42. Jessica’s Story of Learning Boundaries and Finding Forgiveness

learning boundaries and finding forgiveness

Discovering forgiveness and establishing boundaries are interconnected. Achieving forgiveness can pave the way for freedom and peace in life. This was precisely the journey undertaken by Jessica, one of Mary’s clients, who had endured a challenging divorce and other difficult circumstances.

During this discussion, Jessica shares how setting boundaries played a vital role in her divorce process and ultimately guided her towards the path of forgiveness. Through this transformative experience, she ultimately attained freedom by embracing forgiveness. Tune in to hear the inspiring account of her journey.

Main Episode Takeaways

  • Boundaries can help with forgiveness
  • Five steps of forgiveness
  • The meaning of grace
  • Benefits of finding forgiveness

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42. Jessica’s Story of Learning Boundaries and Finding Forgiveness

Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I’m here with Jessica Lewis, and we are discussing boundaries around the topic of forgiveness. Hey, Jess. Hey Mary. Thanks for being here. 

Jessica: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. 

Mary: Of course. All right. Jessica, tell us a little bit about your experience with learning boundaries and specifically how it helped you to find forgiveness.

Jessica: So for me, learning boundaries didn’t come until later in life. Going through a divorce process and getting connected with you and learning boundaries through a divorce and separation process was, I think, vital for me to learn how to just initially put one foot in front of the other and be like, okay, well you probably need some boundaries around even dropping off kids, picking up kids, is the potential ex allowed in the house? What are your boundaries and rules around so many things. But I remember some of those initial conversations with you, just really getting down to, in a sense, basic boundaries. But what I would consider safety guidelines for the kids and I in dealing with at that time still has been working on being an ex at that point. So 

Mary: Yeah. Tell me a little bit about what was going on for you when we started working together and how you knew that you needed help with boundaries.

Jessica: So I had come off of a major life learning experience. I got kind of stuck in severe postpartum depression led to severe depression mixed with a child infant loss, and ended up attempting to end my own life in September of 2020. All pandemic stuff. So went and got help for that and it was in basically learning how to re-pick up my life after that, thinking, okay, I knew what I did not want my life to look like and go back to, but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted it to actually look like. I just knew what I didn’t want it to look like and was encouraged to consider life coaching and was recommended to get connected with you and was so glad that that was part of the initial process to helping me start a new life basically.

Mary: Awesome. Awesome. So what was life like before you had boundaries? Like, tell me a little bit more about that. You mentioned that you were going through a separation and possibly a divorce at that time, what did that have to do with boundaries? 

Jessica: So my ex used to be, very, very controlling and manipulative, but I didn’t realize it until I got out of the situation. I didn’t realize the extent of things until I could really take a look back and see what was going on. But I needed guidance initially to figure out what boundaries I needed. And I can remember one of the times with you really encouraging me going, okay, well if he comes over and he comes in your house, he’s not allowed to be in there. It was at the time court ordered that he was not allowed to be in my house, and you telling me you’re gonna have to call the cops. And I’m like, I can’t do that Mary. I can’t call the cops. But I remember rehearsing in my head on walks going now Jessica, if he comes over, you’re gonna have to be strong for your kids and call the cops. And it’s nothing that you’ve done wrong. It’s him making those choices and violating those boundaries. 

Mary: So, so interesting. Because I think listeners can relate to that, right? If there’s a court order that says this person is not allowed to do that thing and it’s a boundary that we have that the person is not allowed in our home, and there’s even a court order that says they’re not allowed to be in our home. Then if we were to not answer the door for them or call the police when they violate a court order, somehow we make that mean that like we’re at fault for calling the police. Yeah, so interesting. Like I’m responsible for getting him in trouble here. 

Jessica: Yes, even though I’m not the one who’s doing it, but all those feelings of going, it’s my fault because you are in trouble. 

Mary: Right? And we don’t want people, especially people that are family to us or have relationships with our kids to be in trouble and we don’t wanna be the cause of getting police involved. And so all of that is really relatable. I love the example of he is not allowed to be here. Clearly, there’s a reason why he is not allowed to be there if the court’s ordered for him not to be there. And that’s your boundary and it’s the legal boundary and the struggle to uphold that boundary, right?

Jessica: It was the talk I had to give myself when, if this happens, then I need to be strong enough to do my part and call the cops and say, here’s the violation. 

Mary: Yes. And how were you able to do that? 

