Pastoral Care: Boundaries

“You Teach Others How To Treat You” overrule areas in their lives where they shouldn’t — thus the concept of “boundaries.” Henry Cloud and John Townsend argue that if proper personal boundaries are reset — if a person can draw appropriate lines where they cannot be controlled or manipulated — then most dysfunctional relationships can get better. They also argue that a person with too tight or too loose boundaries probably doesn’t treat others’ boundaries correctly either, and that that also feeds dysfunction.

The Boundaries series includes a basic book on personal boundaries, as well as books which specifically address dating and the trickier family relationships: spouse, kids, teens, and young adult children. Because Cloud and Townsend are professional psychologists, they have a lot of case studies and examples to draw upon and are unusually insightful in pinning down the exact dysfunctions you may experience every day. There is also a workbook which is helpful if used thoughtfully.

You might benefit from this book if you suffer from:

  • inability to say no
  • inability to express your feelings appropriately
  • hypersensitivity to an enmeshed other
  • codependent or enabling behavior
  • fear of letting others down
  • fear of others’ appraisals
  • tyranny of a child, parent, or spouse
  • feelings of purposelessness or being micromanged
  • anger at yourself (for being manipulated or coerced)
  • inability to leave an abusive relationship
  • control problems
  • fear of submission
  • addictive behavior that stems from anxiety in key relationships
  • a legacy of codependency

Keep in mind that much of “white-collar” therapy these days concerns dysfunctional relationships, including immature ways of communication, attachment, and limit-setting. These can be more devastating than natural disasters — i.e. fires, bankruptcy, illness — because family is so important in life, so salient, and usually lifelong. And also because severe enablement can encourage addiction and abuse to tragic levels. The Boundaries series will reorient you to healthy expectations, and the truth about selflessness, confrontation, and responsibility. The result will hopefully be more liberty in your life, and more discernment about how you lend out authority to others, to guide you. With God’s help, the message will return to you your own moral compass, and encourage you to use it.

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