We can’t talk about how to deconstruct your faith without talking about the urgent need for setting healthy boundaries. Why?
Because toxic relationships and systems THRIVE when we have zero boundaries.
When people start questioning and changing their beliefs, it sends little ripples out into their community. People will notice you’re shifing and if they haven’t done their own work, your shifting beliefs will likely threaten their sense of safety.
So all that pushback you’re getting probably has very little to do with you and everything to do with people’s insecurities and fear of change.
It’s SUPER important for you to set healthy boundaries so when people start pressuring you not to change, you’re better prepared for the blowback.
Here are my 4 top tips for setting boundaries while deconstructing your faith:
- Give yourself permission to draw the line where you need it to be in this season.What do you need right now? Do you need more alone time? Do you need to just vent out your fears, emotions, and confusion without anyone trying to fix you? It’s a lot easier to figure out what you need when you’re not feeling pressured by other people. So give yourself space to figure out where you need to implement healthy boundaries while you are deconstructing faith.
- Determine upfront who has earned the right to be in your inner circle.One of the hardest things about deconstruction is that not everyone will be supportive while you question. Even fewer people are willing to do the work they need to do to come with you on your deconstruction journey.I teach my clients to imagine a bullseye where the closer a person is to the center, the more trustworthy they are with our deepest doubts and feelings. People you love but aren’t safe may still get to be in your life, but they probably need to be pushed out a ring or two so that you still get to feel safe in your most vulnerable moments.
- Craft your “no thanks” and “back the eff up” responses right now, before you ended them.People with shitty boundaries are not going to be great at honoring yours so it’s important to have figure out what you’re going to say when people try to push right past them. It’s also impossible for people who are trustworthy to honor your new boundaries if you don’t communicate them.So craft two different sets of ‘canned statements’ that you can pull out of your pocket when you need them. One to tell the trustworthy people what you need right now and a second to shift (or end) a conversation with someone who isn’t able to support you while deconstructing faith.
- Carve out extra room and energy to build these new muscles and recover after flexing them.Setting new boundaries and enforcing them is exhausting. Seriously, it will wear you out especially if you’re surrounded by people who have something to lose when you becoming healthier. It is perfectly normal and healthy for this to feel hard in the beginning. It’s also perfectly normal and healthy for you to feel physically and emotionally exhausted while flexing your new boundary muscles.It is crucial to build in time to care for yourself, rest, and find things that nourish your body. Gentle movement like yoga, stretching, and exercise will help your body process the hormones and neuro-chemicals that are released during stress. Taking a nap or curling up in a comfy chair with a weighted blanket will feel like a great big hug. There’s no perfect way to do this. Listen to your body, trust what they say, and drink lots of water to nurture yourself through this season!
Let’s be honest, keeping the same beliefs would be easier than deconstructing your faith, but it would require you to once again shape and mold yourself to other people’s expectations-which rarely works out well for you.
The bottom line is that you deserve to be surrounded by people who honor your boundaries and support you the way you want to be supported
Toxic religion thrives when there are no boundaries, so creating the ones you need is the most powerful way you can shift yourself towards a healthy spiritual life. So deconstruct away!!!! Just make sure you’re setting healthy boundaries so you’re not wasting a bunch of time and energy managing other people’s fears!
As a bonus, here are a few of my favorite quotes to inspire you while you’re learning how to deconstruct your faith by setting healthy boundaries:
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”
“You get what you tolerate.”
“Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring
(just) because I don’t do things your way. I care about me, too.”
“‘No’ is a complete sentence.”
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” ~Henry Cloud
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
“Walls keep everybody out. Boundaries teach them where the door is.”
Angela is a Faith Deconstruction Coach and host of The Deconstructing Faith Summit who helps people break free from toxic religious culture & empowers them to recover from #churchhurt. She has led online ministries for a decade, enjoys working with clients 1:1, in groups, and is a dynamic conference speaker. She’s a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches thousands of people in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog.
She’s a firstborn, Enneagram 8, Gen Xer who loves to question everything. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church.
Angela and her unique online ministry are featured in Lyz Lenz’s 2019 book God Land: Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America. She has published articles in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines. She has been featured in The New Republic, Publisher’s Today, and Religion News Service.
Her first book, Deconstructing Your Faith Without Losing Yourself, Will be published by Eerdmans in February 2023.
Angela is also a wife, mom to 5, and a proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.