I am heading to speak to about 60 pastors and counselors in my area on Thursday to teach them how to counsel individuals and couples in destructive marriages. I’m very excited that all these professionals are gathering together for 5 hours of teaching on this important topic. Pray for ears to hear and a great time of encouragement and instruction.
Then on Sunday I’m heading off to France and Germany for some vacation time and teaching in Germany. My niece and nephew are missionaries there and I will be teaching a few classes at Black Forest Academy on healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Since I will be away, I will be having a few guests blog for me over the next two to three weeks. I will check in as I’m able, responding to your comments.
This week I thought I’d do something different. I want you to watch a short five minute interview with Brène Brown, a leading researcher on topics of shame and vulnerability. She makes a powerful statement. She says, “The most compassionate and generous people I know, have the firmest boundaries.”
What do you make of that? We typically think of generous and compassionate people as selfless, having weak or no boundaries. Dr. Brown disagrees. She doesn’t use the word CORE strength (that’s my phrase) but she does talk about the last two components of CORE strength.
R – I will be responsible for myself – Dr. Brown defines this as a personal boundary stating. “What’s okay and what’s not okay for me.” Once you have defined this clearly to yourself and to others you can then be more …
E – Empathetic and compassionate towards other without enabling destructive behavior to continue.
What she says is that without clear and sometimes firm boundaries, you are generous but end up resentful because you give more than you wanted. You attract takers who use you and abuse you but you’re too “nice” to say that’s not okay. That approach simply wears you out and destroys your empathy and compassion often replacing it with cynicism and resentment.
Instead, she advises, to be generous with your compassion and empathy for others, with strong boundaries. That way you won’t get worn out or burned out or lose your loving heart.
What do you think? Do you think you can be more generous and more compassionate with others as long as you have strong boundaries? Share a time when you found that to be true.
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Leslie, I am so happy to hear that you will be having some vacation time!!!!!!! I hope it is very refreshing and rejuvenating for you!!!!!
Thursday’s convention sounds amazing!!!! I have a handful of people that I wish I could send!!!! Lol!!! A week ago, I left my abusive husband for the third time. I am determined there will not be a fourth time. IF I go back, it will only be because a miracle has occurred and the change is deep and true!!! I cannot put myself and the children through this again!!! The pastors at my church care a lot, but their focus is reconciliation and they just don’t recognize how much more is needed…….I am weary from trying to educate the people who claim to be helping me…….
To answer your question: good healthy boundaries are a WONDERFUL thing!!!!! I have finally learned where I stand and what I will and will not accept in my sandbox, so to speak, and it has empowered me to speak honestly but still kindly because I am coming from a position of confidence rather than fear and intimidation……. Just this morning, I was able to compose a very civil letter in reply to my pastor who was pressuring me to reconcile!!! All I can say is: Thank you, Jesus, for providing strength and healing; and, Thank you, Leslie, for providing information and a safe place to learn and grow!!!!!
Thank you for your the effort you put in to educate others about abuse.
I think that strong boundaries are essential when helping others. As Leslie mentioned, without them we can become resentful and cynical. But also, we can become enablers by doing things that the person we’re trying to help should really be doing. Also, with strong boundaries, we’ll realize that we have to take care of ourselves if we want to be of help to others.
Hello. Please read my book -Power of the Boardroom – Redefining Life’s Priorities by Rhonda Gaines. I recently moved to Philadelphia and need a referral for a Christian Counselor. Could you direct me to a couple of people? You can find an exerpt of my book on my website rbgbussinesssolutions,com . thank you!
Amen! I think the challenge for those of us who have been with a destructive spouse is that any boundary we set is immediately crossed and tested. As I set boundaries with my X, he violated them and then began the work of telling me how selfish, self centered and un-submissive I was. After years of hearing that type of verbal and spiritual abuse, it was hard for me not to believe it.
It was helpful for me to read books and talk to a counselor about healthy boundaries. (With real examples, not just theoretical ideas.) The concrete examples and phrases and scenarios gave me courage that my boundaries were healthy and reasonable. Then I needed friends to support and encourage me as I set the boundaries and dealt with the hurricane responses I received as I weathered the storm of criticism.