Jessica: Lots of inward discussions with myself, but lots of coaching call calls with you. I remember it took a few times, a few conversations going, but if he comes in, would I really be able to call the cops because the kids were with me? And that’s, you know, nobody wants to call the cops on dad in front of the kids and things, But I remember you telling me, well, that’s more of a teaching moment. That’s not your responsibility for the choices that he’s put himself in and those choices he’s making.

Mary: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. And I heard you use an if then statement just now, right? And we talked about those if then statements like, if this were to happen, then this is how I would uphold my boundary. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Good job. Awesome. Okay, so we did a lot of work around forgiveness. Let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between boundaries and forgiveness and how those go hand in hand. What are your thoughts around that now? 

Jessica: I am so grateful for all of the work on forgiveness that we have done. Some lessons are harder to learn than others, and some people it’s easier to walk through forgiveness with than some people. It’s, as we’ve stated, it’s not a one and done thing. Sometimes the more you go through this journey of life, the more you realize, oh, I thought I was done processing all of that. I need to go back and do a little more work on this and some more forgiveness work in this section.

Mary: Mm-hmm. So how come you wanted to work on forgiveness? 

Jessica: So, initially some of the situations I was involved in involved some very long-term relationships that I had had for a very long time, and I, I didn’t necessarily want to have a restoration of a relationship with them, but I knew I didn’t wanna carry around just the burden of yuckiness, guilt, shame, all of that. So I guess in a sense, presses of my own healing for myself. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. So you had some feelings of betrayal, of hurt, of even a little anger right? About some of the things that had happened in the course of that coming to a separation, right? 

Jessica: Yeah. Yeah. 

Mary: And there was forgiveness that you wanted to find due to those things in your relationship not just your spouse at the time, but also other people that you were in community with as things were going on. 

Jessica: Yes. Yeah. And it was definitely, it was like the more conversations you and I would have, the more I’d be like, oh, we should probably do a forgiveness session with, regarding this person in the community and this situation.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. Are you comfortable sharing what was going on with folks in the community that you needed to forgive? 

Jessica: Yeah, so due to my suicide attempt and going to go get mental health treatment after that, the community that my then husband and I were part of very much shunned me even more when I came back. I always wanted a close knit community, but we’re not from Texas. It was not something, especially the women in that community were not very accepting prior to the depression and things. So then when I came back and set a boundary of, Hey it’s not healthy for me to go back right now until things in our marriage improve, that was not a welcomed response to things. And that just put an even greater divide. Which in turn ultimately led to me going, okay, I need to somehow work through these emotions and struggles with people that are in the community and have very much rejected and shunned me that way.

Mary: Mm-hmm. Yes. So let’s talk about this steps of forgiveness. So tell me what you learned. Doing this forgiveness work. 

Jessica: Some steps were easier for me than others. And I remember doing some of the ones with you, I might be jumping ahead, but the step of giving grace that was just not in my thought process before. The forgiveness of the idea of, okay, what’s the best way that the most generous way that we can consider this person. That just was not how I thought about things. It was not how processed things, but I think it’s a vital piece of the whole forgiveness aspect of it all as well. 

Mary: Yeah. So for listeners who aren’t familiar, there’s the steps of forgiveness, right? There’s five steps and I’ll just review ’em really quickly. And listeners, if you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll send you the worksheet about this. So first we acknowledge the harm and that’s really describing our experience, like what happened and what we were thinking at the time and how we felt and the impact of that. And two, we feel the emotion. So as if someone hadn’t experienced that before, then we really explained to them like, what did it feel like to feel betrayed? We embody the emotion, right? We find it. Where does it sit in our body? What does it feel like? And really allow ourselves to process that feeling. And three is we set the boundaries. So here’s where the boundaries come in. It’s like really deciding from a place of empowerment. What is okay for me and not okay for me? And how will I protect and respect myself moving forward? And then the fourth step is that giving grace and, and that’s the one that you’re speaking to Jessica around, like, what is the most generous assumption we’re gonna make about this person and why? Like their experience as a human being with their own struggles has contributed to their behavior towards me and sometimes. That one’s a little tricky because we don’t wanna make excuses for people, or we don’t want to invalidate our experience. That’s why we have to do it on number four is because, because. If we’re too quick to give grace and we’re not acknowledging the harm and we’re not setting the boundaries, then we’re kind of setting ourselves up to be mistreated again and again, and that’s not what we wanna do. Right. But then the fifth step is experiencing that freedom of forgiveness and releasing that burden. Can you talk a little bit about how the process was for you, like kind of step one, acknowledging. What was hurting you? How was that? 

