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Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Lysa TerKeurst

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
December 4, 2023 5:15 am

Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Lysa TerKeurst

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 4, 2023 5:15 am

Do you struggle with saying 'no'? You're not alone. Join Bestselling Author Lysa TerKeurst in a compelling conversation about setting healthy boundaries in relationships. True identity, biblical wisdom to navigate chaos and insights on self-care. If you're seeking to enhance relationships and emotional well-being, this episode is a must-listen.

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Hey, I'm Shelby Abbott, and before we get into the show today, I wanted you to hear one message that was left for us.

Check this out. Family life today is wonderful. What a great resource for us believers who are raising our families, dealing with relationships. Thank you so much.

You've hit on so many items with children, as a mother-in-law, just even in our own marriage. Just keep doing the good work God puts before you. You're doing a wonderful job. Thank you.

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I was walking around acting as if I had unlimited capacity, unlimited physical capacity, unlimited emotional, mental, spiritual capacity, just like I was just acting like I'm unlimited. And when we do that, we're trying to put ourselves in a position to be the ultimate provider for other people, and that should only be God's job. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. So we're talking boundaries today. Are you good at boundaries? Well, you're married to me 43 years. I don't know, am I? Yeah, I think you're way better than I am.

What? Because I want to please people, and so I say yes and I do things that I probably regret later, but I feel like you're good at boundaries. Well, that wasn't where I was going. I was thinking one of the first times I had to set a boundary was the first year I became a follower of Christ in college. And I was on the football team, and I hang out with my football buddies, and I was trying to stop some vices that were part of my pre-Christian life, including drinking.

And I'd hang out with my football buddies, and I told them, I'm done drinking, I'm done with women, I'm going to live a different life, and I could keep that up for about an hour. And then being around them, I was just like, just have one beer. All I'm saying is, I realized, I'd never even considered this term boundary.

I didn't know what it was. But I realized, these are great guys, I love them, but when I hang out with them, I do things I don't want to do. And I now know I needed to set, I actually did set a boundary, and they totally hated me. Like, you know, look at you becoming this weirdo Christian guy. But for me to become the man that God wanted me to become, I had to set a boundary.

It was one of my first experiences with it. Why are we talking about this today? Because we've got Lisa Turkhurst with us, and she has written a book called Good Boundaries and Goodbyes.

Lisa, welcome back to Family Life. Thank you so much. It's an honor to be with you. We're really glad that you're here. I love the subtitle of your book, too, because it says, Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are. And that's the tricky part. I'm excited about where we're going with this today.

Me too. It's a really fun topic. I think it was important for that to be the subtitle because the best motivation for boundaries is from a position of love. And real love is seeking each other's highest good. It is not seeking another person's highest good to enable them to continue bad behavior or to do things that make you very much feel unsafe or unstable or not able to remain self-controlled. And so the motivation being love, the motivation for a healthy boundary should not be control, should not be manipulation, should not be punishment. It should be love. And sometimes the most loving thing we can do is establish a healthy boundary.

Well, I got to tell you, when I saw your title, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes, it made me think of some music. Oh, this is exciting. Welcome to my life.

This has never happened to me in an interview. Oh, yes. This is wonderful. Here we go.

We'll see what happens. But, you know, literally when I saw the title, I thought, oh, I know a singer. Okay. And you know her, too.

And she sings a lot about good boundaries and goodbyes. Okay. And you know the song?

I'm not going to do it all, but. I remember when we broke up the first time. Oh, you're starting to sing it.

Oh, I love this song. We are never, ever, ever getting back together. We are never, ever, ever getting back together. Your friends talk to my friends, talk to your friends, talk to me.

We are never, ever, ever getting back together. Alright, that's enough. That's enough.

I love that you knew every word, Lisa. Look, now, I don't usually admit that because, you know, some people will just really, if you like Taylor Swift, they just have all kinds of, they get in their feels about it. Now, I know she gets the rip because she writes about all her boyfriends and, you know, breaks up with them. But when you think of good boundaries and goodbyes, you often don't think good.

That's right. You think boundaries are bad, goodbyes are bad. So walk us through that. Like, why even write about good boundaries and goodbyes?

Well, there are a couple reasons. One is after I was no longer married and, you know, I spent years and years working harder on someone else than they were willing to work on themselves. And it was crushing and it was devastating. But then after the divorce, I needed to work on myself. And let's just say, too, it affected every part of your life. Every part of my life.

