ years you can continue your life style, it’s called alimony….i was married almost 20 years had a 2 1/2 year old and pregnant when I left and started over because I valued my life integrity and values over a marriage being dishonored in every way…it took the help of the Lord to overcome and I thank God that I didn’t get a std or AIDS trying to stay with someone that did not want to honor the marriage any way…there is life and life more abundantly on the other side

    • says

      Probably through staying with a family or friend, or shelter for this, or calling the help numbers, or through a church.// I hope and pray the best for you. I know this is hard.

  5. Kandi McInturff says

    How do you set boundaries with someone who suffers not only from a life time of mental illness but is also suffering now from dementia too? There are no other caregivers to take care of them. I’m it.

  6. Courtney says

    abuse is a very complex topic and I don’t see how just going to treatment will help! usually these men have had a lot of trauma that they haven’t healed from and are manipulative and make you feel like it’s your fault they treat you this way, if you acted different or weren’t so stupid things would be different, they tear you down till there’s no self worth left that’s why you keep going back because you feel no one else could possibly love you or put up with you! God doesn’t expect us to stay with these people! usually women don’t admit or don’t realize they are being abused till it’s too late, I would have never labeled myself as being abused because I didn’t believe I was, that’s how bad he manipulated me, I always thought it was my fault because I didn’t do the right thing and that’s why he was like that!! Plus the church makes you feel stuck with someone when you are married to them because God looks down on divorce, but I can tell you this, God knows we deserve to be treated better, he wants better for us we are so precious to him, that’s why I ended my marriage because I felt things would never change!

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