It takes real strength and conviction to set a boundary and stick with it. But when you are convinced and supported that it is normal, healthy and necessary, it can be done.
Thank you, Leslie, for bringing up this great topic.
As I learn how to set boundaries, I am finding myself alone. And I am not dealing very well with the loneliness. Does having healthy boundaries have to mean being alone??? I didn’t think so, but right now that is my reality.
For the first few months, I was relieved and even joyful that my husband chose to leave rather than respect my boundaries. But now, I find myself wishing I could go back to the emotional abuse just to get rid of the loneliness.
Have any of you experienced this?
I’m so sorry you’re feeling so alone right now Summer. I too have experienced what you’re feeling. As I was talking to a good friend about this she said something very that resonated with me. She said that as we get healthier and learn to set boundaries, our “circle” gets smaller, that those in our life who could not accept our growth would fall away.
It is the natural reaction for those that resist not getting their way and it hurts, and we grieve the losses. I also have thought many times about going back to my ex husband for many reasons-the same reasons I stayed in the marriage so long too. Life is very, very hard on our own-and very lonely at times.
I have found that I do have more good days than bad as time goes on-I’ve been on my own for two years. Your feelings are valid, and I pray for comfort and peace to surround you in the dark times.
When my husband was living under his PFA (protection from abuse order) he experienced feelings of loneliness. He said what helped him was to volunteer. He participated in meals on wheels and found mature, responsible, socially conscious people who missed him when he wasn’t there. They talked as they worked and he didn’t have to tell anyone his story. He got a clean slate. Volunteering not only took away his loneliness, but his thoughts about being lonely became fewer and fewer.
In contrast my divorced, penniless, friend who left a multi-million dollar home and a husband who was an ambassador to a exotic foreign country under the Clinton administration,has been so lonely that she goes from bar to bar partying. She goes home with most anyone who shows her some attention. Her response to me is that she is just soon lonely!
There are solutions to loneliness. Pick the solution that will benefit you in the long term. Writing on this blog is a nice start. Hi Friend!
Thank you Sunflower! Your wisdom and encouragement are so helpful!
Survivor ask the Lord to send you people who do understand. I had a very similar experience with my church leader’s at the time of my separation. They believed my husband’s version and I believe they hold me responsible for not reconciling but they had no understanding of my situation. They weren’t interested in anything other than me going back into my abusive marriage. God has held me and provided for me over the last 15 months.
I am already a very compassionate person so I don’t think boundaries have increased my compassion. However, learning to set and enforce better boundaries has decreased the resentment I used to feel on a regular basis. Better, stronger boundaries have made my relationships so much richer and happier for me because I no longer feel I have to “please” everyone else all the time, and surprisingly, I receive more respect than ever.
Soooo good! Just this weekend I was returning to church to attend a leadership meeting. As I approached the building I was summoned by a pastor who was talking with a man and a woman. He introduced me to them and then asked if I would talk with her because she was having some problems. He then went on to tell us that he would pray and that I would go and talk with the woman and he would talk with the man. The issue for me wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk with her (I am a trained lay counselor) but rather that he, the pastor, asked me in front of the woman. I had no background information – he did- and it felt like a demand instead of a request. At the moment, because the woman was in obvious distress, it seemed like it would have been cruel to refuse to talk with her then. The woman and I did talk for quite some time and I was able to direct her to a few support group options and advised her to schedule an appointment to meet with a lay counselor at the church.
Afterward, I started to feel resentful toward the pastor because I had missed the important meeting I was there to attend. It became clear that I absolutely need to establish a boundary with this pastor. I intend to tell him that if he wants my help with a situation like this in the future, he needs speak to me privately beforehand and not ask me in front of the person needing help. It’s going to be hard because this pastor likes to be in charge and do things his way, but I’m going to be brave and talk to him.
After watching this video it really clarified that my resentment stems from not having a strong boundary in place. I too want to be loving and generous and that means being straightforward with what’s okay and what’s not okay! Setting boundaries is hard, but ultimately for the good of everyone involved.
Thank you for posting this! God’s timing is always perfect.
