People Pleasing and Biblical Boundaries

Written by Schalk_and_Elsa on. Posted in Spiritual Warfare, Training in righteousness

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boundaries

“A People Pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.” You can always count on them for a favor. In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends. So far this sounds like a good thing.”2

People pleasers are always seen as dependable people. The saying goes “ if you want something done, give it to a busy person” This “busy person” is probably a people pleaser who is incapable of saying “no.”

Broken people are inclined to be people pleasers, they tend not to have clear boundaries. They want to be accepted and will therefore always say yes. They are the ones you can always depend on to get things done. They are easily manipulated by other’s pleas or anger. They say yes, but may feel immense resentment while doing what they said they would. This leads to bitterness towards that person and themselves. They feel controlled by other people, but are unable to break this cycle for fear of an outburst of anger or losing a relationship. They are always taken advantage of by others. When they say no they feel selfish and guilty.

Do you recognize this in your life?

People pleasers are good people, having everything over for other people. However, it may be to their own detriment. They are often overextended, overstressed and depressed. They may harbor deep feelings of resentment and bitterness against the people who expect so much from them and they often don’t enjoy what they are doing. They will nevertheless carry on for fear of rejection or failure. Every “well done” or compliment reinforces their lack of boundaries.

This is certainly not living abundantly, living in constant resentment, bitterness and being controlled by others. This practice of people pleasing can also lead to neglect of our family or ourselves. Our children may withdraw from us, not to speak of the example they are getting from us. If we don’t look after ourselves, it may also result in poor health for us. All this can be changed by implementing biblical boundaries. I specifically say biblical boundaries, because without biblical guidance, it may result in selfishness. We need to find a balance and that balance is found in scripture.

What is a boundary and what is it not

A boundary is a property line. It is biblically defined as follows:

boundary of territory belonging to an individual,—of field, piece of ground, etc. Gn 23:17 (P) Dt 19:14; 27:17, Jos 24:30 (E) = Ju 2:9 1 Ch 4:10 Pr 15:25; 22:28; 23:10 Ho 5:10. †d. border of stream Nu 22:36. †e. limit to waters of deep ψ 104:9 cf. Je 5:22. †f. a concrete object marking limit, (α) barrier in Ezekiel’s temple Ez 40:12 (del. Co) v 12; (β) border of altar Ez 43:13, 17, 20; (γ) surrounding wall of restored Zion Is 54:12 (so Ew Kn Che; De Brd territory, Di undecided). † 2. territory (enclosed within boundary), a. of land or people Gn 47:21 (J) Ex 7:27 (P) 10:4, 14 (|| ארץ) v 19; 13:7 (all J), Nu 20:16, 17, 21; 21:22 (E; || ארץ) = Ju 11:20, Nu 21:23 (E) Dt 2:4; 19:3 (גּ׳ אַרְצְךָ) v 8; 28:40 Jos 18:5() (E) Ju 11:22; 19:29 2 S 21:5 1 K 1:3 2 K 10:32 1 Ch 21:12 (|| ארץ) ψ 105:31 ( = ארץ in || Ez 8:16, 17) v 33; 147:14 Je 31:17 Ez 11:10, 11 Jo 4:6 Zp 2:8.3

Our boundaries define our territory, it defines what we are responsible for. In the case of a physical property, we are legally responsible for what happens on our property. Each of us has a personal boundary. It is like an invisible property line. Our boundary defines who we are, our heart and soul. It defines what is me, what is not me, where I end and the world begins. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. I have control over what I own. I don’t own other people, and they don’t own me, so I am not to try and control them and are not to be controlled by them. If I am, however, “owned” by others, my options are limited.

YHVH also instructed us about our boundaries. In Proverbs, we are instructed to guard our hearts.

Proverbs 4:23
23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

We watch over our hearts by setting boundaries. Boundaries protect us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our skin is a good example of a boundary, it protects our body from infections and injury. It keeps the good in and the bad out. Words can also be a boundary. The word “no” is an effective boundary. We need to keep what nurtures us in and what can harm us outside of our boundaries.

Matthew 7:6
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

To have boundaries is to know what you can share with others. You won’t tell all the detail of your personal life to someone you just met, for example. That may be, “throwing your pearls before swine.”

