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How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth

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How People Grow reveals why all growth is spiritual growth and how you can grow in ways you never thought possible. Our desire to grow runs deep. Yet the issues in our lives and relationships that we wish would change often stay the same, even with our best efforts at spiritual growth. What does it take to experience increasing strength and depth in our spiritual walk, our marriages and family lives and friendships, our personal development--in everything life is about? And how can we help others move into growth that is profound and lasting? Unpacking the practical and passionate theology that forms the backbone of their counseling, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend shatter popular misconceptions about how God operates to reveal how growth really happens. You'll Shining focused light on the great doctrines and themes of Christianity, How People Grow helps you understand the Bible in a way that will help you head with confidence down the high road of growth in Christ. Workbook also available.

368 pages, Paperback

First published October 16, 2001

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About the author

Henry Cloud

192 books1,779 followers
Dr. Cloud has written or co-written twenty-five books, including the two million-seller Boundaries. His most recent books are Boundaries for Leaders and Necessary Endings. He has earned three Gold Medallion awards, and was awarded the distinguished Retailers Choice award for God Will Make A Way.

As president of Cloud-Townsend Resources, Dr. Cloud has produced and conducted hundreds of public seminars around the country. He speaks on relationships—marriage, parenting, dating, personal growth, and spirituality. His seminars are often broadcast live to over two thousand venues at a time.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 183 reviews
Profile Image for Sameh Maher.
146 reviews74 followers
October 4, 2014
كتاب رائع واكثر من رائع
من الكتب القليلة التى ستضعها على رفك وعليها علامة تقرأ لمرات ولمرات ...
على الرغم من انه قد يكون مملا قليلا فى بداية وتقليدى الا ان موضوع النمو من المواضيع الهامة التى شرحها الكاتبان ببراعة منقطعة النظير وببساطة شديدة وعمق قوى
الكتاب يشرح فى موضوع النمو عدة مواضيع مرتبطة به مثل الالم والوقت واستجابة الله للصلاة
فهدف الكاتبان فى النهاية ان يظهرا عمليا واقعية الكتاب المقدس وكيف يتناول قضية الحياة كلها اى النمو
الكتاب مرتب ومنظم وبعد ان تنهيه ولا بد انك ستشعر بالحنين الى فقرات كثيرة منهوترجع اليها
انصح الجميع بقرائته والحصول عليه فهو من الكتب القليلة التى ستترك اثرها وانت تقراها وتحدث قلبك مباشرا
استمتعت به بل وتباطئت فى انهائه حتى لا ينتهى بسرعة
Profile Image for Jeff.
236 reviews52 followers
April 13, 2018
A bit too long, but a great practical book on spiritual growth.

For us to grow, God's role is to be the source/provider. Our role is to depend on the source. We depend on God for life and for all that we need. God's role was and is to provide. Our role was and is to receive.

To solve life's problems and grow spiritually are one and the same.

In redemption, we come back to God as the source of life. We retreat from our independence from him and our attempt to be self-made.

The Body of Christ is a big part of the delivery system of healing and growth that God has in store for His people. For people to grow, they must discover that God is for them and not against them.

We do not grow because of willpower but because of God's provision.

Grace means that we receive the gifts we need for growth to occur. We don't willpower our way there.

The theology of redemption is one of total destruction, of starting all over again. We are not "improved"

The self-esteem trip is a dead end. The answer is to have them feel connected to love.

Jesus said that he did not come into the world to judge or condemn it. If this is true, then how on earth did the institution he began turn into one of guiltiest places on earth?
Profile Image for Callie Jackson.
58 reviews1 follower
April 5, 2022
10/10, 5 stars, recommend to everyone I know.

This is a SLOW read. It is challenging and convicting- a dense book for sure. But it is also a breathe of fresh air. It challenges you and let’s you rest at the same time. It connects Biblical truth, psychology, action steps, and grace all in one neat little book. I had to push through to keep reading because my brain doesn’t like to learn so much at once; doesn’t like to balance the tension of things to learn and things to be okay with not knowing. But I will read this book over and over again until I die probably.