Even your health. Exactly. And so I remember one time my counselor, he's a brilliant man, loves the Lord. He has a degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but then he's also very well respected in the counseling and therapeutic world. Oh, he writes in your book. He does. I love that you have sections from him.

Yes, yes. We actually do a podcast together. It's so fun. What's the podcast called? It's called Therapy and Theology. And so we love it. I always say Jim brings the therapy.

Our theologian, Joel Mutamale, he brings the theology and I bring the issues. So it's a really good dynamic. But I remember clearly Jim telling me that if I wanted to attract healthy relationships, and at that point I wasn't willing to date or anything. So it wasn't even in a dating scenario, but I needed to work on my health because healthy attracts healthy. And so I was like, okay, well, what do I need to work on? And I very quickly discerned that I was a really good enabler.

Just really good. I very much desire peace in my relationships. And because peace is such a high motivation for me, I didn't know what I didn't know. So I didn't realize that what I was doing was enabling. I thought I was helping. And so it took me a really long time to understand that there are certain dynamics where you cross the line from having compassion to enabling bad behavior to continue. And that became your norm.

Yeah. With my house, I had done a big renovation and my sister came to visit and she went upstairs after a long drive to take a shower. A few minutes into her shower, she yells down, Lisa, there's no hot water, to which I replied back to her, oh, give me a minute. That just means I need to turn the back floodlights back on. And so when she got out of the shower, she came down and she goes, repeat to me what you said about why the hot water went out. And I said, I know. I said, it's just so crazy. If the back floodlights are off, then the hot water goes out. So all you need to do is just turn the back floodlights on and the hot water comes back. And she said, you do realize that needs to be fixed, right? I said, I know.

I've been meaning to laminate a little sign and put it by the light switch for the back floodlights and tell people don't turn these off if you want hot water, you know. And she leaned in and she said, you do realize that's not normal, right? And so the point of that story is we get used to our own dysfunction to the point where then it feels very normal and we don't even realize that we're in this dysfunctional dance. And, you know, that's definitely what I struggled with and a big part of learning to have healthier skills rather than enabling or being codependent, which I remember when my counselor said, you know, let's talk a little bit about codependency. I was like, oh, I'm not codependent.

I'm a very independent woman. And he was like, okay. He's like, let me give you the definition of codependency. He's like, do you ever find yourself saying I need this other person to be okay so I can be okay? So are they okay? Because if they're not okay, I'm not okay. Okay?

So I really need them to be okay. And I was like, oh, yeah, I absolutely relate to that. So being a recovering codependent and enabler plus a classic people pleaser, because sometimes when your high motivation is peace, it can feel like it's easier to just go along with the demands of everyone to prevent any kind of conflict than it is to take the risk of the peace being disrupted.

And so, yeah, so I had a lot to work on. And I think for years, I kind of like, oh, yeah, I'm a people pleaser. But I spent some time with the Lord as I was researching and asking the question, is God okay with boundaries?

And, you know, where do we find biblical examples of this? Because I didn't have the emotional fortitude to draw healthy boundaries, nor did I have the spiritual confidence. So I worked on the spiritual confidence first.

But I remember the Lord really addressing some things with my heart and asking me when I was doing a quiet time, I just felt this question bubbling up. And it was this, Lisa, do you think that you're pleasing people so that you can make them happy? Or are you pleasing them and trying to keep them happy so they won't take from you what they give you and you fear you will not be okay if they took it away? And I very quickly learned that was the real source of my people pleasing. We will always desperately want from other people what we fear God will not provide for us. Give some examples of that. Well, if we're in a relationship and we fear that that person may be disappointed in us, that they may take their acceptance away. That's a tough one, right? But chances are, if you're worried about that person being so disappointed in you and not accepting you because you draw a healthy boundary, chances are that's the kind of person who's going to reject you eventually anyways, whether or not you draw healthy boundaries.

Yeah, that's good. So how did you start that journey in your marriage? Because you're seeing that in your marriage and you're tolerating it for what, decades?

Yeah, decades. Which I'm going to add too, Dave, it feels as a Christian woman walking with Jesus, it feels like that's what we're supposed to do. Aren't we supposed to love them unconditionally? And so that's that fine line.

Yes. What I didn't realize is that we can love unconditionally, but access that we grant people needs to be very dependent on whether or not they are being responsible with that access. Jesus did absolutely lay down his life and he modeled for us to lay down our life. But Jesus laid down his life for a high and holy purpose.

