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Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

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Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances -- Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions -- Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others -- Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God's will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator -- Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations. When confronted with their lack of boundaries, they ask: - Can I set limits and still be a loving person? - What are legitimate boundaries? - What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries? - How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? - Aren't boundaries selfish? - Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries? Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.

314 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Henry Cloud

168 books1,722 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 4,642 reviews
Profile Image for Sharon.
340 reviews499 followers
August 27, 2016
I'm not a huge fan of "Christian-lite" self-help writing because it so often feels formulaic, especially when the authors start each chapter with cheesy anecdotes from their own practice. However, I'm giving Cloud and Townsend a pass because the ideas put forth in Boundaries have so completely revolutionized my view on the subject. The authors give solid Biblical backing for why boundaries are important, how they are formed, and how to set them in your own life. I especially appreciated that they tackled several key myths about boundaries (i.e. "Won't I hurt others if I set boundaries?" "Aren't Christians supposed to be generous and self-sacrificing?" "Isn't it selfish to think about yourself?") Even the anecdotes felt useful in this book as they gave practical and clear examples of the boundary-making process. Despite being written from a Christian perspective, I think this book would be useful for anyone who struggles with boundaries in his or her life (whether setting and maintaining them, feeling guilty about having them, or having trouble respecting the boundaries of others).
Profile Image for Karina.
804 reviews59 followers
October 29, 2012
... Not what I expected. I decided to read this after seeing some glowing reviews. So I opened the book, read the introduction "A Day in a Boundaryless Life" describing a day of a lady who's unable to refuse anyone but feels resentful and guilty about her resentfulness, and a couple of pages on the book. Then skipped to the end, "A Day in a Life with Boundaries", describing the same person who has successfully set boundaries, and doesn't hesitate to say "no" anymore. Well, it's not for me. In my view the person by the end of the book has went from one extreme to the other. Sure she may not have been able to handle all the tasks she took upon herself in the beginning, but surely she can sometimes make sacrifices but by the end it didn't look that way... I was sort of irritated with her both times. So I guess I don't really struggle with the boundaries; I know that there are times you need to make time for yourself ("take care of yourself, so you can better take care of others" principle). Indeed, I think I may be too much on the other side, of saying "no" too much (sort of).

Not going to read further...
Profile Image for K.M. Weiland.
Author 32 books2,298 followers
June 17, 2017
This book is life-changing. Turns out a discussion of boundaries is really a discussion about every single relationship in your life, your personal self-worth and discipline, your childhood, and your religion. The good doctors come at this from a Christian perspective, but they pull no punches in addressing the massive problem Christians, in particular, have with these issues. At every turn, they are brutally honest, logical, and biblical. The end result is the encouragement and empowerment to live a centered life, free of guilt and balanced in God’s will.
Profile Image for Emma.
1,102 reviews81 followers
December 10, 2018
It's too bad the most widely recommended book about setting healthy boundaries is so fanatically biblical. The biblical references and anecdotes are excessive, awkward, and feel forced. I was trying to wade through all the citations to get to the actual meat of the book and I couldn't do it, it was just too distracting. Not at all what I was looking for.

I like to keep my devotionals and self help separate, sorry.
Profile Image for Sandy.
958 reviews14 followers
April 11, 2012
Not in my normal genre so I can't give this 5 Stars...SCREW THAT!!!! 5 Stars, 5 Stars, 5 Stars! 100 Stars if I could give 100 stars! *Sigh* Oh well, 5 Stars it is.

This is a book that every human being alive or dead should be required to read. Christian or Non-Christian alike. Yes, Cloud and Townsend relate the idea of Boundaries to God. However, this idea of boundaries and how we apply them to ourselves and other people is universal. And it blew my mind. I never thought about this idea of boundaries and I have already been working since reading this book on establishing strong, clear, biblical boundaries with myself and others.

I can see boundaries every where now. Perhaps just as easily seen as established boundaries are the lack thereof. And even though I have only just begun practing better boundaries, and I have by no means "arrived," it's so easy for me to see where others could benefit from establishing their own boundaries.

And as with anything else, because this is truly the way God intended things to be, it is so easy to see how much better life would be with properly established boundaries.

I truly want to thank these authors for breaking this down for anyone and everyone who might take the time to read this book. And I want to thank my friend, Kay, for introducing me to this book and opening up a whole new world to me. I will say that I will be investing in the other books they have written on boundaries (Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids, Boundaries with Teens, etc.).

I really don't know what else to say about it. Honestly, this is one of those books that I could probably go on and on and on about, but I'd just end up repeating myself. Only other thing I'll say on the subject of this book (other than YOU MUST READ THIS!!!) is that it's totally okay to take your time with this book. Read it slowly, soak it in. You'll be glad that you did.
Profile Image for Katy.
310 reviews4 followers
November 1, 2019
I'm not done reading the book yet, so I may update this later. The fact is, if I wasn't reading this book for a book group, I don't think I would go any further, or gotten as far as I have.

The thing I hate the most in this one is how much scripture is quoted. The authers feel like they have to back up every sentance they right with scripture in order to make what they just said okay. To accomplish this they often end up twisting the words of the orginal authors and take things out of context. I hate it when people do this.

The other thing is.. how they betray Christians in terms of boundries.

I will use the example of one of the portriats they present in the book. Apperiently "Debbie" was working weekends at her job and not getting paid. That wasn't her issue. Her issue was that after setting her boundry she felt angery and she was worried about the anger. Who in their right mind would do that? And who would honestly feel guilty about feeling angery about it!?! Honestly to read the book "Boundries" you would think that all Christians are total morans just standing in the middle of the othe highway of life, begging to be run over by a flet of fully loaded 18 wheelers.

