FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Abiding by the Boundaries

with Mary Kassian | February 23, 2011
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Proverbs 22:3 states, “The sensible person sees danger and hides from it.” Today Seminary professor Mary Kassian talks to women about setting up healthy boundaries in order to protect themselves physically and emotionally.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Proverbs 22:3 states, “The sensible person sees danger and hides from it.” Today Seminary professor Mary Kassian talks to women about setting up healthy boundaries in order to protect themselves physically and emotionally.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Proverbs 22:3 states, “The sensible person sees danger and hides from it.”

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Abiding by the Boundaries

With Mary Kassian
February 23, 2011
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Bob:  Here’s a little counsel for single women:  It is neither wise nor attractive to be a clinger.  Here’s Mary Kassian.

Mary:  A friend of my young son came in and he just had this real woeful look on his face.  He said, “You know what?  Our friend won’t be coming over tonight.  He’s got a bad case of CGS.”  And my youngest son looked at him and nodded really knowingly, and they’re shaking their heads back and forth and looking real sad and disturbed about this.  I said, “CGS.  What’s CGS?”  And my son’s friend, Warren, looked at me with this deadpan expression, and he says, “Clingy girlfriend syndrome.  CGS, and he’s got it bad.”

Bob:  This is FamilyLifeToday for Wednesday, February 23rd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  The Bible actually has a lot to say to both single women and married women about what wise womanhood looks like.  We’re going to talk about that today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  Dennis?

Dennis:  Bob, I was talking to a dad the other day.  He was taking his daughter to drop her off at the university.  He and his wife were going to go through the orientation classes and then do the move-in thing.  Take the 18-wheeler and get all the clothing and furniture and . . . . That was a joke, by the way.  With a son – all you have to do with a son is just throw a couple of paper sacks full of stuff in the back seat of his car, but a young lady –

Bob:  It’s the U-Haul.


Dennis:  No, no, no.  It’s the Mayflower moving.  It’s unbelievable.  It’s homesteading.  Anyway, he was doing the homesteading thing with his daughter, and we were talking about what his daughter was walking into.  It’s a major university on the east coast and we were just talking about the live-in, the shacking up . . .

Bob:  The culture.

Dennis:  The culture that they’re dealing with.  We were just talking frankly about how he as a dad was getting ready to release his arrow.  It was coming out of the quiver, and it was getting ready to be launched into a culture that really doesn’t take any captives.  It is seducing and really destroying a lot of lives.

Bob:  I remember being on a campus visit with my daughter and I was asking about what were the rules in the dorm in terms of hours, you know, because I’m used to boys’ dorms and girls’ dorms.  I’m from back in the old days, right?

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  So I said, “What are the rules?”  I’ll never forget this young girl who was giving us the tour.  She said, “Well, your first semester the guys have to be gone by one in the morning.”  She said, “After that, you just kind of work things out with your roommate.”  I thought, “So basically, what you’re saying is that if my daughter’s coming to college here, she needs to have some adjustments in how she’s been living her life.”

Dennis:  Yes.  And we’re going to talk with Mary Kassian today about boundaries, because I believe moms and dads first of all need to have them.  They need to know what they’re doing in terms of teaching them to their children, but secondly, they need to know how to equip a generation of young ladies to know how to truly have some hedges of protection built around them. 

Mary, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Mary:  Thanks.  Good to be with you.

Dennis:  She’s written a book called Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild.  That’s a mouthful.

Bob:  And you know that this issue of boundaries is major counter-cultural.  I mean, we’ve got advertising campaigns that are all about doing life with no boundaries.  That’s the way to live, man.

Mary:  It is counter-cultural.  But you’re correct as well.  We need to start this boundaries business really, really at a young age, and have boundaries for ourselves as well; model what it is to have those boundaries.  There has been a substantial change and there is this sense of aggressiveness. 

I saw it for young girls that were pursuing my sons.  There was a girl who was, even before cell phones, phoning, phoning, phoning, phoning, and she was just wanting to get his attention, and didn’t like it that I didn’t call him to the phone each time and took a message.  Instead of calling my son to the phone at her request, I said, “You know what?  He’ll get back to you when he chooses to get back to you.” 

There’s a verse in Proverbs chapter 22, verse 3 in which the wise writer there instructs his son that a sensible person sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.  And so the whole thing about seeing danger, putting up a protective boundary – and when I say a protective boundary or a hedge, it’s just like a simple rule that I follow in my life, that I’m going to follow that’s going to keep me from going down the wrong path and keep me from being in an environment where something might go the wrong direction.

