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Bitterness or Boundaries

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
September 1, 2021 2:00 am

Bitterness or Boundaries

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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September 1, 2021 2:00 am

Unhealed hurt can often lead to bitterness. Lysa TerKeurst charts a path towards forgiveness by setting healthy boundaries, so that even when we are hurt, we don't have to live that way!

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Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey
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Charlie Kirk
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Dana Loesch
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

So I once read about a wife and a mom who, when her husband left her with another woman, and this had been going on for a while, and it's finally the end, you know, there's going to be a divorce. And so her husband calls her, I guess it was a phone call, and just literally says, hey, sell the house, we'll split the profit. So this woman decides, okay, we're going to split the profit. She doesn't tell him this. She puts her $500,000 house up for $67,000 and sells it and split that money with her husband. Just to spite him?

Just to get him. And who was that woman? That was my mom. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. We're going to talk today about forgiveness. We've been already talking with Lisa Turkhurst. Lisa, welcome back to Family Life Today.

Thank you so much. Wow, what a powerful story. Yeah, you know, I did my dad's funeral years later, and guess who wasn't there?

Mom never showed up. She was still bitter for decades. And that was a part of the atmosphere in my home. And in a sense, there is that in our soul. I'm going to pay them back, and it's going to feel good.

We go to movies and we stand up and cheer. You know, when Denzel takes out the villain, you know, you're like, yeah, and it feels good. And yet in life, when you carry that around, it doesn't feel good. There's a there's something God's called us to to be free. It's called forgiveness, which again, Lisa, you're here because you wrote forgiving what you can't forget. And we talked this week about your journey. And I mean, what a great title, because there are things you can't forget. And you think, I can't forgive if I can't forget. So we've already talked much about that. But welcome back. We're so glad to have your New York Times bestselling author.

But we haven't even mentioned you. You're a wife and a mom. Five kids. Is that right? Yes. My grandkids?

Yes. We have three grandkids. So it's a very full life. And I'm super thankful. I want to circle back about something you said with your mom. You know, that she didn't show up to the funeral because she was bitter. Sometimes I think it is possible to see a blessing inside of bitterness.

Now, this is going to feel very upside down. And I'm not saying this to justify bitterness. I'm not saying it to defend your mom.

I never even met her. But what I would say is she didn't show up to that funeral because she was so deeply hurt. And she had unhealed hurt there that over time turned into bitterness, which turned her into something that she was never meant to be. And I think sometimes when we say the word bitter, everybody's like, oh, we recoil. And we think, you know, oh, a bitter person is a cold hearted person that never dealt with their issues. And they have such limited potential in their relationships.

But actually the opposite is pretty true. Bitterness doesn't often visit the cold hearted person who has limited potential in relationships. Bitterness often visits that person who loved deeply. Therefore, they got hurt really deeply.

It's that person that threw their arms open wide and gave love every fighting chance. And then they got shut down, shut out or shoved away. And because they love deeply, they got hurt so deeply.

And because they didn't know how to draw boundaries, they started putting up walls. And that's the dangerous part about bitterness. So the blessing of bitterness is it actually shows that that person has great potential for loving relationships. But the burden of bitterness is that bitterness never sits still. It doesn't just want to be a feeling. It wants to become your only feeling. And it leaks out like acid onto everything that you touch. So if we don't tend to our bitterness, our bitterness will turn us into someone we never wanted to be.

I really like they have the potential to really love and even to throw your arms out and be open wide and like, I am running after this thing and I am fully in. Do you think that what happens is if we've been hurt, if we've gone into a relationship like that where we're exposed and vulnerable, we give everything. After we've been wounded or something has happened and we have felt betrayed, can we go back to that ever again?

Well, it is possible to go back. And I think we have to acknowledge what's happening inside of us, because it's not that you are a naturally bitter person. Sometimes I hear people say, well, I'm just not naturally able to forgive. I'm not a forgiving person or I'm not someone who gives second chances. Or sometimes people just flat out say like, you hurt me and we're done.

That's it. Or they may even be bold enough to say, you know, I'm bitter. I admit it. I'm going to be honest.

I'm just going to own it. I'm a bitter person. And the thing is, like, bitterness is not a name tag that we put on ourselves. It's not an identity.