So glad you posted this and expounded on it. I had watched it earlier and loved it, but needed someone like you to break it down even more so I can fully grasp it. I’m struggling as a single mom of three teenagers to walk that fine balance between freedom and expecting help with chores.
Without reading or listening to another word, I know this will be good! Brené is a fantastic human who gives me hope for being a messed up but real person.
I watched the video. I read the posts. I know what Brené says is true. Without boundaries…I am sweet and so nice but as soon as I say “no” to a request or state my Honest thoughts then I am accused of being mean. When I say Yes but really need and want to say No then I feel like a toy boat getting tossed around on the rough lake. Without keeping firm boundaries, I have lost the respect of those I work with and some family members. I know that when I first set a boundary with my husband, he crossed it and it didn’t take long for me to back down. Now it’s harder to be taken seriously because those who have history with me don’t believe what I say. I hate that about myself but I know better now and I’m doing better now.
Sunshine I was concerned to read that you “hate that about myself.” There is nothing to hate. You are the victim, not the perpetrator. You learn to be flexible to survive. You did the smartest and safest thing you could do at the time. Love yourself sweetie!
Thank you so much for the response, the validation, the wisdom, and the reassurance. I met with my counselor today, and she helped me focus on what I’m gaining instead of what I’m losing. At the top of the list are my self respect and the respect of my teenage son and daughter.
Thank you Leslie and Brene! I so appreciate your materials, both of you. The clarity of this post is so pleasing. Thank you for giving me a few coherent moments today! I see so often that I am the problem but just as often fail to see how to exit the loop.
“What do you think?” . . . . I think this is totally spot-on. . . . you say: “. . . . without clear and sometimes firm boundaries, you are generous but end up resentful because you give more than you wanted. You attract takers who use you and abuse you but you’re too “nice” to say that’s not okay. That approach simply wears you out and destroys your empathy and compassion often replacing it with cynicism and resentment.” Exactly me to a tee and not just cynicism and resentment but what may really be happening unconsciously is that I will extract “retribution” too (I realize that is shameful but then that shame then fuels even more cynicism, resentment and retribution extraction.)
Re: I’m the problem and exiting the loop. . . . When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging two graves: one for your “enemy,” and one for yourself. —Actually, both may be the same. . . . . I’m really starting to see that what we believe is not as important a question as how we are interacting with our beliefs. Many times I am interacting with my beliefs in a destructive way just like so many have interacted with their own “xyz” issue. The Bible being literal and inerrant (i.e. self-evident, internally coherent, and a reflection of the mind of God) operates as a master signifier. How do I know that? I don’t. . . . . But amazingly, we only agree with the Bible *in our actions, the place it really counts* when it agrees with logic, reason and evidence. I don’t understand that but that is my own internal issue.
When do we have a self-compassionate boundary with what the Word-of-God says? . . . . re: “Give to everyone who asks of you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” —And so, so, so many others. It seems to me that lots of issues are simply solved by disabusing us of things we clearly picked-up from the Scriptures. In that, I confuse the meta-discourse with the discourse. Healthy people have strong boundaries with what the Word-of-God says. Bottomline: Aleea, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try self-compassion and approving of yourself and see what happens . . . . . It’s common to reject and punish ourselves when we have been rejected by others. When we experience disappointment from the way our family or others treat us, that’s the time to take special care of ourselves. What am I doing to nurture and protect myself? Nothing. Absolutely nothing except strong defense mechanisms. I need compassionate boundaries.
A coworker has just texted me and asked me to work May 21st. I checked my calendar and I am available. My first thought was to help them out. Yet, I don’t want to work on Saturday and especially for the long period of time this person would like. I texted back, “Sorry, no.” I didn’t add an explanation or ask why they needed time off. I knew I didn’t want or need to cover their responsibility. I say this mantra in my head when I start to waiver, “Your poor planning is not my emergency.”
What an amazing perspective! I wish that I would have learned these techniques early in my marriage. I could have saved myself and my children a lot of heartache.
Aleea, darling, my friend, just hang in there. You have no control over what happens to you. You can only pray for grace and strength to endure any situation. You know, live life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
SuperNanny thank you!!!
