Healthy Friendship Boundaries

Friendship is a reciprocal relationship described by traits such as trust, kindness, service, intimacy, and faithfulness. Whenever the above descriptions of friendship are broken, the relationship becomes strained, and individuals sometimes break up the friendship. The friendship concept describes our relationships with other people and the Almighty God. The Old and New Testaments rarely use the word friendship; instead, they describe the attitudes, actions and qualities that characterize friendship. The friendship of David and Jonathan sets the Old Testament model for friendship. David and Jonathan’s relationship was based on a covenant (1 Samuel 20:8, 14). Covenant faithfulness is the key description of friendship in the Old Testament. Today, we may hear people speak of their friends as covenant partners. In 1 Samuel 20, we encounter qualities such as open communication, willingness to do anything for a friend, self-sacrifice, loyalty, etc. 

Understanding friendship and what is expected in that context helps us know who we want to be close to. This is important because betrayal can be so heartbreaking to any individual. We all have high expectations from our friends, and rarely do we consider that they can fail us or use us for their benefit. Setting boundaries in friendship is, therefore, important because humans are fallible. The friendship boundaries discussed in this article will comprise guidelines for what is acceptable and what cannot be tolerated, expectations of both parties involved and personal limits. Let us examine the emotional, spiritual, physical, and social boundaries crucial to every friendship.

Emotional Boundary

Upholding emotional boundaries in relationships is critical. A skill to develop is keeping one’s emotions and well-being separate from those of one’s friends. Good relationships are where we can empathize, support, protect, care for, and even pray with each other over issues. We need to avoid a situation whereby our emotional state becomes dependent on our friend’s emotional state, which is codependency. Healthy emotional boundaries ensure we lovingly offer options to friends rather than control or manipulate them to fit our expectations. This is biblical because true love does not insist on its way (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Human nature will lean more towards controlling others and being selfish. God commands us to be self-sacrificing for the sake of our brothers and sisters (Philippians 2:4).

Spiritual Boundary

Unhealthy friendships can lead to violations of biblical values. The Bible cautions us against bad company (2 Corinthians 6:14; 15:3). It also teaches us what to look for in true friendships (Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 22:24-25) and the importance of loyalty (Proverbs 18:24). We need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us towards godliness. The grace of God trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, exhorting us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives (Titus 2:12). If our friends are not in sync with the scriptures, the direction of life we are heading, then, it is good to ask ourselves what we are ready to compromise. We can emulate Daniel and his friends, who resolved not to defile themselves with the king’s delicacies (Daniel 1:8).

Physical boundaries

We also need to consider setting limits that individuals cannot cross regarding our personal space and physical interactions, such as touch. Today, we have a generation that cares less about boundaries. Healthy physical boundaries refer to an awareness of what is acceptable and what is not in different setups and relationships. Examples of this include hugging, kissing, shaking hands, etc.

I remember coming across a denomination that didn’t shake hands with other people. One day, I stood for a long time, extending my hand to greet a gentleman at a meeting I attended. He could not greet me or explain why not. Later, someone explained that his faith did not allow for the shaking of hands to avoid being defiled. That may be an outlandish example, and you would be right in questioning how their faith would be defiled if they shook people’s hands. However, it would be best to honour their requests until you have guided them to a place where their conscience won’t be violated because they shook hands (Romans 14:13-23).

Social Boundaries

Social boundaries allow us to choose who and what to interact with. The Bible cautions us about bad company (1 Corinthians 15:33). These are friends whom Psalm 1 describes as offering misleading counsel, mocking God’s word, and living sinful lifestyles. Social boundaries today extend, especially to social media. There is a lot of toxicity in the online space. People care less about others’ emotional or even spiritual well-being. They set out to push their agendas at the expense of biblical commands. Christians should be very careful when consulting their Bibles regarding what to consume online, especially on social media.

Signs of Healthy Boundaries

There are a few things we can consider as indicators of healthy relationship boundaries:

  1. Values own opinion: Peer pressure pushes one to ignore one’s own opinions and embrace those of others. It is healthy to come to terms with the fact that you don’t have to agree with others on matters, and they also don’t have to agree with you.
  2. Don’t compromise values to please others: There is great pressure for Christians to conform to the patterns of this world today (Romans 12:1-2). Not being in tune with the world might make a young person feel backward. For a young person to withstand the waves of modernity, they need to be firmly anchored on God’s word. John wrote that the world and its passions shall pass away, but the person who does the will of God shall live forever (1 John 2:17).
  3. Share personal information appropriately: It is wise to know what you are sharing, with whom, and why. Many people have moved out and become vulnerable by providing too much information. This information can then be easily used against them, affecting many people involved in their lives.
  4. Accept when others say no to you: Some people push for their needs while violating those of others. The Bible commands us to let our no be no and our yes be precisely that (Matthew 5:37). Some people cannot take no for an answer. Failure to appreciate other people’s points of view can lead to undesirable outcomes.
  5. Learn to seek help: We have a group of people who keep silent even when suffering. It is essential to appreciate that no one is safe alone or self-sustaining. We all need each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).

Healthy relationship boundaries are vital in ensuring respect between people. We encourage you to consider what is critical in your life and set boundaries to ensure your emotional, spiritual, physical and social well-being. 

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