It's not an identity. What bitterness is, is an indication that there's unhealed hurt. And it's probably limiting your ability right now to even embrace the other relationships that would mean so much. And so in bitterness, if we build up these walls, we're not only shutting down that one relationship or those few relationships where we got really hurt. We're imprisoning ourselves and keeping ourselves from the joy that could be experienced in other relationships. Instead of building up walls, what do we do? Because when we've been hurt, we do need some way to protect ourselves so we don't keep getting hurt over and over and over again.

I'm utterly convinced that it's drawing boundaries, not barriers or walls that can help. I think when Jesus gave us the teaching to forgive 70 times seven, which was one of those when I was sitting at the table studying forgiveness for over a thousand hours in the Bible and not because I wanted to be so theologically astute. It's because I was having such a hard time.

It took me a long time. And so one of the verses I had such a hard time with was when Jesus said, forgive 70 times seven. Sometimes when we hit upon a verse and we don't understand the meaning of it, it's really wise to go back to how did Jesus live? Was Jesus a proponent of abuse? No. Did Jesus tolerate when the woman caught in adultery was thrown at his feet and other people were accusing her? Did Jesus tolerate their pride? Did he entertain, you know, their brutality?

No. Jesus flipped the script and said, he who is without sin cast the first stone. So in keeping with the character and nature that we see of Jesus and we take it back to forgive 70 times seven, that was his command. We can better understand in that situation. Jesus wasn't saying, stay in a relationship where you being brutalized and just accept it.

No, I believe what Jesus was saying is create enough emotional and physical distance with that person that if they never change, you will be able to forgive them 70 times seven without being destroyed in the process. We have to really take a step back from our typical notions of, you know, if you're a bitter person, you're bad. And if you've been hurt in a relationship, like build a wall to protect yourself. Then we have to just take a step back from all of that and say, OK, we understand now that if you're struggling with bitterness, it's because you've been hurt deeply.

So how do you protect yourself? Yeah. And it was really important for me to write these chapters in forgiving what you can't forget, because just because you do the hard work of forgiveness, just because you forgive someone does not mean that you need to give them free access into your life immediately or maybe not ever. Well, it's interesting. I fought this chapter on boundaries.

I just was underlining everything. And one of the things you say is that the people you think need to change the most will wind up changing the least when your efforts are greater than their own efforts. What's that mean? So if you've ever done life with someone with an addiction, I'm going to kind of laser in on this, even though there's so many more examples. But you can want that person to change all day long. But if you want it more than they want it, then you're going to work harder on them than they're willing to work on them. And when you get into that kind of cycle, you are not only doing them actually a disservice, but you are probably causing some extreme hardship in your own life. And that was one of my issues. I was working harder on other people than they were willing to work themselves.

And I was becoming emotionally exhausted. I'm just going to say, we women do this. We see problems with our kids or our husbands, and we take it on. Hey, you keep acting like we men don't ever do this.

I don't know. Like we don't have a compassionate heart in us. I talk to more women than men, and we're so relational that I think we feel so invested. Like, I'm going to help you. I want to help you.

And so we carry this, like, and I am going to be there. We're going to fix you. Well, sometimes we see a problem, and I agree, it can be men too. It's that nurturing that comes out of us, you know, or for men, I think it would be problem solving. I'm going to fix it. I was going to say we're going to fix it. I mean, you have a great quote that you're sort of talking here.

I think it's something like this. If I'm trying to get a person off the train tracks and I want them off more than they want to get off, we're both going to get hit by the train. That's right. If we're seeing other people's problems, especially people who are close to us, when we see their problem as our personal assignment, then we have stepped into the role of being Savior.

Only Jesus is qualified to be the Savior. And so you're right. I tell a story in the book about this thought I had one day. I wrote this whole thing out because someone I love very much was struggling, and it's a younger person. And I kept wanting to tell them, I'm not trying to be controlling or manipulative. I'm just trying to save your life.