The other extreme is to say nothing, also refusing to confess Y’shua as your Messiah.

Romans 10:9–10
9 that if you confess with your mouth Y’shua as Master, and believe in your heart that Elohim raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

8b–10 The thing Israel is to “do” is the word, which is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. That word is not about following rules legalistically but is the word about trust that we emissaries of the Messiah proclaim. What is this “trust”? According to Sha’ul’s analysis it consists of two components, trusting (in a narrower sense of the term) and acknowledging publicly; and for these activities one employs, respectively, the heart and the mouth. Only on the basis of such trust can our efforts to obey God’s directives (1:5) lead to being made righteous (1:16–17) and to deliverance (or “salvation”) from the death penalty which sinners (that is, all people, 3:23) have earned (6:23). 4

The Greek word for “to acknowledge publicly” is “omologein,” usually translated “to confess” but meaning, literally, “to say the same thing”—in this case, to agree with what God has revealed in his word about himself and his Son. The public, open aspect of this agreeing is essential; this can be seen from the contexts elsewhere in the New Testament where the word “omologein” is used—Mt 10:32; Lk 12:8; Yn 1:20, 9:22, 12:42; 1 Ti 6:13; 1 Yn 4:2–3, 15; 2 Yn 7. 4

1 Peter 3:15
15 but sanctify Messiah as Master in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

1 John 4:15
15 Whoever confesses that Y’shua is the Son of Elohim, Elohim abides in him, and he in Elohim.

We are to be wise in what we say or don’t say. This is why we need to have boundaries based on scripture. Scripture gives us the wisdom to discern.

A boundary is not a wall

While we are required to be wise in what we share with others, it is important to understand that our boundary is not meant to be a wall. It is not meant to only keep in what is good and out what is bad, but more like a fence with a gate allowing good to enter in and bad to be let out.

We are to receive truth from YHVH’s word. YHVH gave us His word as instruction on how to live and how to worship Him. He stands at the door and knocks, it is our choice to let Him in. It is also our choice to allow His word to become part of us, and to live according to it.

Revelation 3:20
20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

We are to read and study His word and allow it to renew us. We are also to receive His salvation, His love, and all the other gifts He freely gives to us. YHVH has given us so much, we need to accept and appropriate it.

We can also receive from each other. We can receive love, compassion, friendship, but also instruction from others. YHVH can use people to teach us and we are to be willing to receive from them.

2 Corinthians 6:11–13
11 Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. 12 You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. 13 Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also.

Sin, transgression and iniquity on the other hand, are to be let out. We are to confess and repent of our sin, transgression and iniquity- all forms of unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we are cleansed from unrighteousness, it is removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

We are also to let go of pain. If we can talk about our pain to a trusted friend, we can “let it out” and be healed.

James 5:16
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

When we build a wall around ourselves for protection, we not only keep the bad out, we also prevent what is good to enter in while keeping that which is bad for us inside. We can’t receive love, compassion, truth or instruction. We also keep all our pain inside of us allowing it to destroy us a little more each day. This is not what YHVH wants for us. He wants us to have a healthy relationship with Him built on a foundation of trust and He wants us to have healthy relationships with others. We were created to interact with one another. As believers, we are all part of the same body. We are nevertheless to guard our hearts against any form of unhealthy relationships. We are taught to bear one another’s burdens. This means we are to help one another. Where does this fit into the context of burdens.

Bearing one another’s burdens

A believer is required to love his neighbor as himself. This love is about helping those in need. We read in Galatians that we are to bear one another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:2
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Messiah.

We also read in scripture that each is to carry his own load.

Galatians 6:5
5 For each one will bear his own load.

There seems to be a contradiction here. However, when we look at the meaning of the words translated as burden and load, we find the answer.

Burden in verse 2, is “baros” in Greek, meaning a tremendous load.

983 βάρος (baros), ους (ous), τό (to): n.neu.; ≡ Str 922; TDNT 1.553—1. LN 22.4 hardship, burden (Mt 20:12; Ac 15:28; Gal 6:2; Rev 2:24+); 2. LN 78.23 tremendous, weight, a high point on a scale of extent (2Co 4:17+); 3. LN 65.56 ἐν βάρει εἰμί (en barei eimi), claim importance, formally, I am a burden (1Th 2:7+)5

A “load” on the other hand was translated from the Greek word “porthion.” We get the English word portion from this and it means exactly that, our part.

