Setting Boundaries

Are you a burden bearer? We’ve all heard the commandment to “bear one another’s burdens.” As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens and in so doing we fulfill the law of Christ which is to love one another. However, burden bearing can quickly become unhealthy without proper boundaries. If you are anything like me, you might have mistaken that verse to mean you are supposed to allow others to continually off load, vent or process their problems onto you and in so doing you are ministering to your friend. Burden bearing can be a beautiful act of love, but it can also become an unhealthy cycle that damages relationships, hinders growth and leaves you feeling exhausted or dumped on. So, what are we to do? How do we bear one another’s burdens?

Galatians 6:1–5

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Galatians 6:1–5, KJV 1900) 

Clearly, there are two types of burdens, one we can help carry (verse 2) and one that can only be carried by the bearer (verse 5). This means we need discernment in what types of burdens we are to carry. 

First, J. Vernon McGee describes the first type of burden as:

Now burden (baros) means “fault”—“If a man be overtaken in a fault.” That’s his burden. You could help him bear it. It also means infirmity, a weakness, an ignorance, a pressure, a tension, a grief[1].

The second type of burden that every man must bear is their own sin. Every person is responsible to recognize and repent of their own sins carrying that burden straight to the Cross of Jesus.

It’s important for us to help one another but it is important to understand what that looks like. So, what does it mean to bear?

To bear one another’s burdens means you are to “lift” their burden to the Lord connecting them with the one who has the power, strength, and wisdom to help them. In a healthy relationship when someone is struggling, you can listen, pray, and offer solutions in love and respect. Burden bearing is being there, offering support, in a give and take conversation that helps people move thru their burden. Burden bearing is not a gossip session or a continual dumping of the same problems over and over. 

Sometimes our relationships become unhealthy because we fall under the weight of someone’s burden instead of pointing them to Jesus. We permit others to make us responsible for their emotional well-being. This happens when processing becomes emotional dumping. (See the attached picture). The person becomes dependent upon you to listen to their struggles over and over because it gives them emotional relief, but it negatively impacts you and drags you down. There is no processing toward resolution or growth only a reliving of the same issues over and over. While our initial intentions are to help, over time and without boundaries you become a dumpster for their emotional garbage. The dumper wants to be heard but does not want to hear. The relationship becomes unhealthy, even toxic.

Ladies, sometimes we tend to want to help others to our own detriment and frankly theirs too. Recently, I have struggled with some heart issues caused by anxiety and stress. This experience has caused me to be very aware of my environment and very protective of my peace. I’ve realized I only have so much emotional bandwidth. When stretched too far, the stress causes anxiety and boom chest pains! So, I’m learning to cultivate peace by guarding my heart and mind. That means resting, filling up on the Word of God, taking a walk, and learning to set healthy boundaries. I’m learning burden bearing does not mean I have to fix everything for everyone else. Only Jesus can heal a heart and mind. I get it, as women we are created to have tender hearts, we are nurturers, caring, etc. It’s our nature to want to help. And there is nothing wrong with listening if there is balance. 

The best help we can give others is to pray and point them to Jesus the Prince of Peace and the Healer of their soul. To reestablish healthy boundaries in burden bearing, first we need to repent for our part in the relationship becoming unhealthy and pray for wisdom. When your friend calls don’t be afraid to say no, not right now, or I am not in a place to listen right now, but I can pray for you. Do so with kindness and humility pointing them always back to Jesus. Don’t be surprised if your boundaries are met with a tantrum, manipulation, or anger. Don’t feel guilty. Be okay with it. If they love you, they will understand, respect your feelings, and correct their behavior. If they don’t and choose not to be your friend, then understand God may want to remove them from your life so they learn to depend on Him alone. Remember, He loves them and calls them to trade their burden for His…

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28–30, NKJV) 

Hugs cj


[1] McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible commentary: The Epistles (Galatians) (electronic ed., Vol. 46, p. 112). Thomas Nelson.

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