24. Applying Boundaries as a Christian

Boundaries as a Christian


In this episode we dive into a very common question about how it is possible for women of faith to set boundaries. Mary talks to her sister Carolin on how boundaries have helped Carolin live the gospel.

Carolin and Mary talk about how having boundaries in the gospel has helped them be more available to serve others without reservation. But also being able to say no when they need to. Let’s talk boundaries!

Main Episode Takeaways

  • Boundaries are about the application of the gospel
  • Difference between Gospel Doctrine, Principles and Application
  • Decision making is a learned skill
  • The four pillars of boundaries

Want to learn more about boundaries?

– Boundaries quiz HERE
Take my Boundaries 101 Course
– Do you want to overcome your hurdles of people pleasing? Book a free call with Mary!

24. Applying Boundaries as a Christian

Mary: I was participating in class at church on Sunday and someone commented on my very favorite thing to talk about; boundaries. So here’s the situation. We’re studying a talk called Beauty for Ashes, the Healing Path of Forgiveness by Kristen M. Yee and a friend quoted Kristen Yee saying “Please know that forgiving someone does not mean that you put yourself in a position where you will continue to be hurt. We can work towards forgiveness and still feel prompted by the spirit to stay away from them” end quote. And several women in my class commented on how difficult it is for women of faith to set boundaries. Well, forgiveness is an essential part of the gospel and of our growth and development. That is a topic for a whole nother podcast, and if you’d like help learning to forgive, reach out to me for a free call.

Today I wanna talk about the question that I get often, and that question is, what do boundaries have to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ? When I got home from church, I called my sister Carolin to talk more about this, and so I decided to invite her to our podcast today to share our thoughts and discussion about this topic. So I wanna introduce to you my little sister Carolin Serena. Welcome to the podcast Carolin. 

Carolin: Hi, so I wanna ask, what do boundaries have to do with the gospel?

Mary: Oh, I love this question. So the short answer is that boundaries are about emotional resilience, and that is an application of the gospel. Emotional resilience is our ability to adapt to emotional challenges and to do that with courage and faith. Emotional resilience is about helping yourself and others the best that you can and asking for help when you need help. And it reminds me of that book by David A. Bednar called Increase in Learning, where he talks about the difference between gospel doctrine, gospel principles, and a gospel application, and boundaries are about the application of the gospel. So, I love emotional resilience. I’ve taken several courses and I’ve facilitated several courses about emotional resilience. And when we’re learning the skill of boundaries, remember boundaries as a learned skill, then we are learning to become more emotionally resilient. And let’s talk a little bit more about the doctrine, principles and application process.

Carolin: Yes. I actually really love this process because my husband is a little bit on a soapbox about this, and so it, it’s a conversation we have often because for us, when you understand that they’re different things. I think they get kind of mumbled together. And when you understand doctrine, principles and application kind of as distinct things, it really opens you up because a lot of times the application gets confused with doctrine and principles. And so it’s like we have to do this application. It happens a lot in the scripture. You see it with the Pharisees and Sadducees, where we can only take so many steps on Sunday and we can only do these things and this, that’s all application. And that was one of the things that Jesus really wanted people to understand when he was on earth was that’s the application. And yes, sometimes it’s important to apply the gospel in certain ways, but you’re losing sight of the doctrine and principles, because you’re so focused on the application and the application is actually supposed to support you with the doctrine and principles. But it’s now for, at least for Pharisees and Sadducees, it was a distraction. And so when you understand the doctrine, principles and application kind of very distinctly, it feels very freeing. Because, oh, now I understand the doctrine and I understand the principles, I can apply in any way I want as long as I am honoring the principles and understanding and trying to live the doctrine. And so it’s really freeing because it doesn’t force you to do things the way they’ve always been done or do things the way other people do it, because I can live the gospel in the way that feels right for me. Because I can apply it in any way as long as I’m honoring those doctrine and principles. 

Mary: Yes. I love it. I love it. So let’s talk more about what is a gospel doctrine? What are gospel principles and what are applications? And what parts apply to boundaries work? So let’s start with doctrine, right? So doctrine are those eternal truths and they are pertaining to our eternal salvation. So these are very few things and they never change, right? So that provides the why. Why do we do these things, right? Why are we here? Why are we doing all the things that we’re doing? Right? And the doctrine of boundaries is all about divine nature and individual worth, right? Doctrine is, I was created by heavenly parents who love me and I came to Earth valuable and they know me and they want me to succeed, they want me to return to them, and I am inherently worthy. I’m inherently valuable, and that is kind of my, my number one message, right? When people are like, oh, they hear me talk and I’m like, listen, if you don’t hear anything else, the main takeaway is that you are born valuable. So that’s the doctrine. Yeah. Tell me what you’re thinking about that. 

