Book Report: Boundaries

The subtitle of this book is actually a little more telling than the main title. It's Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

The authors are Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

It took me a few months to read. I started off strong the first weekend in June. I read a few chapters at a park beside the water in Waverly, IA when I was there officiating a wedding. Shortly thereafter my personal life and bodily health "fell apart" (understatement). I have sufficiently and thoroughly regrouped in both arenas (alleluia). I finally finished the book today. 

I'm not sure if completing the book sooner would've made a difference or not in the summer's trajectory, but I periodically think back to the moments I spent on the park bench in Waverly reading the book. I remember thinking, "I must read this whole book. This book is really important to me right now. God has put this book in my hands to empower me. I am strong. I am finding my purpose and worth. I am finding my voice and my ability to say NO!"

But, for a host of reasons, I didn't finish the book back then. Instead, I carried it around for a couple additional weeks. But I didn't open it. I think because at the time, I was basically avoiding everything the authors suggest in the book.  

Some books hit a little too close to home. This is one. It's helpful. Immensely helpful. But it was also a mirror to me of many areas in which I have room to grow. For a lot of my life, I've struggled with boundaries. It's hard for me to identify what is me and what is not me...what is my responsibility and what is not my responsibility. I have a chronic pattern of taking on a lot of emotionally responsibilities that aren't mine to own or fix. These are all "boundary" issues. 

My fear of disappointing and abandoning others leads me toward blurry boundaries. I've made huge strides in this area over the last couple months, and that feels good! But I'm still a work in progress. 

(Side note: I really like the book overall, but I want to explicitly say I don't love everything about the book. My biggest beef is that there are aspects of its conservative theological slant that rub me the wrong way. But 94% of the book is really great, so I can overlook the 6% that makes me feel yick.)

As I was saying, the book is a mirror. It reflects back the readers own growth areas. After reading it, I feel a deepened sense of understanding toward myself. I think I understand more deeply why I am inclined toward a particular kind of other-focused decision making. 

Gracious understanding seems to be a first step toward sustainable change. I feel that taking place in my emotional innards. I am trying to be graceful with myself as I seek healthier ways of being. 

Here are some of the key points from the book I found most impactful. 
  • There are three main sections to the book: (1) What are boundaries? (2) Boundary conflicts. (3) Developing healthy boundaries. 
    • "any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn't" (27). 
    • "Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me" (31). 
    • What's within my boundaries? 
      • Feelings
      • Attitudes and beliefs
      • Behaviors ("To rescue people from the natural consequences o their behavior is to render them powerless" (43).")
      • Choices
      • Values
      • Limits
      • Talents
      • Thoughts
      • Desires
      • Love
    • There's a great section in this part about "compliant people" - they tend to melt into other people's demands and needs; "Many compliant people realize too late that they're in a dangerous or abusive relationship. Their spiritual and emotional "radar" is broken; they have no ability to guard their hearts" (53)."
    • Great section in chapter 4 about how boundaries are learned and developed as children; "Alcoholism causes massive boundary confusion in the child. Adult children of alcoholics never feel safe in relationships. They're always waiting for the other person to let them down or attack them unexpectedly. They keep their guard up constantly....They are uncertain about what they are and aren't responsible for" (82). 
    • The book very helpfully describes the "Laws of Boundaries" and "Common Boundary Myths"
    • Anger can be a very useful emotion; it can tell us our boundaries have been violated
    • The book provides a lot of very powerful, practical advice for setting and practicing boundaries with family members, friends, co-workers and romantic partners
    • Chapter 10 is all about boundaries and children - at different development stages; seems very useful!
    • Excellent guidance in the workplace section. "You owe no one an explanation about why you will not do something that it not your responsibility" (205). 
    • Good guidance for how to respond when/if people resist our new boundaries - ESPECIALLY on how to deal with guilt trips
    • Developing as an adult with healthy boundaries requires a network of support - an environment in which to practice
I found the book quite helpful! It's one I will keep and refer to in the future. If you have any additional questions about the book, please feel free to email me or leave a comment. 

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