Setting Boundaries with Difficult PeopleI’d like to believe that most difficult people do not intentionally set out to be difficult, that the people who do cause us pain don’t wake up every morning and say, “Today I’m going to be as difficult as humanly possible and make life miserable for so-and-so.” Nonetheless, here’s the rub, depending on how much time we spend with this difficult person, life can range from uncomfortable to virtually unbearable, whether they intend to make it so or not.

We can and should set healthy boundaries with difficult people. Too often, we ignore the need to do so because of fear of being misunderstood, of not being a “good Christian,” and we simply wait passively. Or, we respond emotionally and aggressively, protecting ourselves at all costs. Either way, we are then put in the position of having to continually put out fires instead of preventing them in the first place.

If only we could change the difficult people in our life!

I will explore an uncomfortable truth regarding setting boundaries not only with people you love, but also with people you must interact with during the course of your life: If you’re struggling with difficult people, if you’re turned inside out and living from one crisis to the next in pain, fear, anger, or frustration because of the behavior and choices of others, there’s a strong probability that you’re making some poor choices yourself. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming you for the problems you may be having with a difficult person. They may very well be off the mark and behaving in a reprehensible or inappropriate manner. But their actions, no matter how atrocious, do not dictate your response.

How you respond to them can make all the difference—and that’s what I want to address.

Could it be that God is using a difficult person or a difficult situation in our life to help us grow in wisdom and knowledge? To help us be the person He wants us to be? Could it be that we have difficult people in our life because we ourselves are difficult? Because we haven’t quite learned how to communicate effectively?

If, like me, you’ve had to deal with a difficult person for several years or more, it’s likely that even after all this time, you still have great difficulty saying and meaning two simple words: yes and no.  Other factors are also part of the equation, but these two simple words form the rudimentary basis of setting healthy boundaries.

I’ve come to realize that setting healthy boundaries is first and foremost about love – the love God has for us, the love He wants us to have for our own life, and the love He wants us to share with others.  Setting Boundaries with Difficult People will help you learn that boundaries are biblical—that in His compassionate love for us, even Jesus set boundaries.

The Six Steps to SANITY work and will help you get your life back. SANITY is possible, and I will to help you find it.


Adapted from Setting Boundaries with Difficult People, Six Steps to SANITY for Challenging Relationships by Allison Bottke © 2011. Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved.

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