Carolin: Whenever I hear you talk about that, I always think about we also have a divine inheritance. Like we have the seed of godhood within us. Right? Through being children of God. And there is so much associated with that, that we have so much divine potential and so much capability beyond what we think we have and so that’s kind of one of the things that comes to my mind is just that understanding of like, I am a child of God, but what does that mean? What does that mean for me? And how it’s more, for me, it’s more than just having divine worth, it’s also having a divine inheritance and all of the, like, the seed of godhood is within me. Right? Like I have divine attributes and gifts and I have also the opportunity to develop those God-like attributes and gifts. 

Mary: Yes. And we all do, right? It’s not, 

Carolin: yes, everyone does.

Mary: I adore you and as my sister and, And you’re not the only one, right? Who has that, you know, we all do.

Carolin: Every single person on this earth has that. Yes, yes. 

Mary: Every listener, you also have the seed of God within you and are created by Heavenly parents who love you and you’re inherently valuable. And so that is the doctrine. The doctrine is you are valuable and the principle, right? When we talk about principles, they are kind of doctrinally based guidelines. So these are guidelines. They provide direction, but they don’t provide specific actions. They teach us what. And so the principle of boundaries is agency. Let’s talk about agency. When you think of agency, what comes to mind for you? 

Carolin: So I just usually define as the power to choose.

Mary: Mm-hmm. Yeah. The power to choose. And it’s so empowering to be able to choose, right? Like oftentimes people will say to me well, what should I do? And I’ll be like, you get to decide.

Carolin: Which is a blessing and a curse a lot of times because you’re like, Ugh. But now I have the responsibility to decide. 

Mary: Well, you, yes, we do have a responsibility to decide, but also I think sometimes we stress ourselves out too much with this idea of agency because we think that like, there’s a lot of shoulding on ourselves around what we should and shouldn’t decide, right? And really, unless it pertains to the doctrine or the covenants that we’ve made, we just get to decide. Right? I mean, there’s very few things that …very, very few things that have any, like eternal consequences to our decisions. And most of the time we just get to decide. Right? We are responsible for our decisions. Sometimes I’ve heard the word like free agency, like we’re just free agents. Like we’re just gonna go around and do all the free things and it doesn’t matter. And that’s not true either, right? Because we are responsible for our decisions and for the consequences of our decisions. So it’s kind of a fine line, but the principle is that we are free to act and we get to make our own decisions. And decision making is a learned skill and learning to apply that principle of the Gospel is part of the reason we’re here on earth, is to learn how to use our agency for good and to choose who are becoming and to choose how we wanna show up and to choose how we wanna have relationships with people and to live within our own values and our own integrity and our own authenticity. So I love the principle of agency. It’s one of my favorites. 

Carolin: Well, it’s a gift, right? It’s also when people say free agency, it’s freely given to us, but there was a price paid for us to have that gift. So I also see it as a gift. 

Mary: Yes, you’re right. It is the gift of agency. I love it. Awesome. So let’s talk a little bit about application. So application is the actual practices, the behavior, the actions, and these come from the principles and our applications change. They change according to our needs and circumstances. They explain the how of the gospel and they change according to what’s going on in the world around us. They change according to our culture and I love the application of emotional resilience, which is all about the boundaries. And when you were talking about scriptures and how sometimes people get confused between the doctrine and the principles and the agency, it made me think of the story of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and how you know, he received, you know, some criticism about healing on the Sabbath, that like the application at the time, right? Culturally time and space, and was that we needed to rest on the Sabbath. That we didn’t do work on the Sabbath and that he, and that Jesus was healing people. And it makes sense in that context of like this was against the application at the time. Right? But tell me your thoughts about that example. 

Carolin: So when Jesus was healing on the sabbath, He went against the rules for application at the time and all of those rules for application had really nothing to do with the doctrine and principles. They were initially established to help people live the principles and understand the doctrine, but they had had so many rules and so many things that they created to apply the gospel, that they lost sight of a lot of the principles and they completely missed the doctrine for them. And so part of what Jesus taught in a lot of stories in the scriptures was helping people understand when they would try to correct him, when he would go against the common rules of the time was like, that doesn’t matter because you’re missing the mark. You’re missing the mark because you’re so focused on application that you’re not really grasping the principles and you’re definitely not understanding the doctrine. And so a big part of his ministry was trying to get people to reconnect with the principles and the doctrine and stop focusing on the application. 

Mary: Yes. Yes. I agree. I agree. So let’s talk more about boundaries. When I think about pillars of boundary, my work with people learning boundaries, the first pillar is the foundational principles, which is all about the doctrine of divine nature, individual worth. And what that looks like in coaching is understanding our self-worth and building our self-confidence by making, keeping commitments to ourselves and developing self trust and self-concept and self-esteem. 

