“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)
I’m not great at setting New Year’s resolutions.
However, I do like to examine my everyday habits as I enter a new year. Taking inventory of my daily rhythms can give small indications of whether I’m pointing my life toward order or chaos, health or unhealth, wisdom or foolishness. I’ve learned it’s more realistic for me to tackle adjusting my small decisions rather than listing out some big, major changes I want to make in the new year.
Better small decisions lead to better habits. Better habits lead to positive changes. Daily positive changes over time lead to life change overall.
Here’s how this has played out for me on a practical level just a few days into 2023: I've noticed that I have a bad habit of putting dirty dishes in the sink and thinking, I’ll get to this later. The problem is … the longer they sit there, they never get better on their own. And they don't magically end up in the dishwasher. Honestly, they just get grosser and grosser. By the time I finally face them, it is a much more awful task than if I’d just done the dishes right away. So I’m trying to start with the dishes and teach myself the habit of tackling things right away, as they come, rather than putting them off and making them harder in the long run.
I think sometimes I hope life will fall naturally in order. But unfortunately, most of the time, that’s not the case.
This is true inside our homes, and this is also true inside our relationships. If we want more peaceful relationships, we have to pivot from accepting chaos to pursuing peace. We can’t wait for other people to bring order into our lives. We have to initiate decisions that lead to peace. And I’ve discovered a big part of this comes through establishing boundaries where dysfunction is present.
Now, I’m not saying boundaries are a quick fix for some of our most challenging relationships. People are complicated. We ourselves are complicated. So, of course, relational dynamics are going to be complicated. But I’ve found the communication and consistency that good boundaries provide bring such clarity around what to do when we’re navigating damaging dysfunctions.
Dysfunction doesn’t come from God, nor did He create the human heart for unhealthy relationships. However, I do believe God can help us with these realities. If we want to have real, loving, thriving relationships and know what to look for to determine what is unhealthy and what is healthy, we need God’s wisdom.
Let’s turn to Proverbs 13:20:
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
A relationship can only be as healthy as the people in the relationship. Like that verse tells us, living in the company of people who have set their lives on the path of wisdom will lead to us experiencing wisdom ourselves. So we need to be looking for patterns in someone’s life that are moving them (and us) toward wisdom or away from wisdom.
As we pay attention to others’ choices, we have to remember to also examine ourselves, both our actions and our reactions. In order to rightly look at someone else, we must first rightly look at ourselves.
After careful examination, if we are trying to move toward wisdom and another person is moving toward foolishness with their choices, therein lies the need for a boundary. Even after this discovery, boundaries are going to be challenging to implement. But at least we know what to do even if it’s still hard. The worst part of dysfunction in relationships is the feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness that too many of us have been swirling in for years.
Over the last year, I’ve established some healthy boundaries and, as a result, had some really important relationships transform and become healthier and more life-giving. I’m amazed and thankful. There’s a freedom to enjoy these people in my life now without the hesitations and pitfalls that used to create so much chaos and pain. I’ve also had to say goodbye to some unbiblical and destructive relationships. I still grieve those losses in deep ways. And I can now see why it’s so crucial to use godly wisdom to process all of this, remembering we shouldn’t use our boundaries as excuses to shove other people away but rather use them to keep us in a place where we love others well without losing the best of who we are.
None of this is easy. But it is worth it. I’m more convinced than ever that good boundaries work, and when set appropriately, boundaries really do serve to help keep us safe and healthy and in a place where we can honor God in all of our relationships.
This is possible for you, friend. Let’s make 2023 the year of better relationships, one wise choice at a time.
Lord, thank You for Your wisdom that is so readily available to me in every season and situation. Please give me eyes to see You and eyes to hear You as I process where there may be dysfunction inside any of my relationships that need addressing and the support of biblical boundaries. I ask for Your guidance and blessing over my life and relationships in 2023. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Trying to navigate ongoing issues in your relationships by yourself can be exhausting and honestly quite lonely. Lysa TerKeurst understands this. That’s why she wants you to join her for a six-week Online Bible Study through her new book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes. During this study, you’ll also receive therapeutic and theological wisdom from Lysa’s personal Christian counselor, Jim Cress, and Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Director of Theological Research, Dr. Joel Muddamalle. And as an added bonus, when you sign up you’ll receive a downloadable journal where you can process and track your progress on your own boundaries journey. The study begins on January 23, so order your copy of the book and sign up for the study today! Sign up here.
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Proverbs 14:15, “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” (NIV)
How might you give thought toward applying boundaries in your relationships? How could this contribute toward living a life of wisdom? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!
© 2023 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
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