I think you could read a chapter a year and let it change you for the better!
1 review1 follower
January 4, 2008
Here's an excerpt:

"We can't grow unless we are sure that we are both known and loved. Some people like us because they don't know us; some know us, and therefore don't like us. Relationship can't occur unless both knowledge and love are present." - (p. 150)
Profile Image for Blake Moore.
77 reviews8 followers
April 8, 2017
Really liked it - practical growth steps with clear spiritual principles.

A link between age-old spiritual thoughts and modern psychological discoveries, "How People Grow" is a readable (though at times quite dense) guide for the human growth process. Not just spiritually, but emotionally, mentally, and even physically. It fulfills it's title.

Displaying a high emphasis on the growth group, one-another relationships, and time (as opposed to the classic "microwaved" results); HPG was well worth it. Highly recommend reading.

Thanks, Dr Cloud & Dr Townshend!
Profile Image for Jeremy Piehler.
26 reviews10 followers
January 25, 2020
Fantastic Book

I love how specific and practical these guys can be. So helpful, clear, and at the same time very profound and insightful.
Profile Image for Lavonne.
7 reviews23 followers
January 25, 2020
A lot to take in but very good. It's the kind to re-read, pour over and pray over.
2 reviews
June 8, 2008
Reading this has been like having 2 faithful friends (the authors) who will gently sit down with you and open up things that you've needed to see about yourself and challenge you to make changes. The way they share God's grace in the process makes it a safe "place" to experience genuine growth.
My boyfriend & I each have a copy of this book, and we have been reading it a little bit at a time over the last several months.
It has revealed things to each of us that has given us the freedom to face some tough things in our lives in ways we couldn't have imagined.
I encourage you to read it. Do it slowly. Digest it all & go back & read it again. It has helped me so much.
Profile Image for Jonathan Brooker.
Author 1 book8 followers
November 15, 2021
A wonderful marriage of the realities of the spiritual life and the emotional one, this book helps the reader see how the two are interconnected and how to practically and healthily grow and help others grow. There were a few chapters at the end when it seemed like the authors inexplicably changed their target audience from the caregiver to the one who's being developed. But the reality is that we are all meant to be growing, and this book gives a thorough explanation of how God has designed this to work in a multifaceted way.

It's unfortunate there aren't more books where Christian faith and psychology and principals of therapy are combined together to provide a wholistic approach to growth. But that makes me all the more grateful for having found this particular gem!
Profile Image for Teri.
290 reviews8 followers
January 27, 2020
Read as part of our small group. Here’s the thing: there is one star worth of helpful stuff to consider for people wanting to grow and doing so in intentional relationships. But there is so much sloppy theology and condescending-sounding psychology that the one star worth of helpful stuff gets lost. Not everyone in our group felt this way and clearly these authors have a following but I’m not among their numbers.
49 reviews
January 27, 2020
I didn’t love it. There were certainly small nuggets of insight throughout with the overall theme of “in order to grow you need to be in community with others.” However, these authors disappointed me. They contradicted themselves, had trouble making a point, but had no trouble making arrogant claims with no substantiation. Also, the theology seemed pieced together and often times simply incorrect.
Profile Image for Антонія.
211 reviews16 followers
October 10, 2022
Найдовша книга цих авторів, яку я читала
Найбільш глибока
Про зріст, який охоплює кожну сферу життя
Про 18 сантиметрів від розуму до серця, які треба дуже довго долати

"Позбавтеся концепції "час лікує все". Якщо людина не візьме активну участь у процесі зростання, духовний застій згодом лише посилюватиметься".

Завтра почну якусь іншу книгу тих самих авторів. Нікого кращого і кориснішого серед духовно-психологічної літератури я досі не знайшла.
4 reviews
February 2, 2020
Links all different kinds of growth (emotional, relational, etc.) back to spiritual growth. Some takeaways are the growth comes from a position of spiritual poverty and humility, takes a lot of vulnerability and pain, and is only accomplished in community. I need to go back to each chapter ending and re-read “Tips For Growers.”
Profile Image for Daniel Park.
38 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2019
Listened to this on libby. Wish he had gone into more depth, but I guess thats what his other books are for.
Profile Image for Conrad.
56 reviews
September 26, 2022
Great content in here BUT… this one took me a long time to get through. Dense, dry at points, tons of information, but I did enjoy some of the main takeaways for growth.
Profile Image for Kain Ramsay.
Author 1 book14 followers
January 31, 2023
This book offers the experiential wisdom one might expect from Dr Henry Cloud. The text offers a sensible framework for personal growth and emphasises the importance of self-awareness over self-obsession - a common problem that plagues many people in these times.
Profile Image for Sam.
430 reviews25 followers
December 20, 2018
Excellent book overall, though I thoroughly disagree theologically with their point on unconditional eternal security towards the end of the book in the chapter on forgiveness "Some have never been taught how forgiven they are, once and for all.". Otherwise, wholeheartedly recommend.

