Creating Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional Boundaries

There are so many people who do not practice good boundaries. There are all sorts of boundaries, but the boundaries I am talking about are emotional and spiritual boundaries. I worked with a counselor once who had terrible boundaries. She would constantly take calls from her husband at work (who also had co-dependency boundary issues) and talk to him instead of doing her work. 

She would call him from work too. The terrible thing about their relationship is that she was having an affair, and he knew about it. He would still call her at least three or four times a day. This co-worker would be in a session with a client and would start looking things up on her phone while the client was talking to her (I only know that because the client told me). I was new to the counseling profession and was shocked that my co-worker had such terrible boundaries!

Written by Amanda Harms, author of Breaking Free from the Shame of Addiction.



Boundaries are put in place to keep us safe. It is the same as commandments. God gives us commandments to help keep us safe. Without boundaries and commandments, our lives would be a total mess. This may date me a little bit, but there was a seminary video back in 1993 called Act for Themselves. You can look it up on YouTube. There is a part in the video where the actor was excited to drive down the street in a Ferrari 308 GTB. There were no rules or laws, and he could drive as fast as he wanted. He drove down the road super-fast and saw a semi-truck coming in the opposite direction.

The semi-truck swerved into the Ferrari guy’s lane. Just as it looked like they were going to crash, the Ferrari guy was instantly back in his bedroom. The Ferrari guy learned a valuable lesson. Without laws, rules, or boundaries, one cannot truly be safe. The semi-truck guy did not do anything wrong because there was no law stating he couldn’t go into that lane.

Without laws, rules, or boundaries, no one can be held accountable for their actions. It’s like the scripture, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things . . . Righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11).

Basically, Lehi is saying that there is no purpose in creation if there are no opposites. There is good and bad, and because of that, God has created laws for us to follow to keep us safe from the bad.

Sometimes we feel like these laws are keeping us from so much more. The Word of Wisdom is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

This section tells us to not drink wine or strong drink, coffee, and not use tobacco. It also shares in the section what we can eat that would be good for us. At times, especially when we are teenagers, we feel restricted by these “rules.” We feel we are not free to make our own choices.

This thinking however is deceptive. God gave us the Word of Wisdom to keep us free from all the negative consequences of these substances. We know what alcohol does to the brain and the liver. We know coffee contains tonic acid which is not good for the body. We know tobacco causes cancer and other ailments. When God gives us commandments, He is showing His love for us because He wants us to be healthy and happy.

God also gives us boundaries that we must set with each other emotionally. First, He gives the commandment to remain sexually pure until marriage. He then gives us the commandment to stay sexually pure in marriage. These commandments are beautiful in that they help our emotional well-being. Think about it, fornication and adultery have destroyed many lives emotionally. God also gave us the commandment to “love one another” (John 13:34). This commandment coincides with “judge not” (Matthew 7:1).

How is it that we are to love one another when we are judging others? This commandment of love is amazing. If we all had more love in our hearts, imagine what this world would be like. Imagine if we didn’t judge each other either. There is more to judging, but that is for another book. My purpose is to show you that commandments and boundaries are put in place to keep us safe and to enjoy life to its fullest.

Setting boundaries with yourself helps you to stay accountable for your actions. It helps you tell people how you want to be treated and receive the respect you deserve. It helps you to gain a stronger sense of self and break free from the shame that holds you hostage. If you have an addiction, I am guessing you probably are not the best with setting boundaries and sticking to them. There are different types of boundaries, and only you can decide which ones will work for you. Obviously, the boundaries include physical boundaries, spiritual boundaries, and emotional boundaries.

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries include what you put into your body, physical closeness with others, and how you take care of your body on the outside.

For example, my boundaries include eating healthy and minimizing sugar and soda. I choose to keep the Word of Wisdom. I include exercise as a daily routine, and I dress casually and modestly. My love language is physical touch, so I make sure I hug someone in my family every day, if not all.

I try to be cognizant of others’ physical boundaries because I know not everyone loves hugs. I do not mind being touched, just not inappropriately. These are my physical boundaries. Actually, I was slapped on the butt one time in Junior High by another kid. I turned around and told him off. Why? Because my body is mine, and he has no right to touch it.

I, of course, had made a physical boundary with myself previously and made sure I stuck to my boundary. I made the boundary with my own family members that we are not to physically hurt each other, and if that boundary is broken, then there are consequences.

Spiritual Boundaries

Spiritual boundaries include how to grow spiritually stronger in your life. It has been shown that spiritual ties help people to feel better. We must all be growing spiritually every day, otherwise we are digressing spiritually. My spiritual boundaries include reading scriptures daily, study the Come Follow Me curriculum, and constant prayer throughout the day. I also include service daily, by making family meals and trying to keep the house clean. Healthy spiritual boundaries should also include patience. Learning patience is a wonderful quality that I am still striving for, but I think I am understanding it a bit more.

Sometimes people want to attack your spirituality. This isn’t good, but it’s important to keep your spiritual shield strong and not attack back. Patience and understanding of others are the keys to maintaining your spiritual stamina.

Standing for what you believe in, is an awesome boundary and one not to be taken lightly. Overall, spiritual well-being is extremely important. If you have been lacking in this area, that’s okay. You can always pick it up today and get back on your spiritual journey of growing closer to the Savior and becoming like Him.

Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries include how you behave, how you want to be treated by others, and how you use skills and tools that help you emotionally. Emotionally well-adjusted people know how to communicate and use their skills and tools to help them stay emotionally balanced. For example, I use my tools of self-love and letting go frequently. I give anything that is bothering me compassion, and I work on letting it go and surrendering it to God. If it is something I do have control over, I will work on finding solutions, whether it is asking my husband for help, the internet, or prayer. I use the tool of mindfulness to assess how I am feeling and why I’m feeling that way, so I don’t lash out at my husband and children.

When I have difficult days, I use positive-thinking and send myself extra compassion. Although, there are days I don’t have it in me. I then allow myself to feel the “feels,” and I take part of the day off. I also connect with a friend or family member weekly. If someone is abusive to me, I let them know that it is not acceptable, and their behaviors are abusive. I show people how I want to be treated by treating them with respect. This is how I take care of myself emotionally.

These are just three types of boundaries that we need to really be aware of when it comes to breaking free from our shame. The most important aspect of boundary setting is that you train people how you want to be treated. Assertive communication is the way you go about it; it is showing respect to others.

This may seem like a lot. It really is a lot of tools I have given you, but the good news is that you do not have to do all of them every day. Consider using the workbook I’ve provided on my website. Pick one for the day, week or month, and work on that skill. You are not in a race to perfectionism in this life. This life is about progression, not perfectionism.

Written by Amanda Harms, author of Breaking Free from the Shame of Addiction.

About Amanda Harms: 

With nearly a decade of experience in the mental health field, addiction counselor and Latter-day Saint author Amanda Harms provides the skills and tools you need to help you break free from shame in your efforts to triumph over addiction.