15.208 φορτίον, ου n (derivative of φορτίζω ‘to cause to carry a load,’ 15.207); γόμος, ου m (derivative of γέμω ‘to be laden,’ not occurring in the NT): a relatively heavy object which is carried—‘load, burden, cargo (as of a ship).’6

A burden as in the first scripture, is a tremendous weight, the person who has to carry this may not have the strength, resources or knowledge to carry it, they need help. We are in such a case to deny ourselves and do for them what they cannot do for themselves. These are typically times of crisis or tragedy. A load, on the other hand, is a relatively heavy object, but can be carried by the person. It is our daily responsibilities, our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors.

Each of us is required to carry our own “portion“, but we are to help carry with somebody if their burden is too heavy for them. We can compare it to a boulder versus a knapsack. The knapsack is heavy and difficult to carry, but we can do it, while a boulder is impossible to bear alone. So, if somebody asks you to do something for them, are you being required to carry their portion for them or help them carry a burden? Looking at it through this perspective, will help us to determine if somebody is really in need of our help.

Y’shua is our example and He taught us much about boundaries.

YHVH, Y’shua our perfect example

To have boundaries is biblical, if you read scripture from the context of boundaries, you will see how our Heavenly Father models boundaries for us. He set boundaries about how He wants to be worshipped, what pleases Him, what displeases Him. YHVH’s boundaries are His commandments. Keeping His commandments results in blessing and breaking them, in curses. When we read about the time Y’shua was on earth, focusing on the context of boundaries, we see how often He set boundaries. He is a perfect example for us. Y’shua was not a people-pleaser, but He was always helping others in need.

At the beginning of His ministry, Y’shua went to John to be baptized by him.

Matthew 3:14–15
14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Y’shua answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.

If Y’shua was a people pleaser, He could have allowed John to convince Him not to do this. He stood His ground while explaining to John why it needs to be done.

After this, Y’shua went into the wilderness to be tested (tempted) by Satan. Here again, Y’shua exercised His boundaries, which were the commandments of YHVH. Every temptation, if given in, would have breached His boundary line. For Y’shua, His primary boundaries were YHVH’s commandments.

Y’shua’s first consideration whether He would do something or not, was spiritual.

We also read the following in Matt 8:18

Matthew 8:18
18 Now when Y’shua saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.

Y’shua saw the crowd around Him, yet He gave orders to depart. If He didn’t have boundaries, He would have felt obliged to stay and teach the people, yet He departed to the other side.

After Y’shua had chosen His disciples, He gave them authority, but also boundaries (Matt 10:5-42).

When the Scribes and Pharisees asked Y’shua for a sign, He answered as follows:

Matthew 12:39
39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;

Y’shua was asked for a sign, He was capable of performing any number of signs, but said no. He wasn’t going to perform to gain acceptance from these people.

In between these passages we are highlighting here, we read of all the miracles Y’shua did, how He helped and cared for people. He healed them, delivered them from demonic afflictions, He fed them and taught them. In Y’shua’s example, we see balance and also discernment. He knew when the people needed help with a burden too heavy to carry on their own. He also knew when to say no. Let’s look at a few more examples.

After Y’shua taught and fed the multitudes, He sent them away and went up to the mountain by Himself to pray (Matt 14:22). He took time for Himself to pray. A people-pleaser would never have done this.

When the Pharisees came to Y’shua complaining that the disciples didn’t keep the tradition of washing their hands, He explained to them that it was more important to follow the commandments of YHVH than the traditions of men. They were greatly offended by this. A people pleaser may have been able to find a compromise. Y’shua, however, stood on what was right according to scripture.

After Y’shua told His disciples that He would have to suffer and be killed, Peter rebuked Him saying “this shall never happen to You” Y’shua rebuked him saying, “get behind Me satan, you are a stumbling block to Me” From this, we see that Y’shua was not prepared to compromise. He said what needed to be said and did what needed to be done.