I totally see and can agree with much of what Brene explained about what is really generous love. I do have a question,
How do you reconcile or navigate when a person or relationship situation continues to abuse, disrespect or step over boundaries as; ‘they are doing the best they can and we are to really think the best of them’
Can someone expand in these circumstances…
Aly, I too felt confused at first but I don’t think Brene says that we have to have a relationship with everyone, especially if they continue to abuse or crash into our boundaries. We can still believe they are probably doing the best they can, but that doesn’t mean we have to make ourselves vulnerable to them or be close to them. I think if we focus on ourself instead of him – for example, “I don’t like that he steps on my toes when we dance together” Therefore I’ll have to set a boundary – “No more slow dancing with you because it’s not okay that you step on my toes.” But he says, or you think, “He’s doing the best he can?” And maybe he is. Maybe he’s dancing the only way he knows and IS doing the best he can but that doesn’t mean you have to let him step on your toes. That’s why she says COMPASSION with GOOD STRONG BOUNDARIES is required. These two combined helps us be empathic and compassionate without ENABLING which is one of my CORE strength steps.
I disagreed with Brene’s viewpoint on believing the best in people- or rather I should say that I believe it needs clarification, which I wish she would have made.
I have found it to be incredibly helpful to believe the best in people at times…especially the people I don’t know. For instance, when a clerk is dismissive or someone cuts me off in traffic. I can choose to believe the best in the clerk and conclude that maybe she has troubling issues at home or something is upsetting her that led her to respond (or ignore me) the way she did. I remember when I first moved to the area I live that I frequently needed other drivers’ grace as I drove around and tried getting used to traffic that I wasn’t accustomed to. I know I really annoyed some people during this awkward process. So now when a driver does something that might want people to lay on the horn, I choose to remember the grace I needed (and continue to need) and immediately feel compassion rather than annoyance for their driving.
That said, it was the core belief that my husband was doing the best he could that kept me stuck in an abusive marriage. The truth is that he WASN’T doing the best he could, he was doing the best for HIM. He was continually given suggestions or requests on things he could do better but chose not to. In this sense I think it would be foolish to apply this wisdom (that someone is doing the best they can) to all situations all of the time. It is not a one size fits all kind of wisdom as I see it, but wisdom that demands discernment to be applied correctly. Perhaps Brene took this as a given (discernment) but there are those (like I did) who need that disclosure to feel safe or to even realize a distinction needs to be made. In those times I think we need to ask ourselves if WE are doing the best that we can or perhaps we could do better by actually setting up those boundaries from people who choose not to do their best.
Great distinction and I struggled too with her thoughts about this but this where I landed. Even if you did believe your husband was doing the best he knew how – (to be selfish and immature) that does not preclude you having to set up boundaries for yourself. Believing that a person is doing the best he or she knows how in the moment and needing to protect yourself from that very same person is not mutually exclusive. I may believe a drug addict is doing the best they know how in the moment, but I still may have to call the police or lock my doors, or refuse contact. But when we get stuck in believing “they SHOULD be doing better, they COULD be doing better – we also get locked into rescuing them, helping them, nagging them, hoping for them to change” when in fact, they don’t see that they need to do better and in their blindness feel they are doing the best they know how to do in the moment. It’s only when you are more self-aware and alert, can you see yourself NOT behaving the best way you know how to behave and can stop, and take responsibility for your own actions.
That said, I do believe that some people do know better, but choose not to do better (according to what we think they should be doing). Whether that means they are doing the best as they see themselves, I can’t judge, all I know is that I don’t want to hang around them.
Well stated, Leslie! 🙂
Thank you Leslie and Valerie for both of your comments and perspectives! Wow;)
I just am SO thankful for your responses, I didn’t think there would be one. I’m so conditioned by silence from others in my journey.. Specifically the church community, and other women in the generation before me. Silence has been such a part of my reinjuries. But thankfully the Lord wouldn’t let me quit or cease to exist. This is my first time commenting in this format.
I was leaning to what you wrote Leslie, and thinking the best of what Brene was trying to express but really wanted to hear if others struggled or were triggered in defining it in the scope she did or lack there of.