Okay? I've said that so many times, Lisa. So I have this picture of like, every time you make a crazy decision, every time you make a decision that I can see is detrimental or harmful or not in keeping with what's best for you, it's like you're climbing up on a train track, and you're just, la la la la la, sitting on the train track. I can see the train coming, and I am dumbfounded why you can't see the train coming. And you're screaming at them, do you see the train coming? And so I will run up on the track and pull them off. But then they climb back on the track. And meanwhile, the train is coming ever closer, so I run back up on the track and pull them off and run back up on the track and pull them off. And at some point, the train has arrived.

And if I climb up on that track and pull them off, we're both going to get run over by the train. This is never going to be a problem to solve. It's going to be a tension to manage because every circumstance is so unique and filled with nuances that only you know. But the main point is acknowledging you cannot work harder on someone else than they're willing to work on themselves because it doesn't work.

I share another analogy in Forgiving What You Can't Forget. It's kind of like CPR. CPR can save lives. And that's where if someone is unable to breathe on their own or their heart is not beating on its own, you can apply external pressure to hopefully jolt them back into a rhythm where their heart is beating and you're breathing for them so oxygen is getting in there. And then you may even call in the professionals and then the professionals can do CPR and maybe they have even more stamina to do the CPR. But at some point, if that person does not have a heart that starts beating again and doesn't eventually start breathing on their own, that professional will declare them dead.

It's often not the professionals that have an issue with this. It's us because in our desperation to want them to live and to want their heart to beat and want their lungs to, you know, operate correctly, we are applying so much external pressure on someone, but CPR is not sustainable long-term and neither is us working externally on someone that they need to work on an internal reality that's driving so much of the behavior that's so alarming to us, be it addictions or whatever it is. And so I think that's good to keep in mind, you know, that CPR may be good, is good to sustain them in the short term, but in the long term, they've got to start making those decisions to work on themselves if it's ever going to be sustainable.

So apply that to a marriage with my spouse or to a parent with their son or daughter. I mean, how do we just say... What's it look like to stop doing the CPR? Well, what it looks like is to draw a boundary. There's a couple of things about boundaries that you've got to determine ahead of time. You want to make sure your boundary is not a threat.

You want to make sure that it is not a control tactic or manipulation tactic. But what you want to establish is this boundary is not meant to shove the other person away. This boundary is meant to hold me together so that I can continue to live in honoring biblical realities about my character and about my personality and just how God wants me to live.

I want to be kind, but if I'm working so hard on another person and they're exhausting me, my kindness is going to start to wane and it over time will turn me into somebody that I don't even want to be in this relationship. So boundary has to be well thought through in advance. Do you do that with people, community, church? You can if there's a safe other person.

You know, sometimes I'll work through it with my counselor or a really trusted, wise friend. And once I establish, OK, there's a need for a boundary here and I think through what the boundary is, then I think through how am I going to communicate this? And I also have to think through what are the consequences if they violate the boundary? Because a boundary without a consequence is just a suggestion.

What are examples of boundaries? OK, so let's say that you and I are friends and we love to drive to Bible study together. I am more serious about the schedule and your concern is more maybe hospitality once you show up. And so to you, your priority is that you want to make muffins before Bible study every week. My priority is to get there on time, which really means 10 minutes early, because I want to get there, I want to get my place, I want to get all set up, I want to go to the bathroom, I want to get something to drink, I want to sit in my place.

And I just want to like have a moment before I even get started. But because of your love for hospitality and your priority is making muffins and the muffins are always making you run late. And so every week, yes, you have delicious homemade muffins, but I come to pick you up because you want to ride together and you're like, OK, it'll just take me 15 more minutes. And you're going crazy. Going crazy. And so by the time we get to Bible study each week, you're like flitting in on a cloud bubble of joy serving everybody muffins. And I am seething with frustration and I'm like, I don't even want a muffin because these muffins made me have to sit over here. And the whole thing is just driving me nuts, right?

Over time, like this seems like a silly example, but over time, instead, if I'm not drawing a boundary with you, I'll start labeling you. She's disrespectful. She doesn't care about the relationship. She cares more about impressing everybody with her muffins than she does about my heart. And I've told her every time, like I'm picking you up at this time.

And every time she violates that. So you can see how my expectation becomes a premeditated resentment against you. And one of the number one reasons that relationships falls apart is simmering resentments. It's often not the conversations we have that makes relationships fall apart. It's the conversations we don't have.

