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We are called to love, but that does not mean we must always put up with toxic or abusive behavior. Below is an excerpt from Hypocrisy Exposed about the importance of setting boundaries:
Boundaries are essential for a healthy life and healthy relationships. Learning to set and maintain boundaries is an integral part of growing as a person. Sometimes, people who have been wounded or abused, especially in childhood, do not realize that they are allowed to have boundaries. And toxic and abusive people do not respect the boundaries of others. Here are a few basic points about boundaries:
- Boundaries create a healthy distinction and separation between you and other people.
- Boundaries mean that you have freedom of choice and are able to say no.
- Boundaries mean that there is respect for your personhood and the personhood of others.
- Boundaries mean that you are responsible for yourself (your choices and actions) and others are responsible for themselves (their choices and actions).
- Boundaries help to keep bad things out and allow good things in.
When you recognize patterns of destructive, deceptive, and hypocritical behavior in a person with whom you are in relationship, it is time to establish and maintain some clear boundaries. How you do this will often depend on the nature of the relationship. Setting boundaries with a coworker will look different from setting boundaries with a spouse. Setting boundaries with a friend will look different from setting boundaries with a sibling or parent. But determine what you will and will not tolerate in the relationship, communicate boundaries, and stick with them. When boundaries are violated, enforce consequences.
Listed below are a few examples of what it looks like to set boundaries:
- Refusing to engage in conversation with someone if they use destructive words and will not speak respectfully.
- Waiting for the fruit of repentance to show before slowly rebuilding trust.
- Not giving in to manipulative, controlling, or intimidating behavior.
- Cutting off contact with an abusive person until there has been genuine repentance.
Religious narcissists, abusive people, and chronic hypocrites will hate when you set boundaries and will often react in anger. So, be prepared for this. You will probably be accused of being selfish, judgmental, and prideful for insisting on healthy boundaries. Don’t allow these accusations to manipulate, intimidate, or control you. Boundaries are biblical and sometimes it is necessary to separate from people who refuse to repent for destructive behavior. Second Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV) speaks of patiently enduring evil behavior, hoping that the person will come to repentance. But the very next verses show that there comes a time when you must put up a boundary and separate from the person:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV, emphasis added)
You cannot force someone to change, and nor should you try. But when a person is heartless and unappeasable; when they refuse to truly take responsibility for their hurtful words and actions; when they insist on living a life of duplicity and hypocrisy; when there is a pattern of bad fruit; when there is no evidence of genuine repentance; when they are unable to have rational and respectful communication; they are the ones who should experience the consequences for their choices, not you. Suffering for Jesus doesn’t mean that you have to be somebody’s doormat and it is completely appropriate to set and maintain boundaries. No relationship is exempt from healthy boundaries!
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