He did not lay down his life to enable bad behavior to continue. So you got to a point where you realized you were doing that or? Yeah, and I think it wasn't just with my previous marriage.

It was in a lot of relationships because I just wanted to try to keep the peace. But what I realized is that in doing so, I was losing the best of who I was. I had heard you share a previous time that you are room mom and this teacher asked you to come back. After your child was out of her class, she asked you to come back and do a party?

Yes, yes, and help with the party for the grade that my kids were no longer in. And I remember at first, see, this is where my tendency is. A request is made and suddenly I feel like it's my obligation.

Yes. And so in years past, in many relationships, I would think every request is now my responsibility. And I realized one day, no, it's not my responsibility because we have limited capacity. And I was walking around acting as if I had unlimited capacity, unlimited physical capacity, unlimited emotional, mental, spiritual capacity, just like I was just acting like I'm unlimited. And when we do that, we're trying to put ourselves in a position to be the ultimate provider for other people. And that should only be God's job. And honestly, I was flattered that she wanted me to do the party.

But I had to ask myself, do I really have the white space? Because what will happen is I'll sign up for it now. And then as it gets closer and closer and closer, I will be so stressed out my family gets the worst of who I am. And I would say to myself, why did I ever say yes to this? Exactly. And you're crazy. You become crazy. And yeah, your family pays for it.

That's right. So I now ask myself to be honest about reality. Mental health is a commitment to reality at all costs. And so if we are committed to reality, then we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to be self-aware enough to know what our limitations are. And it's not because we're selfish. Now, certainly, if our motivation is a selfish motivation, we need to check our heart. But most of the time, our motivation, or at least mine was, I just want peace. And so I would rather pay the price than disrupt the peace.

But you can only pay the price so long before you can become bankrupted. Just like we have limited funds in our bank account, and everybody's pretty good about drawing boundaries around their bank account. Most of us have a passcode.

I'm not saying you remember the passcode, but I'm just saying most of us have a passcode. And we're not going to, on the air today, suddenly give all people all access to our limited funds. We know not to do that, and it's responsible. It's not mean or unchristian to limit people's access to our bank account. We know it with that area of our life.

But sometimes we miss it with so many other areas of limited capacity. I thought the way that you responded to her and said no was genius. I've even already used it with someone. Me?

No, I used it with one of our sons. Like, this is how you could do it. Yeah, so my response was, while my heart says yes, yes, yes, the reality of my time makes this a no. Thank you for understanding. Without over explaining. I know, I almost added that part, because this is where the voice of Jim Kress, my counselor, comes in. And he reminds me, adults inform, children explain.

And I'm like, okay, but can there be a hybrid in the middle? Can I just do a little tiny explanation, you know? And so, yeah, I'm working on that too. Thanks for bringing up that issue. You've got so many issues. That's why, you know, I write these books.

No, I was relating to it, because I thought the same thing. And then what I tend to do is I over explain why I can't do it. And it's not necessary. Why do we over explain? Why do we explain at all? I think we're almost trying to get the other person to sign on to our boundary.

That's it. We know that we don't have the awkward tension of them not being on the same page with us. And so we're trying to manage their feelings, which is also something that I'm continuing to work on.

You know, it's not my job to manage someone else's feelings. My job is to inform them what is and is not okay, what is and is not acceptable, what I do and do not have to give. And I think that's really the purest definition of a boundary. A boundary is an effective communication tool for us to establish what is and is not okay, what we will and will not accept, and what we do and do not have to give. Always checking our heart to make sure we're not being selfish.

But at the same time, being honest so that we can keep the best of who we are front and center and actually look like we spent some time with Jesus. It's like when I get pushed past my capacity and I'm feeling bankrupted in the emotional area of my life, then I'm not going to stay self-controlled. I'm going to eventually lose it in some capacity. And it is not my responsibility to control other people. But biblically speaking, it's evidence of God's Spirit in me when I demonstrate self-control. If you think about the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, even those, when I look at my life, let alone self-control, I think that really does give us an indication if we're walking in the Spirit or if we're just trying to please others.

Go ahead. Yeah, my thought was if I'm listening and I don't know if I need to set a boundary, how do I identify? Like, other people can see it, I can't see it. How do I know I need to be better at boundaries? Where there's chaos, there's a lack of a boundary. So I always tell people, look for the chaos in your life.

And wherever there's chaos, it could be relational chaos, it could be time chaos, it could be financial chaos, look for the chaos in your life. And there you'll find the need for a healthy boundary. And, you know, my big question when I started this whole process is, is God okay with boundaries? And so I sat down with my theologian in residence, Joel Mutamale, who's amazing.

