Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Value of Boundaries

Leslie Basham: Mary Kassian says when it comes to their relationship with men, women need firm hedges before temptation comes; otherwise, it will be hard to make wise decisions.

Mary Kassian: There's an erosion that takes place, a chipping away at those boundaries. Those boundaries get pushed to different levels and different places, and you cross more and more boundaries until every boundary is crossed.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, August 26.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I'm wishing we had time to talk in greater length about each chapter in the book we've been discussing recently, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. Mary Kassian is the author. She's a wife. She's a mom of three young adult sons. We've had the privilege of ministering together in True Woman conferences and in other settings. She's been a blogger at TrueWoman.com. She's a friend. She's a partner in ministry.

Mary, thank you for writing this book and being with us in this series to unpack, just at a surface level, some of the treasures that are in this wonderful book you've written. Thank you so much for it.

Mary: I’ve been so glad to be with you.

Nancy: It's been hard for us to pick which chapters to talk about, because each one paints for us a contrast between a wise woman and a wise woman. The portrait of the wild woman we've been looking at is found mostly in Proverbs chapter 7, this seductive woman. She's a young married woman. She's a church woman. She sets out to bring down, and successfully does snare this simple young man. He's caught in her trap. The Scripture says her ways lead to death.

The way of the wild woman can seem so liberated and so glamorous on the front side. But the point comes when you realize that it is a deadly and dangerous way to live. So we've been looking at some of those points. But also we've been looking at the contrast, what does a wise woman look like? The concept, the contrast we want to talk about today is this issue of setting boundaries. The woman in Proverbs 7 has a problem along that line. She really doesn't set necessary boundaries does she?

Mary: She really does have a problem with boundaries. The story says she's out "in the twilight, in the evening" (verse 9). She also grabs the young man and kisses him (see verse 13). She violates the physical boundary there. She violates some intimacy boundaries. She's telling him, "Oh, my husband is gone." So she violates a lot of boundaries.

Violating boundaries leads to being entrapped in sin. Now the boundaries themselves are not necessarily boundaries that you would find in Scripture. They're just boundaries of wisdom that we establish in our lives to keep us from going towards sinful behavior.

Nancy: Some people have called those “hedges.” I like that term. My mother lives in an area of Florida where the properties are bordered by hedges. The hedges define who owns which property. You can't easily get over those hedges. They're big, tall, huge, wide hedges. It's not easy for people who are violating your privacy to get past those hedges.

When it comes to our relationships as women with men, there are just some wisdom ways of thinking and living. You and I have both seen the heartache and the heartbreak and the devastation when women don't put those hedges, those boundaries in place. They end up becoming so much more vulnerable to sinning and to being sinned against.

Mary: That's right. They aren't kept in a safe place. That's what the boundaries do, they really define areas of safety. When we violate those boundaries, we become much more vulnerable. I’ve seen that in so many women.

They think, "Oh it's not big deal that I meet this guy for lunch. I'm not sinning." Or, "It's not a big deal that I’m telling him how hurt I'm feeling in my relationship with my husband. That's not sin." Or, "I'm just talking on the phone with him." Or, "I'm just sending him an email."

They violate all sorts of boundaries, and then it's one small compromise after another. More and more compromises until finally they find themselves in an impossible situation, in a situation where they never intended to go. But because they violated their boundaries, they ended up in a place where they were vulnerable either to be sinned against or vulnerable in initiating sinful behavior.

Nancy: I’ve often counseled younger people, stay out of situations, places, and circumstances where the natural thing would be to do something wrong. So we take this woman out at night. What's the big thing about her being out at the twilight, in the evening in the dark night? Well, it's not daylight. There's no accountability. There's no protection for her.

Mary: There's no protection. There's no accountability. Things are hidden. She's probably beyond her time of when she should be going to sleep. Sometimes when you're tired, you're more vulnerable. When you are out late at night, when you're out alone . . . She didn’t go out with a girlfriend. She didn't take a girlfriend with her when she went out. She went out by herself to meet with this young man. She was a married young woman, and yet she was meeting with a man that she was not married to. So she violated all sorts of hedges and boundaries that she ought to have had. Boundaries that would have kept her safe had she paid attention to those boundaries.