Bob:  So an example of a boundary would be –

Mary:  An example of a boundary would be Bob, I will not go for lunch by myself with you.  Okay?  I’m going to have Dennis along.  We’re going to go for lunch in a group.  I’m not going to put myself in a situation that dishonors my marriage, dishonors your marriage and puts us at risk for becoming inappropriately engaged with one another on a level that’s inappropriate.

Bob:  And somebody says, “Now, come on.”

Mary:  I know.

Bob:  “I mean, it’s lunch.  It’s out in public.  I mean, come on, Mary.  Isn’t that a little tight?”

Mary:  Well, you know, I run into women all the time who end up going astray and getting embroiled in affairs, going the wrong direction, and they never quite can point out where they went wrong.  They get themselves into situations where they are compromising their standards, where they’re sinning against their husbands, and it all started way back when, when they didn’t have a protective boundary and when they engaged with a man on a level that really didn’t honor that boundary.

And yes, having lunch with you may – there’s nothing wrong with that – but it just opens the door.  It opens the door perhaps for me to share some things on a very personal, intimate level, for the relationship to deepen, for me to unburden – perhaps I’m having some trouble with my husband, so I feel that I can tell you that, and all of a sudden there’s an emotional connection.  Your ego is stroked, and then it just can go the wrong direction. 

So when I put a boundary up in my life, a hedge of protection, there’s nothing in Scripture that says the boundary needs to be there, and yet it’s just a choice, it’s a wise choice to put up those boundaries.  If you walk on fire, you’re going to get burned.  If you go to places that you ought not to be, then you just have a far greater likelihood of things going the wrong way.

Dennis:  I just finished a book for men, and it’s interesting that you should have this in your book as well, because I tell the story in there – a true story – of a man and his wife who met a former high school sweetheart at lunch – a harmless deal.  His wife was there, but she, his wife, stepped away from the meal for just a few moments to go to the restroom.  And while she was gone, the other woman turned it on, made the invitation, made the connection, and my buddy almost took the bait.  It took an accountability partner to ultimately get him out of and extracted from what could have destroyed his life, his marriage, and his family.

Bob:  Okay, and I hear what you’re saying.  But you know folks are going, “This sounds like legalism.  That’s what it sounds like.  You’re putting rules up that aren’t in the Bible and saying you shouldn’t do it.”  So what’s the difference between a boundary and legalism?

Mary:  Well, a boundary – you get to choose your own boundaries.  You cannot enforce boundaries on other people.  Boundaries are just wise choices where you put up wise checks in your own life for yourself that protect you and also protect others. 

It’s a way of honoring.  I honor your marriage by having a boundary.  I honor your wife by having a boundary.  Just those boundaries that keep us safe and keep us so that our relationship really can flourish at an appropriate level.  Boundaries safeguard us, and they actually allow for better relationships, because they’re within the correct parameters. 

Bob:  When girls are growing up, when they’re 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old, all of this coming of age and becoming a young woman is about boundaries getting pulled down.  Independence is the removal of boundaries at some level.  So you’ve got this natural tension between “I’m becoming an adult so I have more freedom than I’ve ever had before, and now you’re telling me I need to have boundaries in the midst of my freedom.  It seems like a contradictory message.”

Mary:  Well, becoming an adult is all about making wise choices, and about putting the right kinds of – you know, making good choices and making that choice for myself.  I make that choice for myself.  It’s a wise choice and I choose to live my life wisely. 

I talk to college girls and I talked to one college girl and she had gone out to the bar and a guy had slipped a date-rape drug into her drink, and she had ended up being violated. 

It’s a tragic, tragic, tragic story, and she came back to the thing, “I should have listened to my mom.  I should not have gone to the bar.” 

So if she had had that boundary in place, that particular boundary, it would have protected her.  It’s just a protective thing.  She was sinned against, it was obvious that that was a tragedy, but I talk to girls all the time.  They go out with a guy and they go on a trip, an overnight trip.  Well, you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of things in that environment that, if you would have a protective boundary in place and not go there, then it wouldn’t happen.

Dennis:  Plus you’re sending a signal to a young man.  I just think about a young lady who agrees to go on a trip with a man – what’s he supposed to think?  I mean, in this culture?  And it reminds me – you mentioned the word ‘wise’ at least a half a dozen times as you’ve been talking.  We haven’t quoted this verse in a while here on FamilyLife Today, Bob. Ephesians 5:15 – “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Wisdom is skill, godly skill in everyday living.  What we must train our daughters and our sons to do around these issues of boundaries is teach them to have some hedges in place in advance of facing the issue.  We have a resource here at FamilyLife Today called Passport to Purity.  I run into people all over the country who have taken – the father has taken the son away for a Friday night, all day Saturday getaway, where they hear some CDs about the opposite sex and about boundaries and about sex and about what happens to his body.  And young ladies get away with their moms and talk about the same thing. 