Valerie, ‘boy’ do we have a similar understanding on ‘doing the best they can’. Not growing.. Or choosing to not grow is not doing the best they can, in fact this thinking can be such an epidemic to our Christian culture the more we enable this self-centered behavior.
I think the message could be better expressed (especially us that have been severely harmed by these types) something like;
“They are behaving at a level with the lowest risk,
and sadly they are missing out”
I have been battling a long time with family of origin false beliefs ..at a huge cost to myself and my own family… as I was taught this very thing Brene was expressing but in a distorted twisted way ‘called love’ from my family of origin and especially from an enabling mother. I’m referring to the “always think the best of others, and they are doing the best they can.”
I lived and breathed this to a ~ fault. Thankfully this ‘belief’ / behavior has brought me some very healthy balanced relationships but it has also brought me some very destructive ones to deal with. I.e.
Marriage / extended family. You both know the common threads. And yes I didn’t learn the details of what boundaries look like in my home. The people that I have said, ” I’m sorry I can’t dance with you anymore because you step on my toes, flip out and claim they are being mistreated by my boundary. Mainly because they want to dance how they dance regardless of their effect on others. And if they are family, they truly believe they have the right and are entitled to do what they wish, because after all we are family”
Leslie, I do love your CORE strength that you have been able to help so many of us find our way through such terrain.
I’ve been working hard and surrendering my heart to Christ to build this in me. I am far from who I once was, but I am in process and willing to grow.
Thankfully through His word and the truth that truly does set us free, in it .. we are on a path of healing and growth but a lot has been sacrificed that was quite unnecessary as I work through my personal journey. Lots of my past modeling has been looking up to older women; mother, sisters, aunts (unfortunately blind and spiritually taught unhealthy misapplied scripture) to teach and model me and others in their sphere how be in relationships. It’s dangerous! These types continue to raise the next generation with more destructive dynamics, that goes against everything of bringing Glory to God in our marriages and families. This doesn’t have to continue if the ‘women’ before us choose the Lord to honor first above destructive relationship dynamics. I believe we all have a responsibility as a Christian to speak the truth in love.
Leslie, you are one of those women, so I’m thankful for your ministry in more ways than I can express!
Since Brene’s video was posted ‘highlighted’ on your Blog Leslie, I do think Brene Brown could have clarified and gave distinctions especially if she understands the c-drive deficit ‘many’ enablers suffer in. Myself included here! We have past tramas of such false quilt and beliefs that can pull us to that old bondage if we are ever not careful.. The enemy will use anything!! Even all the good things that Brene was laying out. We are a group of people that DO need the details and specifics so that we can continue to re~wire and strengthen our core.
We need the boundary specifics to continue to reinforce the healthy work and truths that God has already began in us and wants to bring to completion. With His truths and strength, I will choose to be the ‘cycle breaker’.
Thank you for your time and heart for us all experiencing similar paths. I’m in prayer for us all as we seek Him and a transformational journey for His Glory.
So right Aly and I think this helps women to dialogue and “think” through what they are taught – whether from experts and celebs like Brene Brown or Bible study teachers in their own church. We need a discerning ear and the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Hello Brené Brown
I am increasing my self esteem, self-confidence, and self image by working with self improvement techniques and a personal coach.
“The Anatomy of Trust” talk that Brene Brown did and her references to boundaries was a real eye opener for me. She really challenged me not only on my relationship with others but also about my relationship with the LORD. Boundaries are all about establishing a safe arena to live one’s life in and God’s word is definitely one boundary that can define what is safe and what is not.
Coming out of an abusive background and an abusive marriage, really understanding that boundaries are not mean forms of punishing others but rather ways to define safe and unsafe areas has really changed things for me and will hopefully change things for my children as well. Unsafe people and their negative actions and consequences of such do not need to be the “norm” of my experience of life nor of my children’s, and it is not God’s design for us to be constantly controlled, manipulated or abused. Understanding that boundaries are designed not only to restrict certain behaviors but to provide safe areas for others to be enjoyed has really helped me take control back of my life and not live so guilty….it really has given me freedom that I have never imagined because it has given me back my voice to say no to undesirable or unhealthy things.
The boundaries books by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend have been very helpful too….along with Leslie’s website. I hope that folks will be open to learning more about them.