Nancy: I’m thinking how many stories I have heard over the years of woman who have come to us after they've already violated the boundaries, and now their lives are in shambles. I'm thinking of a woman who came to me years ago and shared how she had been giving one of her pastors haircuts and massages. Then was shocked when at some point he declared that he had strong feelings for her.

How did this happen? How did they end up in what became an illicit attraction, and as I recall, relationship. Well, she violated some boundaries, some hedges. She got herself foolishly into a situation where it was natural for him and natural for her to sin.

Mary: Or even the situation of co-workers. There was a woman who told me, "We were just working on a project together." Well, that involved a lot of lunches. They had lunches together. Then when they were both sent out of town on a business trip, they decided lets get together here. We'll just watch a movie together. And it just progressed. All of a sudden she found herself in a relationship with a married man and had never intended to go there. But because she didn’t have very clear hedges, she ended up going down that road.

Nancy: I know when I’ve talked in the past about hedges and boundaries on this program, invariably we'll get emails from listeners saying, be more specific. "What are some of your hedges? What are some of your boundaries?" I’ve always been hesitant to do that because I don't want to say that the hedges that I’ve put in place in my life are exactly in every detail what someone else should put into their life. But I have found that women have been helped as I’ve been willing to share some of the practical hedges that I’ve put into my life.

I'm a single woman. Mary, you're a married woman. Let's just for the sake of mentoring and encouraging women who are listening and may not have been mothered, may not have been counseled in some of these practical areas, let's start with you as a married woman. You love Brent. You've been married thirty years now. You want to protect your marriage. You want to guard your own heart. So what are some of the practical ways that you've set out to establish hedges and boundaries to protect that relationship?

Mary: One of the practical ways is what I call a seclusion hedge. And that is to ensure that I interact with men that I am not married to, men who are other than Brent, in a public venue and not in a private venue. I avoid places that are secluded. So if I'm meeting with someone, a colleague, it will be in a room where others can watch or that has glass doors, or glass windows, or we leave the door open. I avoid being in secluded, private, isolated places with men that I'm not married to.

Nancy: I know we practice that within our ministry. I don’t meet in a room alone with a man without the door being ajar or windows in the room. Some people see that kind of thing and think that seems so extreme. That seems obsessive. Yet I’m thinking, if you don't violate that seclusion principle, you're unlikely to be in an emotionally or physically adulterous relationship. People probably never have an affair with someone that they've never been alone with in a private setting.

You can call it obsessive. But I so value the marriages of my colleagues and the men that serve in our ministry, the men that I work with. I'm thinking it's worth it for them and for me, for their marriages, for my life, to put some of those boundaries up. Is this a biblical mandate to keep the doors open? I'm not going to call it that, but I think there’s a lot of wisdom in it.

Mary: I think there is a lot of wisdom in it. Proverbs tells us that the wise person foresees danger and takes precautions.

Nancy: Prudent.

Mary: Is very, very prudent. It's just a smart thing to do. When Brent does that for me, I appreciate that I know that he's not going to be having meetings off somewhere with a woman alone. And he knows that I will honor him in the same way. It's just a way of respecting my marriage, and it's a way of respecting the marriages of other people as well.

Nancy: I think another way of putting up appropriate hedges and boundaries is in the whole area of communication. This is something that I’ve watched just take down a lot of women and a lot of marriages. The whole email/Facebook communication; how can we think about that in a wise way rather than a wild way.

Mary: Well, I think that we need to be careful with where we go in our communication. If I communicate with someone other than Brent, another man, I try to avoid really personal topics. I can confide in girlfriends, but I can't confide in other men. If I’m having a heartache, or if I'm having something very personal going on in my life, or if I’m having a struggle in my marriage, it's just inappropriate for me to be sharing personal information.

If I do share personal information, I need to be very cautious to share that information in a way that my husband is aware that I’m sharing it or that he is included in it. So if I’m saying something personal, how I really enjoyed church this weekend, I might type something like, “My husband and I really enjoyed being at church this weekend.” Or I would use “we” phrases and always make sure to make it very clear that I am married and I’m committed to my marriage. I am not just an “I;” I am a “we” in terms of being a couple. That just draws that boundary very, very clearly right up front that this is place, this is a line that is not getting crossed.