The real goal of that Passport to Purity experience is to help a twelve-year-old, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old develop some boundaries in advance of the issue that they’re going to face.  Because if you don’t know what you believe before you face it, more than likely you’re going to be a casualty.

Bob:  Can we talk about a different issue that you address in your book other than boundaries, because I was just curious about – you identify a malady common among young women today, the CGS – the syndrome.  Can you talk about CGS?

Mary:  CGS.

Bob:  And tell everybody how you first heard this term.

Mary:  How I first heard that term – A friend of my young son came in and he just had this real woeful look on his face.  He said, “You know what?  Our friend won’t be coming over tonight.  He’s got a bad case of CGS.”  And my youngest son looked at him and nodded really knowingly, and they’re shaking their heads back and forth and looking real sad and disturbed about this. 

I said, “CGS?”  I thought it was like some sort of – I thought their friend was in the hospital with tubes sticking out of his body or something, really ill.  I said, “CGS?  What’s CGS?”  And my son’s friend, Warren, looked at me with this deadpan expression, and he says, “Clingy girlfriend syndrome.  CGS, and he’s got it bad.”

Dennis:  Just clinging to him.

Mary:  Just clinging to him, like a piece of saran wrap to fresh meat.

Bob:  And this brings up the whole issue of neediness, and you address this as one of the issues that separates a girl who has gone wild from a girl who has gone wise.  We don’t think of a girl being needy or clingy as being a wild girl, necessarily, do we?

Mary:  Well, actually a needy girl is a girl gone wild, because she’s looking to men to affirm her and to give her her sense of identity, rather than being wise, and looking to the Lord for who she is and her sense of identity.  So a wild thing is actually very needy. 

She needs to constantly have the attention of men, getting the attention of men, getting the affirmation of men, being in a relationship.  She goes after guys and she wants to be in a relationship and she really feels uncomfortable if she’s not in relationship, so she will go through a revolving door of relationships with men, and just have this sense of neediness where she’s trying to get what she needs from a guy. 

And a girl that is that way before she gets married is often that way after she’s married as well, and tries to get everything she needs from her husband, and looks to her husband for affirmation, and that he needs to be providing her every need, rather than looking to God for what she needs.

Bob:  And that clinginess – two things about it.  One is, it’s very unattractive to guys over the long term, right?  And secondly, it will suck the life out of a relationship because a guy was never made to supply all that that young woman is asking that guy to supply.

Mary:  That’s right.  It does.  It wears on the relationship.  I mean at first it can be very flattering to a guy to be needed, but then it wears on him, and all of the demands.  And what happens is after marriage, she ups the ante.  It starts with the controlling and the manipulation and the nagging, and in trying to squeeze out of that relationship, out of her marriage relationship, things that she ought to be getting out of her relationship with the Lord.

Dennis:  You quote Martin Luther in your book.  He said, “Whatever you heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.”  I like that.

Mary:  It’s true.

Dennis:  You’re warning women about this, then, especially single women, because if they cling to a young man and perhaps end up snagging him, and as we’ve talked about earlier, they turn out to be passive.  They don’t turn out to be a leader; they don’t turn out to take responsibility for the relationship because maybe it was her clinginess that made him feel like he was needed, and that he really could be the one who met her needs.  And it turns out in marriage you’re not going to be able to meet every need of your spouse in marriage.

Mary:  And that goes both ways.  I mean, you have some men who are very needy as well, and are constantly looking for affirmation from women.  It is true – Scripture teaches us that really we need to draw our sense of worth from the Lord, and we need to turn to Him for that identity and for that purpose and for finding our sense of value, and not to try to suck that out of another human being.  I tell women – there is no male on the face of this earth that can meet all the deepest needs of your heart.

Dennis:  Right.

Mary:  Some women just have this idea that “If I just find the right guy, if I’m just in the right relationship, then it’s going to work for me.  If I can only find Mr. Wonderful, Mr. Right, then I’ll be happy.”  But Scripture teaches us that it is the Lord that meets the needs of our heart, and it’s to him that we need to turn.

Bob:  You know, somebody who is hearing this is thinking, “Well now, wait.  So should our relationship with one another be ‘I don’t need you at all?’  I mean, relationships are about what we give to one another, how we serve and love one another, so. . .”

Dennis:  How we complement one another.