He's actually Dr. Joel now, he's since gotten his doctorate. But we sat down and we started in Genesis. And right from the very beginning, when God is establishing the foundation of the world, he has boundaries. He separates light from darkness.

They work together to form a 24-hour period. But there is a separation where one stops and another begins. That's called a boundary. He told the water, you can come this far, but no further.

That's a boundary, right? And so then I got over to Genesis chapter 2, and I was even more astounded. The very first recorded conversation between God and man, think of all the topics God could have chosen for this first recorded conversation. And God chooses the topic of a boundary.

And the way God establishes the boundary with Adam is very interesting. He says, you are free. So he establishes the boundary lines so that we know where real freedom exists. He says, you're free to eat from any tree in the garden.

So plenty of provision inside the boundary. It's not like he's being overly restrictive and it's for the sake of freedom. And then he says, but you must not eat from this one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And then there's a consequence because my counselor Jim Kress also taught me a boundary without a consequence is nothing but a mere suggestion. And so we see right from the first recorded conversation between God and man that there was a boundary established. And in Genesis 2, there's one rule.

Then, of course, Genesis 3 happens, sin enters in, and what does sin bring? Chaos. And where there's chaos, there's a need for more boundaries. As sin increased, chaos increased. And by the time we get in the Bible to the law and the prophets, there are over 600 boundaries.

Why? Because, like I was saying to you before, you want to know where a boundary is needed in your life, look for the chaos. Where there's chaos, where there's sin, there's chaos. And where there's chaos, there's a need for a boundary. So someone's listening and going, the chaos in my life is my husband or my wife.

I mean, I know there's some thinking, well, are you saying that I should eliminate them? Well, here's a really important lesson. When I was studying how God formed the tabernacle. When God formed the tabernacle and eventually became the temple, he allowed certain people certain access, but not all people all access. And the closer access you were granted to the Holy of Holies, the more responsibility you had to demonstrate. All the way to the high priest, when the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people. His responsibility for that high level of access, it required high level responsibility.

He had to be absolutely purified and cleansed. And if he wasn't keeping up that high level of responsibility, he would suffer the greatest consequence and he would lose his life. So this gave me this little clue to the level that I give someone access in my life is to the same level I need to require that they bring that level of responsibility. If I'm granting someone level 10 access and they're only bringing in on a consistent basis about a level three responsibility, the distance between those level three and level 10 is where the chaos will be found. It's where the dysfunction will be found and it's where a boundary is needed. So the mistake I used to make is great, then I need to put a boundary on this other person.

You can have a conversation with another person and ask them to be more responsible with the access that you've granted them. But if they are unwilling or incapable of anything above a level three responsibility, then putting a boundary on them using external pressure is never going to work. If you were having a cardiac event today, I would rush to you and other people who knew CPR, we would rush to you and we would, using external pressure, do chest compressions and we could sustain your life for a little while. But at some point, if your heart doesn't beat on its own, external pressure will not sustain your life long term.

Never have you seen two friends walking around a mall, one doing chest compressions on the other and thought, wow, that's a sustainable relationship, right? And so when we try to put external pressure of a boundary on someone who is unwilling or incapable to change, then it's going to cause nothing but increase the frustration and the simmering resentments in that relationship. So the wrong tactic is try to put a boundary on them to control them or manipulate them into doing what you want and that is to change, be more responsible. The right tactic is to put the boundary on myself and if they are unwilling or incapable of anything more than a level three responsibility, then the responsible thing for me to do is to diminish the access from level 10 down to level three so equilibrium can be reached.

Wow. That's tricky. You've done this too, Lisa, where you have all these young women and they're in a Bible study and some women are just so frustrated in their young marriages. Dave and I were, we almost divorced at year 10 and so does she start pulling back her heart?

What do you, when you say responsible for her, what do you mean by that? Let's take a scenario that may be kind of common in relationships that you have two people. Now, granted, any time you put two centers together and say, hey, do life, manage finances, raise kids, okay, there's going to be dysfunction. Even the most biblical families in the Bible, I used to think to be a biblical family, there had to be no dysfunction. And yet I'm so grateful that the humanity wasn't stripped from the divinity of God's word because we see many biblical families had dysfunction.

Of course they did because you're throwing centers together to do life together, right? So instead of picking the hardest issue in the relationship, why don't we pick one that can cause serious simmering resentments? And we know simmering resentments can lead to major, major dysfunction in a relationship.