And then once we’ve done that, we move to the second pillar, which is deciding our boundaries, right? And that’s the principle of agency that we get to make decisions about what we are willing to participate in and not willing to participate in. 

And then the next pillar, the third pillar is the application. Where we start learning how to communicate our boundaries and doing it from that place of love, from the place of my agency and respecting other people’s agency.

And then the fourth pillar is following through with our boundaries and really having self-care, and that’s about the emotional resiliency. Like, I’m going to be able to adapt to challenges, and I’m gonna take responsibility for my emotional needs. I’m gonna ask for help when I need help, and I’m going to do the best that I can to show up and take care of me. And I love, love, love thinking about boundaries work in the context of the gospel because it makes it clear to me, and I think for people who want to move forward and their gospel learning boundaries really is in alignment for many of them. 

Carolin: That’s awesome. 

Mary: Yeah. And boundaries are helpful for everyone. Everyone needs boundaries to be sustainable. But for folks who maybe have struggled a little bit within the context of the gospel, so how did boundaries help you live the gospel? 

Carolin: So they helped me in a few different ways. One is my individual gospel study. It helps me set boundaries for when I read scriptures or boundaries for myself when I have emotional challenges that I really wanna seek out answers from God. It allows me write that emotional resilience piece. I’m able to use my faith to strengthen me and lean on that doctrine to be able to get through challenges. And also one thing when it comes to actually my participation in church, it’s really helped me to be more available to help others. Because I can say yes when it feels good. And I don’t have to say yes when it doesn’t feel good for whatever reason. And I’m able to serve more fully and serve without reservation and my, I’m able to show up like with my full energy and like be present and be there when people need service, so I am emotionally more available when I do service, because I have boundaries around what that’s like, being able to say no sometimes and I have those boundaries in place that allow me to give more freely. 

Mary: Yes in within the context of service. I love the idea of having boundaries within the context of service, right? So let’s talk about the application principles, and doctrine of that, right? So, when you have an opportunity to serve, right? To serve others, and you are practicing the application of boundaries and being emotionally resilient, you get to show up from a place of love and kindness or compassion. Like this is what I am able to do to help myself and to serve others the best I can. You don’t have to do it all. You can ask for help when needed. You can say no if it’s not going to help you or your family or others, right? But you’re able to adapt and make those decisions. And the principle of agency is like I get to decide when I help and when I don’t help, I get to decide what types of service I can do, I can offer from a place of love and what types of service I am not able to offer from a place of love and the doctrine of like, I’m valuable. You are valuable. I care about this community. I wanna be part of the body of Christ. I wanna participate in this community. I wanna help and serve when I can, the best that I can. And it just makes it so much easier. It gets rid of all the shoulds. 

Carolin: Well, I think there have been times where I’ve done service because, I wanted to be the person who did service,

Mary: Me too, girl. 

Carolin: But not because I wanted to do it. And so some of that is really, was actually really good for me because I learned and I grew from that. And that it humbled me in a time when I needed that humbling. And so I don’t think that it’s bad to do that always, but there’s a very distinct internal difference when I, all the service I, and I do a lot of service. I have a responsibility where I run the children’s program. And I have also other things where I get asked, I’m very technologically inclined, so I’ll get asked to do quite a few things. Like last weekend there was a funeral and I ran the virtual broadcast for the funeral that was hosted at our church building. You know, that’s not even an official responsibility. Or a few weeks ago there was a talent show and I ran all of the audio and the mics and all of the tech and the AV for the talent show. So those are not official responsibilities for me, but they’re just extra things and I get asked to do them and I totally get to say, yeah, I would love to help with that. Or no, I don’t really, that doesn’t work with my schedule. Or, I’m not at a place where that’s gonna work for me. And so the emotional difference, the internal experience is vastly different when I am coming from a place of lack, of I’m struggling and I don’t have the emotional capacity and I’m doing something out of obligation versus when I’m coming from a place of wholeness, I am a child of God and I am loved and I am whole, and I have gifts that I wanna share. And so I have an opportunity to share them and I’m happy to give.

And sometimes I am in an emotionally challenging place. I’ve gone through a recent challenge personally and I was asked to do something and I was like, my first response was, do I have the emotional capacity to do this, right? And it was a consideration. And I went through the process of thinking through that and I decided, yes, I wanna do this. And I, I may not have the most emotional resilience in this moment because I’m going through a lot of emotional challenges, so my capacity is less than it normally is, but it’s okay because I want to take on this opportunity to serve and I have faith that God will strengthen me and it will be okay.

