Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast: Episode 64
Do you know someone that can’t say no? Is that someone you? Do you find yourself in turmoil because you know you’re already too busy, but you just don’t want to disappoint your friend, your family, or your Pastor?
I’m Cindi Whitman. My husband Lee and I are the Executive Directors of Restoring the Foundations. Over the next several podcasts, we are going to talk about boundaries. So, what is a boundary? My simple definition of a boundary is knowing where you and your responsibility ends, and another person begins.
Today’s verse is Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We are taking the foundation for this series of podcasts from the teaching on Boundaries by Chip Judd.
Let’s consider four different situations and look at how they relate to good boundaries.
Jennifer came to my counseling ministry seeking help. She was the 50-year-old mother of two married sons who wanted very little to do with their mother and she could not understand why. The boys and their wives both lived in the same town as Jennifer, but they only came to her house once or twice a year for Mother’s Day dinner and for Thanksgiving. As we talked about her relationship with her sons, here is what we discovered. When the boys and their families came to visit, Jennifer would take the opportunity to “help” the boys and their wives by sharing with them how they could be better parents. She even went so far “in an attempt to help” as to make one son and his wife an appointment with a local family therapist to help them deal with a difficult child. She of course volunteered to pay for the therapy. She was so distraught about the condition of this son’s family that she brought it before her woman’s prayer group at church for prayer. A prayer group that was attended by the daughter-in-law’s mother. In our office that day she could not think of a single reason why her boys would not want to come and visit more often. Jennifer did not understand that she was overstepping her boundaries.
Vivian has three grandchildren by her oldest daughter who is a single mother. Her daughter often calls Vivian up at the last minute to ask her to watch her children, so she doesn’t miss work when her normal babysitter cancels. Vivian loves her grandchildren and feels the need to help her daughter out of a jam, so she never says no, no matter what she personally has planned that day. Then when the grandchildren come over to Vivian’s house, they often do not have the clothes they need so she takes them shopping to buy them clothes and then she usually ends up taking them out for something to eat. Vivian does not feel like she can say no to her daughter when she asks for help. In the process Vivian and her husband Herb are becoming tired and resentful of their daughter and her children. In their private discussions between themselves, Herb and Vivian blame their situation on their daughter. The problem, however, is not with their daughter. The problem is that Vivian has no boundaries. If you cannot say no, then your yes means nothing.
Lynette grew up with an angry father. He would not rage all the time, but when something triggered him and he went off, he became very verbally abusive. Everyone walked on eggshells because no one wanted to set him off. As a parent now with her own children, Lynette would take the children and visit her parents, oftentimes without her husband due to his work schedule. On one visit her father got triggered by something and returned to being verbally abusive to Lynette. He said hurtful things about her husband and her children, and about her and about their parenting. Lynette was shocked by this behavior because it had not happened to her in many years. She thought that maybe Dad had changed, and this behavior was in the past. She called her husband, and they decided that Lynette and the children should leave her parents’ home immediately. It was not a safe environment.
Later, as Lynette and her husband talked about the situation, they decided to draw a boundary so that Lynette would not go to her parents’ home without her husband being present. And if the behavior happened again in the future, they would get in the car and leave immediately. Lynette explained this new boundary to her mother who immediately took her father’s side by making excuses for his behavior. Her mother’s reaction told Lynette that her mother was not going to protect Lynette and the situation would remain unsafe. As a result, her family visited less often and for shorter periods of time. The children were not allowed to visit the grandparents alone because of this unsafe environment. Dad was verbally abusive, and Mom stood by and didn’t do anything. They let her parents know that if Dad became angry, they would immediately get in the car and leave. This boundary was not received well, but it was necessary for the health and safety of Lynette’s family. Lynette understood boundaries and established a very appropriate boundary.
Sam grew up believing that it was his role in life to keep people happy. Sam had an older sister who was rebellious and caused a lot of turmoil in their family. Sam often found his mother crying over something that his older sister had said or done. So, Sam went to great lengths to see what he could do to cheer his mother up. He felt it was his responsibility to make things better for his mom. This pattern continued into his adult life as well. Sam felt like it was his responsibility to make things better for his friends and family when they were unhappy. In fact, he believed that when they were unhappy it was actually his fault. Sam did not know what he was responsible for and what he was not responsible for. Sam did not have good boundaries.
In order to live a healthy and productive life it is essential that we understand and exercise good boundaries. Boundaries are understanding where we end, and another person begins. Boundaries help us know what is our responsibility and what is not. Jennifer was trying to control something that was not her responsibility and, in the process, inserted herself into a position she was not invited to enter. God always knocks before entering. We should do the same with others.