Jessica: So I’ve, I’m a big journaler. Mm-hmm. And so for me, even acknowledging the harm, the first step was still helpful and that it let me get everything out without it being scripted, without it being planned. It was just share the whole thing, the whole experience. So that was. I think a great starting place. ’cause at least that gives the other person the boundaries coach that gives the other person an idea of what the situation really hap what happened in the situation. 

Mary: Yes. And that’s a very courageous and vulnerable share when you’re telling your story and your experience of this is what this person said and did, and this is how I. I thought about that and felt about that and experienced that. So good for you for being so brave around those things. All right. And then what about the feeling, the emotion part? 

Jessica: So that, you definitely had to coach me a little bit more around that because if you’re the one going through the situation, you have all, you have the, the situation, the stories in your head and what you tell yourself, but trying to explain it to someone. Who wasn’t right beside you, who didn’t go through it. It’s helpful to have someone there asking, looking at it from another perspective rather than right there in the middle of the room with you. 

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. And it kind of names the, the feeling and makes it more tangible and so it’s not overwhelming anymore. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And then the boundary setting part, step three, tell me a little bit more about that. Like what were some of the boundaries that came out of this forgiveness work? 

Jessica: I remember so many conversations with you going, okay, so you’ve decided what is okay for you and what is not okay for you. And so many conversations that i, I’ve started realizing with my teenagers, I’m trying to not go through the whole steps of forgiveness, but the idea of just setting boundaries of, okay, so what you’re saying is that you’re okay with this, but you’re not okay with that. And that was, I feel like something that you helped teach me to really put in place in my life of, okay what is okay with you? It, it’s okay that it changes, that at one point one seasons in your life it’s okay for you and then mature, you go to a different season of life, and it’s okay to change those boundaries, but to still have boundaries. 

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. Do you have boundaries that you have in place now as a result of this forgiveness work that we did?

Jessica: A lot of my stuff has gone to like no contact. I’ve had to change a lot of my boundaries, especially as it relates to my ex. We now communicate through a parenting app. Mm-hmm. And that is solely how we communicate is through an app that monitors how nice or how mean you can speak to your, your ex so that’s an added level of boundaries. I would say. 

Mary: Yeah. How about with some of the other folks that you had? Do you remember any of the ways that you were gonna protect or respect yourself moving forward so that you don’t get into those kinds of relationships? 

Jessica: I think being more aware of people and how they treat others, like, especially leaders. I’m definitely more cautious if I am starting to like see how leaders treat others like in a community or in a small group setting. I’m more aware of like observing disrespect and things. So I either choose not to engage or choose to go develop friendships and relationships with people that are more like-minded and aligned with my values and my boundaries than what I previously had. 

Mary: Hmm. I love that. So just being intentional about like, this is a person that I wanna have a friendship with, or this is a person that I wanna follow their leadership. And maybe these are some characteristics of someone I don’t want to have a friendship with or don’t want to follow leadership of. I remember specific things around, like choices around who and when we give money to, or choices around who we follow the advice of. 

Jessica: That’s a big one. Yes. Especially with kids of, you know, as a parent, whether you’re married or single, choosing whose advice you’re gonna follow and to what extent. How much are you gonna incorporate those ideas and things in your own family? 

Mary: Yes. Yes. And about how you want to handle you know, difficult times in the future. Like what’s okay and not okay for you and how you’ll manage your mental health and how you’ll manage physical health and things like that so that you’re not kind of getting into this situation again. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Awesome. And let’s talk a little bit about the giving grace. I know you brought it up. What does that really mean giving grace? Tell us what that was like. 

Jessica: Some of the forgiveness letters were easier than others. Mm-hmm. And I think the giving grace is one of the harder pieces of that in that you still really have to look at the other person as, yes, they’re human, you are not giving them a free pass for what they did, what they did was not right. But you’re trying to see them through a different lens that you are not trying to condemn them, but you are not saying everything was okay that they did or how they treated you. But you are trying to show that what’s the best possible light that you can still see that person in despite everything that has happened? 