Nancy: I know some couples who have practically handled that in relation to their Facebook account. They don’t have their own individual Facebook accounts; they have a Facebook account. If they're going to do it all, together. It has both of their names on it. So when you're communicating with the one, you realize the other partner has access to that, is seeing that material. I think that helps keep away from private or secret communication that could become a time bomb waiting to go off.

Mary: It really could become one. I appreciate Brent often will CC me on an email if he's communicating with a woman and needs to set something up or tell her something. If it's just purely business, he doesn't always do that. But if there's anything of a private or personal nature, he'll CC me on it, or he will tell me about it. I will do the same for him. That just really honors, it nails down those hedges and boundaries. It honors our marriage. It keeps us safe.

Nancy: I don't want to belabor the point too much, but I think as much as we have seen of emotional adultery, sometimes leading to physical adultery, but illicit relationships being fueled through email, through Facebook, through instant messaging, through various social media, these things can be great blessings if they are used in a wise way. But we're seeing just monumental collapse of trust and covenant and breaches of fidelity and faithfulness through these means.

I talked recently with a couple, a man who is in full-time Christian ministry. His wife has become addicted to Facebook, and through means of Facebook she has reconnected with an old sweetheart who she is now carrying on an emotional affair with, and it is devastating her marriage. I assume it's devastating his as well in his situation.

But this is something that is rampant even among believers. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "I think I’m going to have an affair." They first breach smaller, individual, single hedges or boundaries and then find that leading to another, leading to another, leading to another larger compromise. And it's like Proverbs says, "The end leads to death" (see verse 27). 

Mary: It does lead to death. You and I have both seen it numerous times where just a little compromise, because it's not sin just to send an email, and it's not sin to share a little bit, and it's not sin to share a little bit more. But there's an erosion that takes place, and a chipping away at those boundaries. Those boundaries get pushed to different levels and different places. And you cross more and more boundaries until every boundary is crossed, emotionally, if not physically. 

So to protect ourselves, to keep ourselves safe, to keep ourselves pure, to honor our marriages and the marriages of those around us, we do need to establish those types of boundaries.

Nancy: The Proverbs says so descriptively in chapter 6, verse 27: "Can a man carry fire next to his chest, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (verses 27-28). And even as we're talking, Mary, I have no doubt that there are some listening to us today who are playing with fire right now.

It's a relationship at work with a colleague. It's flirtation going on. It's words being exchanged, looks being exchanged. They're playing with fire. And let me just say, you're kidding yourself if you think you can do that and ultimately not get burned. So what do you do? You stop.

I just want to say to you, if you are playing with fire in an emotionally tempting, tantalizing way; if you're being a wild woman as it relates to the issue of boundaries, God has let you hear this program today so that you can be warned, and so you can be wise. The wise woman will say, "This may hurt, this may be hard, but by God's grace and for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the covenant of my marriage or this other person's marriage, I’m going to repent. I'm not going to continue with this. I'm going to put it away and come back within those appropriate boundaries for my life."

Mary: That's a difficult thing to do. It's difficult once those boundaries have been transgressed to pull back and to say, "I need to reestablish some boundaries." But the best thing, I believe, is to come clean on it, and to confess it, and to repent of it and to reestablish those boundaries and say, "I cannot do this anymore. I'm going to take you off as a Facebook friend."

Nancy: Or, "I'm going to get off Facebook," if they have to.

Mary: "I'm getting off Facebook. I'm just going to stop. I'm not going to send any more text messages. I'm going to block receiving them. This is going the wrong direction. I am not honoring my marriage. I want to honor my marriage and honor the Lord Jesus Christ with my behavior."

Nancy: In my own quiet time this morning, I was in the Gospel of Mark. I was just reading that passage where Jesus says, "If your eye or your hand causes you to sin, then take drastic measures to get rid of whatever it is that would be tempting you, that would be causing you to sin" (see Mark 9:45). And what Jesus is saying, the point isn't cut off your hand or pluck out your eye, the point is God takes sin seriously. And as followers of Christ, we need to take seriously and be willing to distance ourselves from anything that might put us in the pathway to making sinful or foolish choices.