The foundation for establishing good healthy boundaries begins by valuing yourself and others. Lynette valued herself enough to recognize that this abusive behavior is harmful to her and her children and that she did not need to submit herself to it. Jennifer did not value her son and daughter-in-law enough to allow them to make their own decisions about parenting their children. Vivian did not value herself enough to know that she could say no to her daughter. Sam did not value himself enough to know where his responsibility ended.
What gives us value? Psalms 139:13-14 says, “for You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” And going back to our verse for today, we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We are each valuable because we are unique creations of the master builder, God. It is not just those who have come into a relationship with Christ who are valuable, it is all of God’s creation. There is an old hymn that says that Christ died “for such a worm as I.” I don’t think Jesus Christ suffered and died for worms. I think Jesus died for sinners that He believed had great value. Many would argue that it is only the ones who we call Christians that are valuable. I disagree.
In this world we can tell how valuable something is by the price that is paid for it. Take a diamond ring for example. We determine how valuable the ring is by the price that someone is willing to pay for that ring. I think the same evaluation is true in determining how valuable we are as people. What was the price that God paid for all of humanity? He gave His only son Jesus in exchange for every human being. How valuable does that make people, even those who have not accepted God’s precious gift of Jesus as their savior? It makes people incredibly valuable. Every human being is valuable in God’s sight. But I believe that those who accept God’s precious gift of salvation and become children of God take on a special place in God’s heart. We now have the privilege of calling God Abba “Daddy” Father. Not everyone gets to call God Father. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Believers in Jesus come into a very special relationship with God as our Abba Father.
When we value ourselves and value others, we become willing to establish good boundaries. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” Boundaries are a means for you to exercise control over yourself by helping you enter into rest by controlling where you spend your time, energy, and resources. A good example of establishing good boundaries is seen when someone establishes a budget. In order to budget well, you have to say yes to some expenditures and no to others. This means you have to have strong boundaries, or as this verse says, self-control when it comes to managing yourself and where you spend your money. When our city walls are broken down in our budget, we spend money that is designated for someplace else. And where there is no budget, there is no rest financially because you don’t know if you will have enough money for the rest of the month. To budget well, you have to value yourself enough to be able to say no to a purchase that would have a benefit in the short run, in order for you to experience peace and rest in the long run.
When you value yourself in a healthy way you will not allow others to do things that are harmful to you. Lynette was able to see that the abusive behavior by her father was not healthy for her or her family. She put a boundary in place that was going to cost her something in the short term, time with her parents, but was going to benefit her and her family in the long run, peace and freedom from abuse.
Vivian’s value system was not strong enough to allow her to set a boundary with her daughter. Since she could not say no to her daughter and all she felt like she could say is yes, then her yes meant nothing. When her daughter would ask, Vivian felt like she had to say yes, after all her daughter had no one else to help her. It is wonderful to be able to help from time to time, but in this case, Vivian did not feel like she had an option. Taking care of her daughter’s kids was not her responsibility. It was her daughter’s responsibility and by Vivian constantly stepping in to bail her daughter out, she was not showing herself nor her daughter the respect either one deserved. Setting a boundary with her daughter and not always bailing her out would have forced the daughter to take the responsibility for her children that was rightly hers. It would have forced the daughter to find other reliable childcare for her children which is her responsibility. Sometimes showing someone respect and value means making them assume the responsibility that is rightly theirs. Lynette’s mother was not showing her husband respect or value by excusing his abusive behavior instead of making him take responsibility for his bad behavior. Jennifer was not showing her children respect or value by giving them unsolicited parenting advice.
In the next couple of podcasts, we are going to talk more specifically about boundaries. Hopefully, these messages will help you learn how to establish good boundaries for yourself. In this area of boundaries, it is very easy for us to have our judgment clouded by lies we believe. Or we may recognize wounded places in our lives that make it difficult to establish boundaries. Over the next few podcasts ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any places in you that might need healing and freedom so that you can establish boundaries in your life.
Thank you for joining us today for this first podcast on Boundaries. Tune in next week as we continue.
Thank you that you love us the way we are, but you love us too much to leave us the way that we are. Open my heart and my eyes to see anywhere in my life that I need to establish boundaries. Give me the grace to make the changes needed and to take ownership for those things that are mine. Help me establish good healthy boundaries in my life. Help me to recognize when I am violating other’s boundaries. I don’t want my walls to be broken down. I want to do what you want me to do and say what you want me to say. I give you permission to reveal to me these areas in my life. Thank you for loving me and for dying for me. Amen!