So it's very common for us to attract opposites. And so let's say you have a dynamic where the wife loves to be on time and the husband has a different definition of being on time. Like the husband's always really slow getting out of the house? Yes, yes. This is one of our things.

He loves to be more creative with his time, right? Now the wife, her definition of being on time is that she wants to get there 15 to 20 minutes early. And there's a whole reason she wants to get there early. She wants to scope out where the bathroom is. She wants to get something like some water to drink. She wants to go check out the merch tables or wherever they're at, right?

She wants to get the lay of the land, get it all situated, get the seat that she wants. Okay, so being on time to her is 15 to 20 minutes early. Being on time to him is, hey, as long as we scoot into that conference before the last praise song finishes, then we're on time, okay? So when they're writing together to this event, somebody's going to lose because either they're going to do his definition of being on time, which is her definition of being late, and she's going to sit there and feel, again, more simmering resentments happening because he always makes me late. He always makes me late.

And I know we're not supposed to talk in extremes, but that is what can happen in your brain. It's like he made me late here, here, here. He's always late. He's always going to make me late.

And that simmering frustration and resentment can really do a lot of damage. But what can happen is to have a conversation where the wife says, hey, I want to let you know that it is really important to me when we go to a conference, when we go to church on Sunday morning, whatever. It's really important to me to be there 20 minutes early. That's my issue. And I'm not going to try to control you and what time you arrive, but I'm saying to better manage my issues, I am going to pull out of the driveway at 8 a.m. And if we're both in the car, fantastic. We can ride together. If we're not both in the car, no big deal. We'll drive separately. I'll get there. I'll save you a seat.

I'll get you some water. And we will sit there and we will do the event together. But it just means because we have different definitions of being on time, doesn't make you wrong and me right or me wrong and you right, it just means we're different. And that's okay.

That's how that can go. And so boundary conversations don't have to be like this big, dramatic, awful thing like do I want to stay married or not stay married, you know? Because oftentimes it's these undercurrent issues that really do so much wear and tear that when the bigger issues come up, everything feels big. I'm convinced more relationships die not because we try to have boundary conversations and they don't go well, but because there are conversations that desperately needed to be had that are never had. Man, that's so well put and I really need to process how personally I failed to have some of those healthy conversations, own that and then purposely pursue those kinds of conversations in the future. I am deeply moved to do so.

So, so good. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Lisa Turkhurst on Family Life Today. Lisa's written a book called Good Boundaries and Goodbyes.

Loving others without losing the best of who you are. You can get a copy at or give us a call at 800-358-6329. All right, it's important to pause every now and then and process why we do what we do. And you know who always does that so well when it comes to their lives and their ministry?

That's right, it's Dave and Ann Wilson. So this program is called Family Life Today, but it could be called Real Family Life Today because we get pretty stinking real. Because people want this. We all need to know what is happening and how to deal with the things that are really difficult in life. And I tell you, I love being part of a program where we're allowed to do that, where we can be that honest.

You know why? Because that's where people are living, right where we're living. And we're talking about stuff today that we never thought we'd talk about 30 years ago. Think about some of the topics we've hit. Deconstruction. Our kids walking away from our faith. Porn. Porn, addictions. Affairs.

Affairs, abuse, you name it, we will go there. And we hope that you find hope and help when we go there. Because we're not just sharing our stuff so you can hear our stuff. We're sharing it to help you navigate the tricky world you and I are living in.

And let me tell you, God shows up when we get real. And if you've supported this ministry, I just want to say thank you. Because you have enabled us to bring so much help and hope to families.

And I want to invite you, if you haven't supported us, now's the time. I mean seriously, this is a crucial time for the American family. We are losing this war and we're here to help you win the battle in your homes. I know you want to win. We want to win. We want to help you.

Every single day we get to speak life and the word of God into your homes. And we can't do that unless you want to jump in, pray for us, but also financially give. We have partners that have given. You can become a partner. And your gift at this time will be matched.

It will be doubled. And you can help your family and other families down the street from you win as you enable us to bring life and literally bring Jesus into your home. You could go online to and click on the donate now button at the top of the page. Or you could give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free if you'd like to drop us something in the mail. We'd love to get something from you.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. Many of us need to explore the biblical foundation of healthy boundaries in our relationships. Well, tomorrow, David A. Wilson are back again with Lisa Turkers to talk about just that. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David A. Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-04 06:40:19 / 2023-12-04 06:53:30 / 13

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