And I also am at a place that if I get into a situation where I realize like I’m in over my head, I’m happy to ask for help and I’m happy to invite other people to support me and I’m happy to lean on others and give them an opportunity to serve too. And I’ve had situations actually in the past where I’ve asked other people to help with things especially in serving in the church and my initial response of like, oh, I should ask this person to help with this thing, was, I don’t wanna burden them. Right? Like I don’t wanna give them a job or a thing that they have to do, they’re busy and then I follow through and have them help anyways. And the result almost every time is they are immensely blessed because it’s what they needed at that time to be able to serve. It was helpful to them in some way. And so that’s always very humbling for me to be able to realize that part of that emotional resilience is asking for help when I need help, but it’s also when I do that, it gives other people the opportunity to be strengthened and to serve and to get blessings for whatever it is that they may need. I’m not even be aware of. Sometimes there were a couple situations where somebody was going through something really challenging and I asked, I didn’t know anything about it, and I asked them to help with something and that was what they needed emotionally to be able to get through that hard time. 

Mary: So what I’m hearing are a couple different things that I love. One is when we say yes to something or we say no to something, right? What are our reasons we would say yes, and what are the reasons we would say no? And I usually, as a rule of thumb, encourage my clients to ask themselves, can I do this with love? Can I do this from a place of love? And if the answer is yes, then they most likely want to try it out and say yes. If the answer is no, if you know I’m doing this because I think I should, or because I might feel resentful, or it might be more stressful to me than it is helpful, then that’s an indication that maybe it’s time to say no.

And the other thing I heard you say is about this asking and answering process, right? And I tell people, you can ask anybody for anything. And then they get to use their agency and decide what they’re willing to participate in and what they’re not willing to participate in. We don’t get to make that choice for them. We’re gonna respect whatever their choice is. But sometimes we don’t ask because we think we know how the person’s going to feel, and sometimes we don’t know how the person’s going to feel or what would be helpful to them or what might not be helpful to them. And so I tell people, just ask. Don’t ask as a guilt trip. Don’t ask as trying to control someone or take away their agency, but you just ask, this is what I’m requesting. This is what I would like to happen. This is what I’m asking of you. And then give them the respect to be able to use their own agency. 

Carolin: When you say, just ask, one of the things that I think about is how do I do this the way that Christ would do it? And everything he did was an invitation. So when you’re coming from a place and your, your place is, when you’re coming from a place where boundaries may not be a strong skill for you, you are used to saying yes whether you want to or not. And so you have this perspective that anyone that you ask probably has the same response, internal response. And so asking somebody is in your mind is like expecting something of someone or forcing something on someone. When everything that Christ does is an invitation. So when you ask somebody, it’s just an invitation, and then they have that opportunity to say yes or no, or they can respond in any way they want. And so, just regardless of how we respond to things, Christ always invites Yes, regardless of where people are, regardless of situations. And so we have to kind of model that in our own lives because that was the example that was set for us.

Mary: Awesome. Awesome. I agree. The last piece that I heard you mention was using boundaries around our personal devotions. Right? And that piece of, okay, I’m going to purpose this time, I’m gonna dedicate this time to work on connecting with the Lord. Right? That’s kind of the purpose there and how that applies to like our emotional resilience, how that applies to gospel principles, how that applies to gospel doctrine. Talk me through a little bit of that for you, and 

Carolin: I’m curious what it looks like for you.

Mary: So for me, when I have like, this is my like morning devotion time, right? I have a chair that I sit in, I kind of set myself up with my journal and my literature and I am purposing that time and space for that. And sometimes I have to set some boundaries around that for myself. Right? In my calendar and sometimes I have to set boundaries around that for my family or other people who might need me or interrupt. And the application is I am, for me right now, it works to do it at this day and this time, and this chair, and this routine, right? That’s going to change over time for what works for me according to my needs and my circumstances. But the principle is I get to decide how I spend my time and how I connect. And the doctrine is that I’m valuable and I am a child of God and I want to connect with my heavenly parents. 

Carolin: So when it comes to how I use boundaries in my day-to-day and how I actually live the gospel, it’s more just coming from that place of wholeness and I am loved and I am a child of God and then I also look for opportunities to be more Christ-like and to develop more Christ-like attributes. And that’s something that when I say no to things that influence how I use my time. It usually goes back to is this something that’s going to honor my values and is this something that’s going to honor the person that I want to become that’s more Christlike? Is this going to develop the principles, is gonna help me live the principles and doctrines of the gospel? So all of my decisions for boundaries around what I say yes and what I say no to is really factored around does this honor the doctrine and principles of the gospel that I wanna live, and is this how I want to apply it?

Mary: Yes. That’s so good. So good. I love it. All right, Carolin thank you so much for being here. I love being able to talk to you about boundaries and the gospel, and I appreciate 

Carolin: you. Thank you for having me. It’s kinda fun to chat and have this discussion, so I’m grateful. 

Mary: Awesome. Have a great day.