When He entered the temple and saw those buying and selling in the temple, he chased them out. He didn’t compromise in order to please people or to be accepted by Him. He did what was right in YHVH’s eyes. He also had immense compassion and love for people and helped them. We can learn much from Him.

In Deuteronomy, YHVH commanded that we are not to move our neighbor’s boundary mark.

Moving your neighbor’s boundary

Deuteronomy 19:14
14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that YHVH your Elohim gives you to possess.

What do we do when we move our neighbor’s boundary mark? We take a piece of their property, we steal from them. If we nag or manipulate somebody into doing or giving something they didn’t want to do or give, we move their boundary mark. We take something from them. It may be time or a possession or we may have caused them to compromise.

YHVH actually goes further and say the following.

Deuteronomy 27:17
17 ‘Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

This commandment was given in the context of property, but do consider this. We are to respect another person’s boundaries and learn to set our own. We do not have to perform to be accepted. We will never be accepted by everybody and we can’t keep everybody happy. We will lose ourselves and maybe even our families in the process.

We can use the following steps to evaluate if we are to do something for somebody or not.

How are we to set our boundaries

Our first consideration should be spiritual.

According to YHVH’s Word

Is what is asked of us in line with Scripture or will it cause us to compromise in any way? There may be exceptions here, like an emergency on the Sabbath causing us to do something we won’t normally do. Y’shua taught according to this:

Luke 14:5
5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”

Each situation is different and we need to be sensitive and loving when we set our boundaries. What do you do when you are offered food which you know are not permitted according to scripture? Will you decline and possibly cause offense or will you eat it for the sake of love and relationship? We need to handle this in a sensitive way, but without compromising.

We are to live and do according to YHVH’s commandments. He gave us instructions for our own good.

Isaiah 48:17–18
17 Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am YHVH your Elohim, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. 18 Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;

YHVH teaches us to profit and leads us in the way we should go. If we do this we will have peace and be blessed. We also know from Scripture that not being obedient brings separation between us and YHVH. Is it really worth the compromise?

Isaiah 59:2
2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your Elohim, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

When we compromise, we may be able to gain acceptance from that person for that moment, but will cause separation between us and YHVH. Not worth it, I would say.

In Psalm 16:5-6 it is explained to us how that which is allotted to us by YHVH, our part or property, that which is within our boundaries, is beautiful.

Psalm 16:5–6
5 YHVH is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. 6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

The Hebrew word for “lines”is “hebel” meaning boundary

2474 I. חֶבֶל (ḥě·ḇěl): n.masc.; ≡ Str 2256; TWOT 592b, 595a—LN 11.12–11.54 procession, company, i.e., group proceeding in a joyful, somewhat boisterous religious parade (1Sa 10:5, 10+)

2475 II. חֶבֶל (ḥě·ḇěl): n.masc.; ≡ Str 2256; TWOT 592b

  1. LN 6.14–6.22 rope, cord, line, i.e., implement used for binding in various contexts (Jos 2:15);
  2. LN 1.79–1.81 region, district, i.e., a relatively large area of land (Dt 3:4);
  3. LN 57.125–57.141 share, portion, i.e., what is inherited (Dt 32:9; 1Ch 16:18) note: NIV Jos 19:29; Jdg, see also 4676.5, 4699;
  4. LN 6.23–6.25 noose, i.e., a trapping device for capturing animals (Job 18:10);
  5. LN 6.41–6.51 rigging, i.e., cords and lines used in sail boats (Isa 33:23);
  6. LN 80.5–80.7 boundary, i.e., the end or limit of a fixed area (Zep 2:5);
  7. LN 6.213–6.214 measuring line (2Sa 8:2; Zec 2:5[EB 2:1]);
  8. LN 30.86–30.107 fate, i.e., what is a decision of God, implying a choice (Job 21:17), note: oth see 2476;
  9. LN 1.46–1.50 mountain, i.e., an elevated area (Pr 23:34 cj+), note: for MT text, see 24795

The Hebrew word translated as “heritage” is “nahalah

5709 I. נַחֲלָה (nǎ·ḥǎlā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 5159; TWOT 1342a

  1. LN 57.125–57.141 inheritance, property or land given by one person to a successive generation (Gen 31:34);
  2. LN 63.13–63.20 part, share, i.e., that which is a part of a whole, as a portion that has been assigned, implying association (2 Sam 20:1)5

That which falls within the boundaries YHVH gave us, is beautiful. We are not constricted by His commandments, on the contrary. It makes our life beautiful.

