Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boundaries: Book Review

As promised in my post George Bailey: A Boundryless Man, here is my review to the wonderful book, Boundaries:

Do you ever find yourself saying yes to things you don’t want to do?  Do you have difficulties controlling your time, money, and affection? Perhaps you are a people pleaser.  The book Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend clearly point out the problems of people pleasing, and teach practical, effective methods for setting healthy boundaries in our everyday lives.

Both Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend are highly qualified individuals to speak on the subject of boundaries.  Townsend is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist.  He also serves as the Clinical Director for the American Association of Christian Counselors.  Cloud is also a clinical psychologist with a wide background of experiences to draw from.  He specializes in leadership and media advice.

Cloud and Townsend co-authored Boundaries, with the goal of helping people gain a life of love, freedom, responsibility, and service.  After thoroughly reading the book, I can safely say that their goal was accomplished in my life.  While Christians are called to lover others as themselves, we often times forget the part about loving ourselves.  Boundariesmakes clear when, where, and how to draw the line between the two.

Cloud and Townsend make the point that we can’t love fully if we are giving out of guilt, pressure, or a sense of “feeling like you should.”  When we set clear limits on what we will and will not do with our own resources, we experience more freedom to do what we want.  In this fashion we love more readily and prohibit people from stealing our resources, time, and affection.

The layout of the book is tricky to follow at first.  Step by step instructions, countless examples, and dozens of stories left me feeling confused and overwhelmed initially.  After digging in to the book a little further, I quickly saw how important boundaries really were.  The rest of the steps in the book began to make more sense as I read on.

Boundaries is a great read for anyone, but especially those who struggle with telling people no or pushing people beyond their limits.  Cloud and Townsend communicate limits in a practical, biblical way that help clearly define our own personal responsibilities.  

The three main points I learned from this book are as follows:

  1. YOU are responsible for YOUR actions, time, and money.  Often times we tend to shift blame on other people when we do things we don't want to do.  A line I often use is, "I'd love to, but ____ wants me to do something with her on that day, sorry."  I then leave the conversation feeling angry at the person I promised my time to, and guilty for not spending time with who I want to.  The problem with this is that the only person I should be blaming is myself.  No one said I had to do what I did not want to do.  When we love people out of guilt we are not really loving them at all.  It is a forced love.  Often times fake, forced love and affection will ultimately lead to depression.

    I also realized that other people can't make me angry.  I choose how I want to respond to other people.  While I cannot choose how other people treat me, I can choose how I will respond to their treatment.  When I get mad and resentful, I am letting these people control me.  However, should I choose to remain calm and clearly communicate my limits with them, I remain in control of me.
  2. YOU are NOT responsible for other people's reactions.  As a loving Christian, I sometimes go out of my way to help people with their problems, finances, and personal situations.  This is good.  I am called to love others as myself, however when I continually bail my friend out of a tight financial spot, I am not helping myself or them.  First, I am giving out of habit or obligation.  There is no love or cheerfulness in my heart (2 Corinthians 9:7.)  Second, I am teaching that person to rely on others to take care of their responsibilities.  The person in need never learns to grow up and become a responsible adult, thus the cycle continues.
  3. By setting specific boundaries on how you will not spend your time and money, you can better invest in the areas you do choose to invest in.  This strategy helps keep my life focused and prioritized.  By learning to more readily say no to things I honestly don't want to do, I will be more able to pour myself into the things I say yes too.  

James 5:12
"...Above all, my brothers, do not swear--
not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.
Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No" be no,
or you will be condemned."