It's the conversations in our head. Exactly. And so a boundary would look like me coming to you and saying, I love you and I love writing to Bible study with you. And I appreciate the fact that you want to bring homemade muffins.

Now, here's my hardship. On time to me means getting there 10 minutes, 15 minutes early. On time to you is like, you know, getting there whenever it happens to occur to you to get there, right? That doesn't make you bad and that doesn't make me good. And it doesn't make you wrong and me right. It means we have different priorities.

So to honor the priorities that I have, if you cannot agree to the time and actually be in the car at the time, then we need to stop writing to Bible study together. And it's not an indication that I love you less. It's an indication that I need this so that I can keep from having simmering resentments in our relationship. You're saving the relationship, ultimately. And so much of it is communicating instead of expectations, its needs and desires. One time my counselor helped me understand, Lisa, you have all these expectations, but it's setting you up for premeditated resentments. So instead of saying, I expect you to be on time, do you hear kind of the edge to that?

I need to be on time because this is a priority for me. Totally different conversation. This is my thing. It is.

Yeah. What's that look like in a marriage? Well, I think in a marriage, the complicating factor is sometimes you wait too long to have these conversations. And over time, in the depth of an intimate relationship, even though you don't physically see a relationship contract, the relationship contract is there. And so what happens is if you change the contract of, hey, we'll just show up whenever we show up, or hey, now I'm going to expect you to be on time, the minute you start changing the contract is the minute that there's going to be resistance, because that's not the way we've done it. And the longer you wait to have these communication opportunities about, hey, we need to communicate about this because I have a different need and desire than what's happening right now, the key is really communicating early. And if it has gone too long and there's too much resentment buildup, you probably need to get a third party in there to help untangle some of those realities.

And then put the needs and desires of both parties on the table and see where the commonality can be cultivated. For a follower of Christ, boundaries have been a very difficult thing to enforce, because we think, I'm supposed to be a grace giver. I'm supposed to forgive. Just keep walking all over me. Keep breaking, you know, in a sense, the vows we've made in our marriage.

And that's OK, because I'm going to forgive you rather than, as you said earlier, it's not to push you out of my life, it's actually protect, right? Well, think about it. Jesus was a perfect match of grace and truth. And Jesus had boundaries. He didn't give intimate access to the whole world. He gave 12 that kind of access. And even amongst the 12, he had boundaries where sometimes he only took three.

And then there were other times he would just be one on one. Also, when we look at Jesus' life, you know, he got up early in the morning and he went to a place of solitude so he could spend time with the Father. He had boundaries. I mean, he had that he made a priority to spend time in prayer. And so he wasn't allowing complete access to everyone all the time. I think it's important to look if Jesus was perfect grace and truth, and he was. And even he established what was necessary for him.

And it's OK. He demonstrated it's OK to have needs. It's OK to have a personal desire, especially when it's a reflection of a priority that's really important. You know, sometimes we're beating ourselves up and we're saying like, I want to be a person of grace, therefore I don't have boundaries.

You're actually contradicting yourself. So many times a boundary is the most grace-filled thing you can do because a boundary isn't set up to destroy the relationship. A boundary is set up to protect the relationship. And hopefully God intervenes because of that boundary set up in the other person. And it could be a turning point in their life to say, the train is coming. How could I not see this?

I didn't see it until so-and-so put up a boundary and said you're not going to be able to walk into my life that way anymore. And it's like, right? God often uses that to make himself known. He does. And if we look at the Lord's Prayer, so much of the way Jesus taught us to pray.

Think of all the topics. This is the ultimate prayer. He made almost half the prayer around forgiveness and confession and forgiveness.

It's just so many of the words of the prayer. It's centered around keeping our hearts swept clean. And therefore it just makes sense that if you are working through forgiving someone, then you're obviously needing to communicate how to change that relationship.

Forgiveness is not going to instantly fix the relationship. But over time, well-communicated boundaries will because they establish where the parameters of freedom are. And I think we have to shift our mindset. Instead of saying boundaries shut people out, no. A boundary actually welcomes them in and gives them a free space to run in the relationship.