Mary: Right. And kind of those questions around like, okay, so this person’s experience as a human, having their own struggles, like how could that have contributed to their behavior towards me? Right. Yeah. And really understanding that the people who have harmed us are just people. And it’s not okay. It doesn’t make it okay at all. Right? We’re still gonna have the boundaries so that that doesn’t happen to us again, but harboring resentment towards them or anger in our hearts towards them doesn’t really serve us long term. Right. 

Jessica: Right. Yeah. And that’s not something that I would ever really wanna model for my kids either. Goes back to being a mom of many. Like, yeah, what would I rather teach my kids? 

Mary: And that’s the interesting thing about forgiveness is I think the reason why it really worked for you, Jessica, is because you wanted to forgive. You were ready to forgive. Forgiveness is something that is so individual, right? It’s not like we can tell someone, well, you need to forgive this person, right? The person really needs to be interested in getting to the place of forgiveness and really recognizing like this hardness inside of me is something that I want to be able to release.

Jessica: And with that, they have to be at the point, I’m calling in their healing journey, that they’re ready to go Because I think it’s a process too, of someone getting to that point. 

Mary: Absolutely. Absolutely. So tell me a little bit about that last step, experiencing the freedom of forgiveness. What was that like for you when you were able to release that burden?

Jessica: I remember talking a few times with you about going, okay, how do I experience the freedom? And I remember telling you, I don’t want to rebuild that friendship with them, but I want to experience the freedom of that forgiveness. And I remember you saying, well, they don’t have to read the letter. There was a couple times where I did burn a couple letters and it was like, okay, there is some freedom in that. 

Mary: So you wrote forgiveness letters. And then sometimes we shared or didn’t share or burned or, 

Jessica: Yes. And sometimes I just tossed them in a trash can and I was like, okay, I don’t need to burn this one, but I’m not gonna give this to the person either. But at least it was, I definitely had such a sense of like release, relief and peace afterwards. 

Mary: Yeah. I love that for you. And how long did the process take? 

Jessica: I think it’s a lifelong thing. For each, I would say each person, each situation, like we had just mentioned, that like I had gotten to the point in my life that I wanted to forgive. I didn’t wanna carry around that bitterness with me into the next seasons. But then as I would go through with a situation with my now ex and would go through the forgiveness letter, be like, okay, I’m done with that, but then something else would happen. So it’s never a one and done thing. And sometimes you think you’re all done and then something else happens and you’re like, oh, time to go revisit that forgiveness letter again. 

Mary: Yes. And sometimes it is like, this one thing happened and we need to forgive for it. And then we’re able to do the forgiveness work and then either restore the relationship or we move on in our hearts. And then there are those relationships where it’s kind of an ongoing forgiveness, right? Especially if you’re, you know, co-parenting with a previous spouse. And there’s still things that you have to continue to forgive for. So I appreciate you, I appreciate you sharing that. So tell us a little bit about how this forgiveness work and really coaching around boundaries and doing the steps of forgiveness, how has that continued to impact you? ’cause this was a couple of years ago, right? So how has that continued to impact you? 

Jessica: So ever since my depression stuff, I remember in the midst of depression going, I, I don’t have anything that brings me joy. How do I find joy? And I’m like, forget, let alone happiness. I’m like, I wanna, I wanna go past happiness and get into joy. And I think the whole forgiveness aspect of it I feel like coaching with you, especially around forgiveness, helped give me a foundation that years later I can still bring in pieces of that and I can always go back to going, okay, I have this sticky, strained part of my relationship with a friend or with a coworker or with my ex that I need to work through and take the time, really being intentional about taking the time to make myself go back through the steps of forgiveness with people as it comes up, ultimately to help me find more joy. 

Mary: Yes. Oh, you’re so amazing. Good work. Good work, Jessica. I appreciate you sharing. To folks who are listening and feel like they might you know, have some things that they might wanna work on, forgiving, setting some boundaries so that they’re not being mistreated what would you say to them?

Jessica: Do the work, get the help. You cannot do it alone. If there’s anything I’ve learned you need some kind of community, even if it’s just one other person. And yeah, there’s gonna be scary stuff that you might have to go through and share and reveal and expose, but it’s worth it to find the peace and joy and restoration on the other side. 

Mary: Awesome. So there is hope, forgiveness is possible and it’s, it is work, but it’s worth it. And Jessica, you’re such a great example and testament of, of how to forgive and I really appreciate you sharing your story with us. 

Jessica: My pleasure. Thank you so much, Mary.