Dealing with Difficult People 03: The Fence

We are in a series right now about dealing with difficult people. The first part is here, the second part is here and they cover knowing when to deal with people and how to deal with immature people.

Today I want to introduce a simple concept, which I call the fence. The first time I preached on this in Tree of Life Dagenham was the first time I ever had a standing ovation from preaching. Understanding the power of the fence in relationships sets people free. We will spend a number of posts looking at this.

Whenever you form a relationship with someone, you come together with them. You put your gardens together. The problem arises when one person continually puts their rubbish in the others garden. So you live together, but one person does all the cleaning and tidying. You are mates but one of you pays for all the drinks for the evening out. You are dating but you are the only one who calls or texts. Your children are teens now but not doing any housework or listening to you.

What the fence does is provide a line that says what is yours and what is not yours. What you have to deal with and not deal with.  So imagine Billy and Julie are married, and Julie spends £300 on shoes. Billy is not happy, he is annoyed. So he yells and shouts at Julie. She gets annoyed about being yelled at and storms off.

Now when you put a fence up you help people realize what is theirs to deal with. Billy’s anger is not caused by Julie, it’s happening with him – that’s his garden and he needs to deal with that. No one else can make you angry. Julie’s spending problems are Julie’s problems.

Now if Julie is spending Billy’s money, then Billy needs to build a fence in the money, and not let Julie have access to it if she is overspending. But he still needs to exercise self-control with his temper.

The fence helps us – it helps us know where to exercise self-control, and helps us not try and control others. How many parents are getting up in the morning running around the house trying to ensure their 15 year old children are not late for school? Let them be late a few times.  A fence puts their behaviour and the consequences in the same place! You should not be continually reaping what someone else is sowing. Let the guy who goes out drinking stay outside until he sobers up.

Now there is far more to it than that, fences are not walls, and should have gates. We will discuss this points as we progress, but today’s lesson is this: what is mine to change and what is not. You cannot change the behaviour of another person and to try to will lead to insanity. You can change your behaviour. You can take responsibility for your thoughts and your actions!

For some further teaching on this, please click here to listen to four hours of teaching I did in our Guildford church absolutely free of charge.


Published by Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at, and

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