"In trying to become like God, they became less like themselves. This is why we need spiritual growth, we have become less of what we were created to be."

The realization that we have come to the end of ourself, ego death.

God often only gives us what we are mature enough to handle. So until we grow, we will not have them. 3 characteristics of people who do things God's way: They put off old ways, and turn to God's ways (repentance). They seek more and more to understand insight into what is best. They commit to the pain of discipline in order to grow.

People are not just going to listen to a sermon and change. They must gain deep knowledge about God's ways, his kingdom, and apply those ways to their life. They need to discover what is true about them. They need feedback about their patterns and what to do differently. Then they can grow. This is why structured groups are so good.

People need 2 sources to grow: divine and human! It's all about relationships. If you are helping people grow, check how connected they are to the indwelling Christ, no matter what the issue or struggle. Relatedness must come first.

Holy Spirit in growth: Moment by moment relationship of dependency, to guide us, lead us, talk to us, reveal truth to us, empower us to do what we cannot, give us gifts to give to others. This all happens in an abiding way. We yield to him and follow. We open up our hearts and begin to be filled by Him. We ask him to invade and work in all that we are. In a sense, we give ourselves to God as we live out a life of growth. We do not grow without God, and God will not help us grow without our cooperation.

Spiritual growth is anything but, "Let Go and let God." It is hard and it is sometimes painful work, but it is always worth it.

God heals in and through people!

You must have relationships with others in order to grow. You will not grow independent of relationships in the body of Christ! It's the way God designed us to grow. God uses people. Heb. 10:24

The greek for "poor in spirit" pictures a cringing beggar absolutely dependent on others for survival. It's not flattering, but the kingdom of God belongs to those. Spiritual poverty is about living in reality. It's our state of incompleteness before God. This can be due to weaknesses, unfulfilled needs, emotional injuries and hurts at the hands of others, our own immaturities and sins. Parts of ourselves that aren't what they should be and we cannot repair in our own strength. Spiritual poverty is the cure for narcissism, self-righteousness, and host of other problems. Jesus calls this blessed, because it drives us to God as source of healing and hope to our brokenness.

Our love must be honest. Our truth must be for the other person's best interest. When love is divided from truth, people cannot grow. God is fully loving and fully truthful with us.

Bad pain is suffering at the fruit of your own character. We must see it as a wakeup call. It's wasted pain. Good pain is the pain of growth. Too often, people disable growth by treating others as victims.

Why doesn't she just let it go? They can't with resources internal or external to them. You can't let go of the trapeze if you don't have someone there to grab you.

God put our tear ducts in our eyes. Grief is a relational experience. Our pain has to be seen eye to eye with another person.

Obedience is central to spiritual growth. To obey is to hear. Hearing and doing what God says are deeply interrelated. Basic definition of biblical obedience: To be God directed and not self-directed.

There is a structure to spiritual growth. It's discipline. We allow something to happen to us. We are being disciplined in the spiritual disciplines and with others. Then we grow from it. Giving permission to confront us, or a group that tells us the truth. It's accountability. Growth is a process that we don't fully control.

