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Book Review: Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

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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 points out the problems of people pleasing and teaches 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 love others as themselves, we often times forget the part about loving ourselves. Boundaries makes 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 helps clearly define our own personal responsibilities.

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About Haley Hoover

  • Lightbearer

    At first blush, Townsend and Cloud’s “Boundaries” appears to address a problem with interpersonal relationships. While there is measured truth in their assertions, there is much that is wrong; very wrong! The overwhelming observation here is that the Psychologists’ solutions are agnostic to Scripture in so many instances that it begs the question of what their purpose really is… Be extremely careful of following the lead of Boundaries – as well as of any church “leader” that conveniently endorses this Book. Weigh everything in the light of Scripture – and in context. Boundaries simply does not measure up.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Devon-Dibley-His-Golden-Key/dp/1484181557/ M F Scotto

    There it is again… this odd idea which has crept into Christianity… this notion that we either don’t love ourselves or that we have to try. It’s a grossly false premise either way. Scripture assumes we love ourselves and teaches us to deny ourselves.

    • Christina Finley

      Sorry, this is crap…this book is not about “loving yourself” – it about learning to say NO to unhealthy things and people. Something many people struggle with and this book is a great help. You rule out the power of the Holy Spirit when you say that Scripture (which is still the ultimate authority for sure) is the only way to hear God. People often need to be taught basic things that they didn’t learn from their original families by their spiritual families – again, this is a great book and you and the poem writer above and the commentator below should all try reading it instead of touting your spiritual superiority!

      • http://www.amazon.com/Devon-Dibley-His-Golden-Key/dp/1484181557/ M F Scotto

        The Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture. As for your assertion that self-love is not in the article here, I don’t know it could be more clear:

        “While Christians are called to love others as themselves, we often times forget the part about loving ourselves.”

        What part about loving ourselves? In the scripture referenced, self-love is assumed. Further we are taught that no man has yet lived who did not love himself.

        • Christina Finley

          Well, I was clear in my earlier post that Scripture is the ultimate authority and of course the HS would never contradict scripture or then people (being sinful) would co-opt the HS to excuse all manner of inappropriate, non-scriptural behavior…all justified by “their” HS.

          That said – I think I see the problem. You are responding to the article and the phrase that bugs you is the author of the article’s phrase and not a direct quote from the Boundaries book.

          If you read the book it is clear that the authors are serious about their Christian faith and only wish for people to learn to say NO when appropriate so that they don’t let so much sin and guilt and other horrible things into their life that they are unable to fulfil what God is calling them to do with their lives.

          If you are thinking – “well, that is crazy – who would do that?” – then clearly you are not a person with a boundary problem, nor have you ever known anyone from an alcoholic or abusive home.

          And finally, if my King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords came down to this earth in utter humility to die for me…then to God, I am worth something and He doesn’t see me for the snivelling, depraved sinner that I am – He sees Christ in me, the hope of glory…so I need to learn to not cast my pearls before swine by spreading my life so thin that I can not possibly have energy for my family and my ministry and the things He has called me to do. I need to learn to say NO to some things. That is what the Boundaries book is about. Period.

          • http://www.amazon.com/Devon-Dibley-His-Golden-Key/dp/1484181557/ M F Scotto

            Good thoughts and I agree. Thank you for the clarification. I certainly am not opposed to creating boundaries. As you noted, we find our worth in Christ alone and that is where we start on the road to victory, admitting that we are powerless in the flesh apart from him.

          • Christina Finley

            Amen! I am obviously a big fan of this book – but more importantly, I value the wisdom that comes from seeking God as your source of strength and guidance. I encourage anyone interested in this topic to start with God’s word – but to know that the men who wrote this book represent wise counsel of the kind the bible encourages us to seek. Thank you for listening to my ideas.

  • John Lategan

    There’s a time to say yes
    And a time to say no
    But the personal boundary line
    Is not the way to know
    For life is not simple
    And our hearts are a mess
    There’s sin and the enemy
    And all kinds of stress
    But now God is with us
    He will show us the way
    The personal boundary line
    Will lead us astray
    The Lord will lead us each moment of the day
    But we must look to Him and remember to pray.