And everybody's communicating. And it's actually one of the most wise and beautifully bonding things that can happen. As we close up our time together, I'm still struck by the fact that you've spent probably over a thousand hours studying in scripture about forgiveness. The way I visualize it is you've had a choice where you've been shattered, betrayed, crushed, I would say, in spirit. Not only spirit, but just physically you've gone through a lot with cancer, with different illnesses, surgeries. And so you're crushed and you're broken. That's when a lot of us, we can feel like, God, you've left me too. You haven't answered my prayers.

I'm living a life that I never wanted to live. And so I think a lot of people can run from Jesus. But as you said, you've spent these hours with him. You're praying in the middle of the night. How would you encourage people to go there, to run after him, instead of running away from him? What would you say to those listeners? Well, first of all, I would say you're not alone. And please hear me. I don't do this perfectly. Just because I've written a book called Forgiving What You Can't Forget, it doesn't make me a forgiveness expert. It makes me a forgiveness sojourner. You know, I'm on this journey with you. And so I understand.

I still have some of those middle of the night things. This isn't a fix-all Band-Aid that suddenly makes everything okay. But remember, when we cling to the promises of God, a lot of times we only want the promises that feel good to us. But we also have to remember, Jesus said it was almost like a promise, in this world you will have trouble. But take heart.

I have overcome the world. Because of that, it's almost like, pay attention to what Jesus was saying here. He promised. He said, in this world you're going to have trouble. So instead of letting it catch us so off-guard, remember that He also provided for us, even in the midst of the trouble, even in the midst of the hardship, He provided us a pathway to peace and good. You won't always feel it, and you will get angry and hurt and frustrated and mad.

But here's the secret. Just because you've been hurt doesn't mean you have to live hurt. Just because somebody has made you angry doesn't mean you have to live angry. Just because you feel disillusioned doesn't mean you have to live disillusioned. Maybe the pain placed on us was not our choice. And oftentimes it's not. But it is our choice where we go from here. And it can truly make us more compassionate, or it can make us more hard-hearted.

And that part is our choice. Yeah, Lisa, thank you. I mean, these programs and your book, your life, your honesty, your vulnerability has given people, given us a roadmap with Jesus to healing and to be a healer and to be a forgiver. Forgiven people forgive people, and we can't do it without Him. So thank you.

You're welcome. Are you living hurt? Are you living angry?

Are you living with disillusionment? As Lisa Turkhurst just said, that's a choice we make. Even if we've been hurt, even if someone has provoked anger in us, the decision of how we're going to live is a decision that rests with us. We may need prayer. We may need help.

We may need coaching or guidance to know how to get there. But God, through His word and by His Spirit, can bring us to that place where we're living with freedom and with joy. Lisa talks about this in the book she's written called Forgiving What You Can't Forget, Discover How to Move On, Make Peace with Painful Memories, and Create a Life That's Beautiful. It's a book that we're making available this week to Family Life Today listeners. You can order it from us online at, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the website is

The number to call is 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, to get a copy of Lisa Turkhurst's book, Forgiving What You Can't Forget. And if you find yourself needing help with knowing how to forgive and how to bring healing into your life and into your marriage, let me encourage you to carve out a weekend this fall and join us at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways. This two-and-a-half-day getaway for couples has been attended by millions of people over the years who have told us it gave them the help they were looking for and the hope they needed for their marriage. Most of the couples who come would say they're in a good spot in their marriage, they're coming to do some marriage maintenance, but there are couples who are coming who are stuck and are looking for biblical help to know how to move forward in their marriage relationship, and they find it at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaway. So wherever you are in your marriage, whatever your circumstances are, I know what kind of a year and a half, two years it's been for many of us, a getaway right about now sounds really good.

And again, we've got 30 events happening this fall in cities all across the country. If you sign up today for an upcoming getaway, you and your spouse will save 50% off the regular registration fee. So there is no better time than right now for you to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaway.

You can do that online at, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and register over the phone. We hope you will join us this fall at one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways. Now tomorrow, Dave Wilson is going to share with us how we can make sense of some of the confusing and sometimes controversial things we find when we read Ephesians Chapter 5, that passage on marriage that talks about things like submission and laying down your life for your wife. Dave Wilson unpacks all of that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-11 20:46:58 / 2023-09-11 20:59:05 / 12

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