Establishing good boundaries – a new year’s goal

According to a survey performed by the website between Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, 2022, the top 5 New Year’s resolutions for 2023 have not changed from the year before: Exercising more is No. 1, followed by eating healthier, losing weight, saving more money and spending more time with family and friends.

Certain elements are undoubtedly crucial to accomplish goals: Perseverance, self-control, and determination are at the top of the list. Likewise, challenging our self-imposed limitations is essential to reaching any objective.

But another essential characteristic is at the heart of every success: establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

Think about it — a perfectly good practice can become harmful without boundaries. Likewise, relationships that were once joyful can turn unbearably toxic without them.

If we were to perform a survey, I am confident we would be surprised at how many people reach the end of a year with a negative emotional balance regarding certain relationships. It could be a struggling marriage, an estranged child, or a friendship that saps our energy instead of filling our hearts with joy.

Regardless, instead of pushing through into another year feeling hopeless and defeated, it would do us good to inventory the health of our relationships. As we do, we may conclude that certain people continually hurt us because we have yet to establish healthy boundaries.

I recently interviewed New York bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 ministries Lysa Terkeurst about her newly released book, “Good Boundaries and Goodbyes.”

Terkeurst is one of the leading female Christian voices today, with more than 25 books published and a thriving ministry. I have followed her journey for many years and have been inspired by her practical, down-to-earth approach to daily issues that women of faith face.

Terkeurst writes from a place of deep commitment to biblical doctrine, beautifully shining God’s truth into women’s struggles and important faith subjects, often baring her soul to her audience while sharing her journey through dark valleys. Her latest book is no different.

In “Good Boundaries and Goodbyes,” Terkeurst shares spiritual wisdom and practical insights from her life, including tools she developed with God’s help and through counseling while navigating the rough waters of a troubled marriage that ended in divorce.

Her book shines a light on how to establish healthy boundaries in troubled, dysfunctional relationships and, whenever all attempts to save it fail, how to say goodbye confidently.

During our conversation, we discussed how common it is for Christians to have difficulty establishing boundaries and saying goodbye when a relationship becomes unbearably toxic, and the other person refuses to change their behavior.

It’s certainly not unusual for well-intended believers to find themselves in emotionally abusive relationships because they are afraid that establishing boundaries can be perceived as unkind or the opposite of Christlike behavior. Terkeurst explains that not only is that belief incorrect, but it is also not biblical:

“(...) I discovered that boundaries are not just a good idea; they are God’s idea,” she said. “Right from Genesis 1, God formed the earth with boundaries. And then, in the first recorded conversation between God and men (Adam) in Genesis 2, God chose the subject of boundaries (...). I find that fascinating.”

Just as it was for Adam and Eve, setting limits is not meant to bind or hurt our relationships. On the contrary, it is intended to set us free and protect us.

Ultimately, setting boundaries is an expression of love. Because allowing our loved ones to push our limits continually is not an expression of love. It’s called enabling bad behavior.

When we set boundaries from a place of love instead of bitterness, we invite our relationships to grow deeper, become more honest, and love people without losing ourselves.

That is certainly a New Year’s goal worth pursuing.

Find out more about Lysa Terkeurst’s ministry and new book: Listen to Patricia’s interview with Lysa on the podcast God-Sized Stories with Patricia Holbrook.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, podcaster and international speaker. Visit her website Subscribe to her podcast and YouTube channel for all interviews. For speaking engagements and comments, email