Mary: There are so many different hedges that we could begin to address. And hedges change whether you're married or single. There are things that are appropriate, inappropriate to do. It's very good exercise to actually sit down and think about what your hedges are. If you're in a working relationship, then perhaps you need to put in a hedge in to your life that says, "I am not going to meet with a man, or dine, have lunch with a man, or travel alone with a man, other than my husband." It's just not going to happen.

Or you perhaps have to put in a request to your boss or to your company to request that, or to request that your hotel rooms are on different floors. You might say that this is all being obsessive, but I have seen it so many times where it just starts off so innocently, and it is sure to goes down the wrong path because those hedges have been ignored, or there hasn't been a hedge in place.

Nancy: I like to think of these boundaries as guardrails. I have had a lot of fun in the past doing some Jeeping in the mountains of Colorado. You know those windy, hairpin turns, those very narrow roads? When you look down and there's like a million miles down to the valley below? If you go over, you're dead. So there are guardrails. At least if you're going to feel safe when there are guardrails. Where there are no guardrails, you're going to be hugging the inner edge of that road trying like crazy not to drive off. But where there are guardrails, you can feel safe, you can feel protected. You know that they're there not to restrict you but to save your life. I view those boundaries as gifts, as protection, as freeing me up.

I’ve seen this in the relationships that I have with the men that I serve with in our ministry. Where those boundaries are in place, where I’m honoring those men and their marriages, where I’m seeking to please the Lord in my choices, there’s a freedom to enjoy those friends, to serve with them, to have healthy relationships. Not only with those men but with their wives. These are protected because of being willing to say “yes” to some of those boundaries.

So on the front side, it can seem a bit restrictive. And to some it seems maybe even ludicrous. But when you take the long view, you see there really is blessing and benefit to establishing those boundaries

Mary, one of the things that I really like that you've done in this chapter on boundaries in your book on Girls Gone Wise, is you've given it some real practical illustrations and types of hedges with some lists that say, "Here are some things you may want to consider." Then what you do is challenge us to come up with our own list, and to say, "Here are the things that I want to practice in this season of my life."

And you've even provided a personal boundary worksheet, which we're making available on our website in pdf form, so you can print it out. You can come up with your own boundaries. I'm just saying, don't be without boundaries. Don't be without the hedges, because you want to be able to glorify God as a wise woman. When you put those safeguards in place, those boundaries, those hedges, you're making choices that will not only benefit you now, but down the road for years to come.

It brings me to the end of Proverbs chapter 7, that we've been looking at in this series, where this wise father says,

O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways [this foolish woman]; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng (verses 24-26).

That passage says to me, any woman can be used to be the downfall of many men. Don't think it can't happen to you. I can't afford to think it can't happen to me. I could be an instrument of the downfall to the marriages of the men around me, and so can you. By God's grace, we don't want to be those wild women. We want to be wise women who build up the men around us, who encourage them and motivate them to be holy and wise men. We want our lives in that way to bring glory to God.

There's lots more in this book, Girls Gone Wise, that we haven’t been able to address in this series. Mary, thank you so much for the time you have been with us. I'm hoping that in the days ahead we can come back and talk perhaps in further detail about some of these characteristics of a girl gone wise in a world gone wild.

Mary: Thanks so much, Nancy. It was good to be with you.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian are wrapping up their interview on the book, Girls Gone Wise. But this doesn’t have to be the end of the topic. Continue learning how to incorporate biblical wisdom into every part of your life.

We'll send you a copy of Mary's book when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. We'll also include the CD set of this series. The conversation of Mary and Nancy will go with you. Listen and be reminded of all you've learned about being a wise woman. Both the book and the CD series will help you continue to grow in wisdom as it relates to your heart, habit, appearance, boundaries, and possessions.

Just call us with your donation of any size and ask for Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. Here's the number: 1-800-569-5959, or you can donate online and we'll send the book. The address is ReviveOurHearts.com. That's also where you'll find information on seeing Mary and Nancy in person. They'll both speak at the two True Woman conferences this fall. Get more details and join us in Indianapolis or Ft. Worth soon. Again, the web address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.