Guard Your Heart (Boundaries – Part 5)

More from “Boundaries”.  This lesson was the one that did it for me.  After reading/hearing this lesson, I finally understood what I was doing  that attracted the “thieves, robbers, and abusers”.  But, there is hope, thank you God, I can be taught!  Today I can say NO, today I can enforce consequences and protect myself! Today I know what to look for, and what to avoid, thank you Jesus!

Proverbs 4:23boundariescover

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life. NKJV

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life. NLT

Keep your heart pure for out of it are the important things of life. (NLV)

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)



The inability to say NO to the BAD is pervasive.  Not only does it keep us from refusing evil in our lives, it often keeps us from recognizing evil.  Many complaint people realize too late that they’re in a dangerous or abusive relationship.  Their spiritual and emotional “radar” is broken; they have no ability to guard their hearts. (Proverbs 4:23)

This type of boundary problem paralyzes people’s “NO” muscles. Whenever they need to protect themselves by saying NO, the word catches in their throats.  This happens for a number of different reasons:

  • Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
  • Fear of abandonment and separateness
  • A wish to be totally dependent on another
  • Fear of someone else’s anger
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
  • Fear of being unspiritual
  • Fear ones one’s overstrict, critical conscience (God will never forgive me…)

This las fear is actually experienced as GUILT.  People who have overstrict, critical consciences will condemn themselves for things God himself doesn’t condemn them for.  When we give in to guilt feelings, we are complying with a harsh conscience.  This fear of disobeying the harsh conscience translates into an inability to confront others – a saying YES TO THE BAD because it would cause more guilt.


This boundary problem is called avoidance – saying no to the good.  It’s the inability to ask for help, to recognize one’s own needs, to let others in.  Avoidants withdraw when they are in need; they do not ask for the support of others.

Why is avoidance a boundary problem? At the heart of the struggle is a confusion of boundaries as walls.  Boundaries are supposed to be able to “breathe”, to be like fences with a gate that can let the good in and the bad out.  Individuals with walls for boundaries can let in neither bad nor good.  No one touches them.

God designed our personal boundaries to have gates.  We should have the freedom to enjoy safe relationships and to avoid destructive ones.  God even allows us the freedom to let him in or to close him off.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come inand eat with that person, and they with me. (Revealtion 3:20 NIV)

God has no interest in violating our boundaries so that he can relate to us.  He understands that this would cause injuries of trust.  It is our responsibility to open up to him in need and repentance.  Yet, for avoidants, opening up to both God and people is almost impossible.

The impermeable boundaries of avoidants cause rigidity toward their God-given needs.  They experience their problems and legitimate wants as something bad, destructive, or shameful.

Complain avoidants suffer from what is called ‘REVERSED BOUNDARIES”.  They have no boundaries where they need them, and they have boundaries where they shouldn’t have them.


Controllers believe the old jokes about training top sales people: no means maybe, and maybe means yes. While this may be productive in learning to sell a product, it can wreak havoc in a relationship.  Controllers are perceived as bullies, manipulative and aggressive.

The primary problem of individuals who can’t hear NO – which is different from being not able to say NO – is that they tend to project responsibility for their lives onto others.  They use various means of control to motivate others to carry the load intended by God to be theirs alone.

Controllers come in two types:

  1. AGGRESSIVE CONTROLLERS – These people clearly don’t listen to other’s boundaries.  They run over other people’s fences like a tank.  They are sometimes verbally abusive, sometimes physically abusive. Most of the time they aren’t aware that others even have boundaries. It’s as if they live in a world of YES.  There’s no place for someone else’s NO.  They attempt to get others to change, to make the world fit for their idea of the way life should be.  They neglect their own responsibility to accept others as they are.
  2. MANIPULATIVE CONTROLLERS – Less honest than the aggressive controllers, manipulators try to persuade people out of their boundaries.  They talk others into YES. They indirectly manipulate circumstances to get their way. They seduce others into carrying their burdens.  They use guilt messages.


Termed ‘nonresponsives’ because of their lack of attention to the responsibilities of love, these individuals exhibit the opposite of the pattern exhorted in  Proverbs 3:27 NIV: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

Nonresponsives fall into one of two groups:

  1. Those with a critical spirit towards others’ needs – a projection of our own hatred of our needs onto others.  They hate being incomplete in themselves. As a result they ignore the needs of others.
  2. Those who are so absorbed in their own desires and needs they exclude others – a form of narcissism.

CONTROLLERS AND NONREPONSIVES have a hard time looking past themselves.  They see others as responsible for their struggles and are on the lookout for someone to take care of them.  They gravitate toward someone with blurry boundaries, who will naturally take on too many responsibilities in the relationship and who won’t complain about it.  It’s like the old joke about relationships:

“What happens when a rescuing, enabling person meets a controlling, insensitive person?

Answer – they get married!

(ouch – this was me!)



  1. Okay, so I’ve known about this book for ten years. Then the director at the mission gave me a copy from which to make an audio recording for their recovery program. Then you’re here talking about it. I finally got the message. I need to learn how to set boundaries. I purchased a copy of the book & workbook for both the regular Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage series.

    Thanks for underlining what God was saying to me!


    • Maybe you could do the next series. I never saw the workbook. I’m going off bible study handouts that I got from church. I see they have all kinds of Boundaries books now…it certainly helped me learn. God bless you sis. ;-D

  2. I’m buying a copy of this book. It’s fantastic, and has really helped me. I seriously thought that setting boundaries was very “unChristian!” Not anymore.


    • Lol, that’s what I used to think too! I stayed in marriages waaaayyyy longer than I should have. That thing about being unfaithful to your wife with no consequences. I can’t believe I just sat there and did nothing. No wonder he kept seeing other women, I didn’t say NO, no consequence for him or me. Denial is a powerful thing. Blessings to Tami, Diana

  3. Diana,

    I praise God that you’re doing this series. You’re ministering to many through it (including me… the Avoidant)… Much love to you, my beloved friend and many blessings!


  4. Wow Diana. This is an extraordinary post. So thorough. I think everyone can find something in it. Thank-you for doing it, just, wow.

  5. Your series on boundaries is awesome, something I really need in my life. I too always have said yes to anything and everything and was always afraid to say No. Through my chronic pain journey I have had to learn to say No for my health’s sake. It’s hard because saying No is so not me. I am blessed to be able to read your series of boundaries Blogs. Thank You! XOXO

  6. This is very interesting. It worries me because a number of people in my life have called my fiance controlling. But I know at heart he never means anyone wrong. I really think he just has boundary issues. He takes on other peoples issues as his own and then gets upset when they aren’t happy with the way he’s “fixed” them.

    • I can only speak from my own experience. The book helped me see where I was afraid to say NO, I said YES to anything and everything. And I hooked up with the controllers.

      I did do an interesting experiment once. It was suggested that I pick a non-important issue and watch what my ex-husband did when I said NO, or disagreed with him. Something like, “where do you want to go to eat?” He answers blah-blah-blah, and I say, “NO…I don’t want to go there.”

      Well, he exploded! He was one of those that would not or could not hear the word NO. Then I knew, we both had a problem. He couldn’t hear NO and I couldn’t say NO. We went to counseling, well ok four counselers/pastors. He got kicked out of all of those places. It was not just me. He didn’t hear NO from anyone. And no, the marriage did not survive, after 13 years we got divorced. I wish I would have learned this earlier in my life. Love you and praying for you…

      • Thank you for sharing your story. Life is so difficult! I’ve wished for years God would just hook me up with the right person and tell me “he’s the one.” But it seems he has other plans.

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