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How Boundaries Give Us Freedom

Growing up I was gas-lighted. At the time it was just my life. I didn’t know any different, but it took a toll on my mental health. 

The person who manipulated me still likes to call. When I see their name flash on my phone my shoulders tense, my stomach churns, and I sense danger, even though I could be perfectly safe in my car or kitchen.

God doesn’t want me feeling this way. 

We are allowed to protect the boundaries of our hearts and minds. We’re told in Proverbs, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (4:23).

I’ve learned that I can set boundaries. Why? Because we live in a broken world where memories or circumstances might threaten our hearts. We can’t stop the things that might trigger us, but we can make a conscious effort to avoid some of these things by setting boundaries for our hearts, for our well-being, like uniformed sentinels keeping watch.

How do we do this?

Just like we’d set boundaries for other areas of our lives, like locking the doors of our home or car because not just anyone is welcome to enter. We take inventory of what threatens us, and if there’s something specific we identify as potentially dangerous, we set up a barrier for protection.

For me this meant setting the boundary of when that person calls, I let their call go to voicemail. Every time. That’s my boundary–I won’t pick up and be caught off guard or subject to manipulation. What a gift to myself! This allows me to breathe. I can address the message at a time and in a way that is healthy for my soul and mind. I can listen to the message if it feels safe. I don’t have to listen to it at all. I can respond if it feels okay for me to do so. And I don’t have to respond if it’s toxic for me. If I choose to respond, I don’t have to call them back. I can text.

I have choices. And I get to decide.

Something as simple as letting a call roll into voicemail has given me so much freedom.

If your mental health gets shaky when you don’t get enough sleep, you can set a specific bedtime each night. Social media has been linked with intensified senses of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. If this is a dangerous space for you, perhaps you need to set some social media parameters. Does that account create a bad feeling, jealousy, sarcasm, or a desire to do something you know isn’t good for you?

You have the power and the right to unfollow, unfriend, or mute that potentially harmful account. You could delete an app that consumes you, set a timer for how long you’re on social media, or have certain days or hours that you don’t allow yourself on social media at all.

If crowds make you anxious, you can avoid places with big groups whenever possible. Does a certain person consistently take advantage of, manipulate, or criticize you? How can you minimize contact with that person? 

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid all the things that might threaten our mental health. Some are unavoidable. But we can be mindful of things that throw us off and do our best to manage those situations. I can’t prevent that person from calling, but I can be intentional about sending their call to voicemail.

What can you do to intentionally guard your heart?

We don’t need to draw lines around everything in our life. But there are some things in our lives—and they’re different for all of us—that are helpful to set limits around. Remember, Jesus taught crowds and sent crowds away. He was sometimes in the midst of large groups and sometimes physically set Himself away from them. Jesus asked people to follow Him and sometimes made sure no one was following Him.

Boundaries aren’t bad things. They don’t confine us. They make us safe. They actually give us freedom in the places we are.

Our Savior has designed us for an abundant life. Why not take our cues from Him and set up a few boundaries of our own to keep threats out and pleasant living in?

Adapted from Holy Care for the Whole Self: Biblical Wisdom for Mental and Spiritual Well-Being by Laura L. Smith. Used by permission of Our Daily Bread Publishing®, Grand Rapids MI. All rights reserved. Further distribution is prohibited without written permission from Our Daily Bread Publishing® at

Bestselling author and speaker Laura L. Smith tears down lies, so we can live in truth. She loves Jesus, her prince charming of a husband, their four kids, music, a good book, dark chocolate, and travel. She’s also a huge fan of counseling. Her newest book Holy Care for the Whole Self: Biblical Wisdom for Mental and Spiritual Well-Being releases February 6, 2024. Laura lives in the picturesque college town of Oxford, Ohio where you’ll find her running the wooded trails, strolling the brick streets, shopping at the Saturday morning farmer’s market, or going on a sunset walk with her family. Visit her website at: or find her on Instagram @laurasmithauthor 

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