Life(style) Reviewer

Book Review: Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (1992)

cloud-townsend-boundariesI bought this book in 2006, read the book cover-to-cover, and have since encountered many people who have found it helpful.

Written from an openly Christian perspective, this book investigates ‘the God-given gift of boundaries’, aiming to allow us to take responsibility and ownership for our lives – allowing us not just to survive, but to thrive. We can’t take responsibility for the behaviour of others, but we can prayerfully (and practically) take responsibility for our own lives (no longer feeling a victim to circumstance). With plenty of practical tips, the book identifies what boundaries are before moving onto cover boundaries in relation to:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Work
  • Self
  • God

I particularly love pp13-26, and pp287-296, where we meet Sherrie – in the first scenario a frazzled Christian incapable of saying no, and in the second, where she has implemented the suggestions in this book

p.17 Dependable, faithful, reliable … Sherrie thought, I’ve always been described this way by people who wanted something from me. Sounds like a description of a good mule. Suddenly the guilt hit again. There I am, getting resentful again. Lord, help me ‘bloom where I am planted.’ But secretly she found herself wishing she could be transplanted to another flowerpot.

p20 [The phone rings during dinner. Sherrie picks up. The woman’s ministry leader is asking if Sherrie can become activities co-ordinator at the church retreat on the subject of ‘priorities at home’]

The retreat. Sherrie had almost forgotten that the annual gathering of church women was this weekend. She had actually been looking forward to leaving the kids and Walt behind and strolling around the beautiful mountainous area for two days, just herself and the Lord. In fact, the possibility of solitude felt better to her than the planned group activities

[Sherrie, however, berates herself that it is] a privilege to serve God and these women, Sherrie! By giving up a little portion of your life, by letting go of tour selfishness, you can make a difference in some lives. [Sherrie says yes, Phyllis says thank you and]… that’s the abundant Christian life isn’t it? Being living sacrifices.

If you say so, thought Sherrie. But she couldn’t help wondering when the ‘abundant’ part would come in.

p293 [By the end of the book, the same phone rings with the same request, but is picked up by the answerphone as Sherrie focuses on dinner with the family. Sherrie is soon to ring back and say she is unable to do it as she will be spending proper time with her husband. She has found that as she withdrew from Church commitments she had more clarity about, and enthusiasm for, new area. She’s never be as available as some Church members wanted, but that was an issue between them and God, and not for Sherrie to worry about.

The book is such a bestseller worldwide that many sub-titles in the Boundaries series have been produced.

Prepared for use as an Oak Hall Leader. 

By admin

Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

2 replies on “Book Review: Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend (1992)”

I have to disagree. I also read it around 2008ish and it’s stuck in my memory mainly because it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It is little more than a self-help book with a thin garb of christianity.

Yet the version of christianity they portray is one where the self is more important than the community, where servanthood is to be abhorred as unhealthy and where the idea of going the second mile is an unheard of, alien concept.

Interesting. I still think having boundaries is healthy, and doesn’t necessarily preclude giving more (quality?) in other directions. I’m not sure I’d see it as selfish, but I think there’s definitely a balance to be had!

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