Boundaries. It’s a word that is used often but many people don't really know what they mean or how to properly utilize them in interpersonal relationships. I can remember the day that my sister gave me this book for Christmas. I LOVE counseling books, as in unhealthy obsession type of love for them. However, this isn't exactly the type of suggested reading that you want to receive from a family member on Christmas morning. She told me that I needed to read the book because I needed boundaries. Crestfallen, offended, and with wounded pride, I buried the book for several years before cracking it open years later. When I began reading the book, it quickly became one of my favorites and continues to be along with the others in the series. Some have Twilight, others have John Grisham, I have Boundaries.
To go further, we need to have a clear understanding of what the authors, clinical psychologists, Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud are referring to when they refer to “boundaries”. Just like a fencepost differentiates neighbor's property line, a boundary differentiates what you think and feel with those around you. Many people don't have defined boundaries so they are in either two camps, overly flexible or rigid. The overly flexible camp are the "nice people" who say yes to everyone, are overly accommodating, but are often exhausted because their lives look like a constant and unsatisfying to do list for others. The other camp has such rigid boundaries that it looks (and feels) like you are in a relationship with a judge. They don't put up boundaries; they put up the Great Wall of China. Neither is healthy which is why Cloud and Townsend offer helpful tools to help dismantle unhealthy boundary beliefs such as the myth that you can control what others say or do. Instead, readers learn to set clear limits for what they will and won't tolerate, acting out of love instead of fearing disapproval from others, and being clear about needs.
While receiving the book initially was a bit of a blow, especially on Christmas morning, the concepts have brought profound freedom. I've been able to put boundaries on my time, my resources, and not living under a sense of constant "shoulds” After years of applying these principles, I've been able to help countless clients navigate through this process in counseling in order to have healthier relationships in their marriages, in their family of origin, in the workplace, and basically everywhere else! The authors have had such success with the book, selling over 2 million copies, which they've expanded into specific areas for leaders, marriages, dating, and much more. So go get a copy and maybe buy one for someone you love. My suggestion, when giving it away, just don’t save it for the Christmas tree!
-Dr. Emily Shupert