It goes without saying that the legality of the request is also a consideration.

A burden or a load

We can next, evaluate the situation to determine if it is a burden we are helping to carry or somebody’s load. If we do for somebody else what they are suppose to do for themselves, we actually don’t help them. A good example is always making it too easy for our children. When we do, they don’t learn and will later in life always depend on others to carry their load (responsibilities) for them. If we give to a beggar capable of work, we enable him to continue begging, but if we give him work, we help him to see other possibilities. These are just two examples to illustrate to you that we are sometimes not helping when we think we are, while overloading ourselves in the process.

Capacity

The next consideration is our capacity. Do we have the time, resources or energy to help. What would be the impact on ourselves, or our family when we say yes? If we are going to neglect ourselves or our family as a result of this, we should reconsider. It is ok to help somebody with a burden, even if it would impact us personally. The nature of a burden is usually a crisis or tragedy, so the help required is intense for a while, but will ease off. What I am talking about is when we regularly or always overcommit ourselves to our and our family’s detriment.

When we evaluate each request for help like this, it may help us set proper biblical boundaries. We must learn to say no. It will be difficult in the beginning and people who used to control you, may get angry or sulky, but they will get over it. In the long run, you and they will reap the benefits.

Conclusion

Boundaries are invisible property lines. It helps us determine what we are responsible for. We are not responsible for people, but to people. Each of us is responsible for ourselves and is to carry our own load. We are, however, as believers required to help carry the burden of others. That which they are incapable of doing for themselves. Our primary boundaries are defined for us in YHVH’s word. YHVH gave us instructions for living and these boundaries help us set our own. We are to study YHVH’s word and so learn these boundaries and live accordingly.

We can say no if we are asked to do something contrary to YHVH’s word. We can also say no when we are asked to carry the normal responsibility of another person. We are to discern when we are asked to carry someone’s load or help carry a burden. Finally, we are to consider our own situation before accepting more work or responsibility.

Establishing our boundaries by saying no according to these guidelines will help us in the long run to live happier, more productive lives. We will have enough time for ourselves and our family. We will not overextend ourselves resulting in anxiety and depression and we will be available if somebody is really in need of our help. Pray about this, asking YHVH to help you set boundaries in line with His word. Go and read the gospels again and see how Y’shua established boundaries and learn from Him. He is our perfect example.

May YHVH lead and guide you in this.

References

1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus

2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201210/are-you-people-pleaser

3. Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 148). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

4. Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., Ro 10:8). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.

5. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

6. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 206). New York: United Bible Societies.

7. Boundaries, Dr H Cloud, Dr J Townsend, Zondervan, ISBN -13: 978-0-310-24745-6

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Comments (4)

  • wendy laakes

    |

    timely….contemplating the difference between walls and boundaries and loads and burdens..

    I’ve passed this on ..thank you

    Reply

  • Anne

    |

    I’ve never heard about Galatians 6:2 and 5 before, and it was incredibly practical (and needed). Thank you!

    Reply

  • Wondering Wife

    |

    I’m contemplating how this might be applied in marriage, specifically if there is an issue like hoarding where physical boundaries are crossed, agreements are broken about what is brought in and where things go, and there is anger if someone else works on removing things.

    Reply

    • Schalk_and_Elsa

      |

      Shalom,

      This may be a deep issue for your husband. People often hoard out of fear and this fear may cause him to cross your boundaries. If on the other hand, you remove things he has hoarded, you cross his boundaries and he may feel threatened by it. You need to work with him to find out why he is hoarding, you need to find the root of the problem. There are many reasons people hoard. War survivors or people who have lived through hard financial times, may hoard due to the security hoarding brings. An orphan may also hoard because he has never had anything. Be patient with him and see if you can find the reason and work with him to get help.

      Hope this helps,
      Shalom

      Reply

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