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Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life Paperback – April 1, 1992
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In order to call themselves good Christians, many people have drawn overly flexible boundaries (unwilling to say no, always accommodating others' needs) or overly rigid boundaries (to the point of being righteous and judgmental). Psychologists and inspirational speakers Cloud and Townsend show readers how to set reasonable boundaries in order to follow the true path of Christianity. This book has become immensely popular, most likely because it makes personal boundaries easier to define and is filled with spiritual purpose. Some cautions: the format can be overly self-helpish for such a complex discussion and the authors at one point imply that judicious spankings may be an acceptable form of setting boundaries with children. However, many Christians will probably find themselves grateful for this biblical context of boundaries. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have great insights and practical wisdom into the God-given gift of boundaries. As they discuss how to take responsibility for and ownership of our lives, they give hope that we cannot just survive -- but thrive! --Josh McDowell, Author, Author and Speaker
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Top Customer Reviews
The other issue is one of an abusive marriage. He talks about putting up boundaries and leaving for the night if these boundaries are violated. This is always done for a short period of time and then the abused spouse returns home. There are situations where this is effective. But in a true abusive situation (physical or mental) it is playing with fire to leave and return over and over. The physical abuser can be deadly. A mental abuser will learn how to better manipulate her victim without his realizing that his boundaries have been violated and thereby twisting reality even further. Any abusive person is not to be trifled with, and without genuine repentance and clear signs of change one is foolish to continue to expose themselves to that risk regardless of history, children, or feelings. For all of his insight, I am shocked that this is not made more clear.
First the positives:
When different people’s desires and expectation conflict, we DO need to make responsible decisions to deal with those conflicts. This involves setting or adjusting our “boundaries”. We can’t please everyone, let alone everyone AND ourselves. Christians particularly can feel they must be self-sacrificing and sometimes to a fault. Therefore the authors’ advice is often correct. They point out the reasons we sometimes have lower boundaries than we should: false guilt, eagerness to please, etc.
The authors also deal with issues that can result when we are being overly protective of people we love and become “enablers”.
The authors use real life examples to illustrate their point, which is generally a good thing.
The authors have realistic advice for those in truly abusive situations.
Now for the negatives:
In an attempt to make their advice “Biblical” they martial tons of Bible references to support their points. This would be a plus if the scriptures were appropriately chosen and well exegeted. They are not. I chose a portion of the book that contained twenty five references. Of the twenty five, ten were out of context and had little if anything to do with the point, but were basically harmless. Six however were both out of context and given extremely doubtful and possibly harmful interpretations. Two actually completely contradicted the authors’ point. Finally, seven of the references actually applied and supported the authors’ point, but interestingly ALL had to do with lowering or not setting boundaries. I realize my analysis of the verses I looked at are purely my own and others may differ, but I believe generally readers who have a high respect for the Bible and value context and exegesis will be very disappointed. This was a big minus for me.
The book was fairly heavy on current psychological theory that delves into childhood experience to explain all our issues. While our childhood DOES have a big effect on us later on, it is not a catch-all explanation, and I think this was over-played by the authors.
The book tended to be slanted toward abusive situations without cautions that what applies to such should not necessarily be applied to more normal family/work/etc. situations. Particularly advice about creating adverse "consequences" for those that cross our boundaries. In abusive situations this can be very necessary, but in everyday "boundary conflicts" this just leads to escalation. "If you do this, I'm going to do that!".
The proper role of conscience was ignored or even negated in favor of “love-motivated” behavior. We are basically encouraged never to do something solely because we believe it is the right thing, when desire is lacking on our part. Love is indeed a higher motive than guilt, but unfortunately it is unreliable. There is a place for doing the right thing, even when we desperately don’t want to. In these cases it is our attitudes we need to work on, not to lower our standards for behavior.
Finally the advice in the book is extremely prone to abuse by people who are basically self-centered and use their “boundaries” to justify it. Other reviews have noted personal experiences of this and I have also encountered enthusiasts of this book in this category. Not a single example in the book (to my memory, I could be wrong) is a case study of someone whose boundaries are too high. Every one is about the need to set more and higher boundaries. There is a total lack of balance here.
Bottom line: There are people who benefit from this book, and I could perhaps recommend it to some who could use it. But then only if I couldn’t find a better book on the subject.