Profile Image for Angela Ebert.
43 reviews
December 22, 2021
This was such a helpful book for me. The subtitle, What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth, is what the book delivers. I learned a lot for my personal use and growth, but also see it as a handbook for helping others.
19 reviews
September 20, 2019
I highlighted half the book and probably should read it again. The majority of the book was really insightful!
Profile Image for edel que.
14 reviews
June 25, 2023
This is a brilliant book - a must read for us all. Lots of professional wisdom and insight to help us and others, identify the things that make a big difference to our lives. A very accessible read with helpful real life examples.
Profile Image for Joel Wentz.
1,043 reviews70 followers
November 13, 2013
Cloud & Townsend are probably best known for their various co-authored books under the moniker "Boundaries", but this lesser-known book is a very strong, intensely practical look at how all people experience spiritual growth. It is extremely comprehensive, and quite easy to read. Not everyone will find each chapter particularly helpful, but I would argue that there is something in this book for everyone. I particularly resonated with the chapters regarding God's grace, the growth in forgiveness, and the pain of guilt. As Cloud and Townsend are both practicing psychologists, the work is full of powerful stories of real people, which is one of the most valuable pieces of it. There are also helpful, practical questions at the end of each chapter, specifically for people who are desiring personal growth, and for people who are in a position to guide others in their own growth. I would particularly recommend this for those in ministry, counseling, or mentoring positions.
Profile Image for Paul.
215 reviews6 followers
August 29, 2011
Interesting book on spiritual growth. I found it personally helpful. However, it felt pretty clinical for the uses that the authors suggested . . . in church small groups and Bible studies.
Profile Image for Pamela Beer.
5 reviews16 followers
May 12, 2014
Fantastic book. Helps folks see their personal growth from a biblical perspective.
Profile Image for Luke Pinion.
3 reviews
March 17, 2018
I recently read through How People Grow as part of a leadership class. The book is fairly long and very dense, but I feel that every part of it was necessary. The authors pull from their expertise on both Christian theology and psychology and do such an amazing job of discussing the topics at hand with both of these perspectives.

The book starts out with a general overview of theological topics such as sin and each person of the Trinity, and then moves into more general themes like the importance of community, discipline, the role of suffering and the need for grief, and the concept of spiritual poverty (being poor in spirit). I cannot emphasize how much I got out of this book and I know I will be reading it again the future.

It's heavy so I definitely recommend giving yourself time to read it. I read it over the course of a month and still felt like I didn't get to mull over some of it as much as I would have liked to.
Profile Image for Maitland Gray.
83 reviews
May 3, 2021
"Action is always an integral part of growth. Spiritual growth does not 'happen' to us; it requires a great deal of blood, sweat and tears."

Great reminders about the importance of growth and the process of growth. There was one key takeaway in this book for me (though only a small part of the book). It's easy for me to point to the areas of growth "needed" in other people. If I feel frustrated, annoyed or angry because of another person, it's actually an opportunity of growth that's needed in my own life (Matthew 7:3 comes to mind). It's a very humbling process to tell myself that I'm the one with a problem.

Overall, a good book. I only give it 3 stars because it felt a little too long. Hard to fully recommend it to other people because of that. But, if you want to begin or renew thinking on personal growth, then I'd encourage you to use this book as a resource to get you started. Just read the chapters that most interest you.
31 reviews1 follower
December 15, 2017
The book is very well written and easy to read. However, it pre-supposes that you have access to a supportive church or group of friends who want to help you grow or reach your goals. I actually tried discussing parts of this book with people at a church near where I live and they strongly disagreed with the author and advocated that we should do nothing and have faith in God solving our problems. The author of 'How People Grow' would disagree with this conclusion, but he does heavily argue that we need to rely on our local churches and support groups for growth. Yet the churches and support groups disagree with his positions.
Profile Image for Anita Pedro.
7 reviews
July 1, 2022
One of the best books I have ever read and I love reading! I think the timing was good for me to read this because although the concepts are biblical & some I should have known, the way it was written worked for me to apply all of the connections in a methodical way. I appreciate the effort to tie in the connections of life lessons to the Word. It helps to sort through my thoughts in a way that I can grow and know that it is not worldly or selfish... but more from a point of view of what I am responsible to do...from God's word.
74 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2023
Another powerful book from Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Tackling my leadership skills through a phycological perspective with a biblical lens really takes personal growth and responsibility to a healing and deeper level that can bring lasting results and realistic change.

While there is great overlap in many of the different writings from both authors, every read deepens my personal faith and growth because of the deeper understanding from the teaching.

Take your time. Dig into the scripture references. Let the Lord work with you.
Profile Image for Mark Elliott.
7 reviews7 followers
July 25, 2017
Great book with a lot of practical insight into people. How we grow, the why, and what it takes to move us from being comfortable to actually putting the hard work into growing. Each chapter takes a unique approach to relating to the reader in a variety of different ways but includes scriptures to also substantiate how these relate to the Christ follower. It is a book written by two men with their doctorates in psychology and reads accordingly.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 183 reviews

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