Bob:  Yes.  So, I don’t want to be needy, but frankly, when I say to my wife, “I need you,” that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Mary:  Well there is a healthy interdependence where we really serve each other and help each other and boost each other and become more.  However, there is also a very unhealthy dependence in which I feel that I am nothing without you.  So the Lord is who gives us value and worth, and when we find our worth in him, we can survive.  It doesn’t matter what we go through; if the relationship breaks down, if the marriage tragically ends, if I lose my husband, I still have worth and value apart from that relationship.

Bob:  So if somebody says, as I would say, “I need my wife because, as you have said, together Mary Ann and I are more than we are separately.”  But if I said, “If I lost my wife I wouldn’t feel like I was worth anything anymore,” or “I couldn’t be happy anymore,” or – then all of a sudden the neediness has gotten into that unhealthy range, right?

Mary:  It does get into that unhealthy range.  I see girls who basically think, “If I don’t have a guy, I’m nothing.” That’s simply not true, and that’s unhealthy and that leads to our CGS, clingy girlfriend syndrome.

Dennis:  You speak at True Woman conferences all across the country.  Bob and I speak at Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, and in these conferences you speak at and we speak at, there are always lines of people who stand in line to talk to you about their situation.  What we’re talking about here – this is the real deal.

Mary:  It is the real deal.

Dennis:  There are a lot of women in marriages today because it didn’t start out a healthy relationship.  It started out unhealthy, and the warning signs were there, they didn’t pay attention to it.  That’s one of the things you’re challenging young ladies to really be, is to be a woman of discernment --

Mary:  Yes.

Dennis:  -- a woman who’s really paying attention to where her path is taking her.

Mary:  Yes, to be a woman of discernment, to start that at a young age.  Girls Gone Wise is really for high school girls, for college girls to, before they get into relationships, long-term marriage relationships, that they will really be wise about who they are and what they’re looking for in a relationship, how to approach a relationship. 

But the good news of the Gospel is always that there is power to change.  God is in the business of restoration, and he’s in the business of taking things that are broken, and even for women who have had marriages that are very difficult and that didn’t start off on the right foot, and the patterns in the marriages are not what they ought to be, there is still hope.  There is hope and healing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dennis:  Mary, I’m just listening to you in light of the culture we’re living in, and I just want to turn to the listener, whether it be male or female, and just say, “You know what?  The Bible has got it.  Jesus Christ is the one who said, ‘I have come that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly.’”  In other words, if you exclude Christ, you’re not only not going to have life, you’re going to die. 

And that’s really what’s happening to a generation of young ladies today.  They are listening to the drumbeat of the culture, they’re conforming to the world thinking that’s going to bring them happiness and satisfaction, but their souls were made for Christ.  Their souls were made to be saturated with this book, the Bible. 

Moms and dads have got to introduce the kids, they’ve got to introduce their children to the God of this book and the living truth of this book as they raise them, because, I’m going to tell you something, parents.  This is a culture that is out to destroy your daughter and your son.   If you don’t think that’s the case, you just wait ten to fifteen years and you tell me.  This is a life and death issue.  We have to stand strong on the Scripture as never before.

Bob:  Yes, it has never been more urgent to be counter-cultural as parents.  Mary, what you’ve written in the book Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild is counter-cultural because it’s biblical.  We live in a culture where our understanding of what manhood and womanhood is supposed to be has not been shaped by the Bible but it’s been shaped more often by our own flesh, our own desires, our own wants and our selfishness.  That’s why we need books like this, I think, to help give us a course correction in our own thinking, because we’re getting bombarded with the other stuff.

Let me encourage our listeners:  Go to  Order a copy of Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian.  Again, we’ve got the book available at, or you can call to order at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329. 

We think that this content is so important for moms and their daughters to listen to together, especially if you’ve got teenage daughters, we want to send you the CDs of our conversation this week with Mary Kassian, two CDs with four programs on them that you can listen to again, listen to together.  We’re making those available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this week with a donation. 

Just go online at and type the word ‘WISE’ in the key code box on the online donation form, and we’ll send you these CDs.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation by phone, and ask for the CDs with Mary Kassian.  We’re going to add in an additional CD when you contact us, and that’s a conversation we had with one of your friends, Mary, Carolyn McCulley, who wrote the book Radical Womanhood

So again, make a donation either online or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY, and we’ll get those CDs out to you.  We hope they’re helpful for you, and we hope you’ll pass them on to somebody else when you’re done listening to them, and help spread the word.

And we want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow.  We’re going to continue our conversation with Mary Kassian on what wise womanhood looks like.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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