I feel like screaming at these people. I guess if you have severe boundry issues and can't say no to anyone for anything, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Nathaniel Turner.
Author 11 books3 followers
April 1, 2015
My wife asked me to read this book, so that she could get my insights on it. I ended up liking the book; I think that it includes valuable information about taking ownership of your own life and divesting yourself of the notion that you can control others, or that your life somehow depends on others. At the same time, the book wasn't without its problems.

Like (almost) everything I review, there were a few typos--mostly the sort of thing that can't be caught by spell-check software (a B instead of an M in "my," for example), and all of them minor (context clues provided the correct meaning easily). But I feel obligated to mention them, all the same.

I found the lack of references in the book particularly jarring. In a lot of ways, "Boundaries" purports to be a scholarly work, something focused on psychological healing and spiritual development, but it doesn't mention any papers, or studies, or journals, or scientific inquiries. The endnotes in the book are reserved for "see also" suggestions. I gather that the authors were working from their own practice, but a few references to a little research would have gone a long way to earn my placidity.

The book contains a very large number of what I call "pastor stories." Probably, these vignettes come from actual examples in the authors' private practice, with the names and details changed to protect patient confidentiality... but they come across as those stories used by pastors to prove a point. You know the ones--anecdotes about people who only have first names, with no clear evidence to suggest that they are factual, but they perfectly (and conveniently) encapsulate the message that the pastor is trying to get across. I don't trust stories like these, and while the clinical experience of the authors lends a little credence to them, I'm still not a fan.

The authors have, in my opinion, an incorrect view of both love and marriage. They assert that love is primarily a feeling, rather than an action (indeed, that action without feeling is worthless in the case of love); this may correspond with their experience, but it implies that a marriage without "that loving feeling" should end. Marriages, while I'm on the subject, are also not relationships of unconditional love, according to the authors. (I do not mean only in practice, for definitely there are countless marriages that are not based on unconditional love, but I mean the authors suggest that marriages should not be so.)

There seems to be a misapprehension of why "work" is "bad" in the modern mind. The authors insist that work existed before the Fall (in a probable misreading of the poetic structure of Genesis 1-3, but I digress), but I am reminded of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes: "It's not work unless somebody makes you do it." The reason "work" is unpleasant is that we define unpleasant tasks as "work." To fill the earth and subdue it may have been a great challenge, and an enormous task, but it wasn't "work" until the Fall. (You may find this a minor nitpick, but you get what you pay for with these reviews, and I don't recall being paid anything.)

In the vein of their "pastor stories," the authors also supply every story in the book with a happy ending. This strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely. Even moreso, I'm surprised that doctors with clinical experience would suggest this result. It's simply not possible that every story ends happily, but the authors imply that, no matter your circumstances, if you simply say "no," to your spouse/friend/parent/self, that person will eventually respect your "no" and become the person you've always wanted them to be. "Emotionally abuse husband? Tell him 'no' a few times and he'll realize what a wonderful person you are and treat you better!" Of course, because no emotionally abusive husbands become physically abusive when their victims exhibit signs of resistance. "Susie told Jack to do his own job and stop making her do it. Her boss figured out that Jack was the problem and told him to shape up. Jack did so, and everyone is happy." Of course, because no one has ever been blamed for somebody else's shoddy work, right?

I just don't see it being possible in every case.

Perhaps my biggest struggle is the authors' tendency to blame absolutely every poor character trait on the parents of the unpleasant person. No one ever made a bad decision for themselves, it seems, but everything bad about you is your parents' fault. Only you can fix it, of course, but they're the ones that made you this way--they didn't teach you good boundaries, or they tried to control you with guilt or anger, or they only looked out for themselves and did not respect your needs or boundaries, or... the list goes on. As a child myself, I can recall times that I made my own bad decisions, and I cannot trace my current problems to my parents. They weren't perfect, of course, but they aren't to blame for all of my hardships. As a parent myself, I find it hard to believe that every bad decision my son makes will rest on my head when judgment day comes--it's just not a reasoned position to take here.

As I said, I eventually ended up liking the book (which may be hard to believe, at this point, but it's true). The final few chapters, especially, have very good points that are important to internalize if you have any boundary problems at all (and most people probably do). The practical advice finally starts kicking in and the nebulous examples take a backseat to a more informative style. There are a lot of insightful directions to help you set boundaries in your life, and it really is useful.

Yet, I must admit sadly, there are even problems in these final sections. For one thing, there are a few glaring omissions from their practical advice and examples--extended family and in-laws come to mind most readily. Both extended family and a spouse's family can be tremendous violators of boundaries, but since they had no effect on your childhood development, they don't get their own chapters (unlike parents, friends, spouses, and self, which can all be traced back to poor parenting by your own folks). The second major problem in this section is assumptions: "Go to your support group," they write, as if support groups were in every church, or grew on trees, and could be trustworthy and reliable wherever they may be found. Assumptions like these make the practical advice more difficult, but other, simpler advice must first be sought out (like How to Find or Develop a Support Group 101).

As I said, I did like the book. I think it's a good resource--but you don't have to read every page and paragraph, either. Look for the good; if you start getting bogged down in it, I don't think you would miss much to skip ahead a few paragraphs, or a chapter. Look for what is most relevant to your situation, and I think you would do well.
Profile Image for Jim.
3 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2008
This book is just a bunch of Christian psycho-babble about how to 'say no'. the author drones on and on with example situations about a working mom driving the kids to soccer practice, being asked to volunteer at church, all the while juggling her career with the needs of her jerk of a husband and bratty / whining kids. Really, it's not much more than a book created to give people excuses for making bad choices in the first place.

the book could be summed up in a few sentences:

1) if you want to have a demanding career, don't choose to have children.

2) if you want to be happy in marriage, choose a spouse who is supportive.

3) if you don't want to be volunteered for your church's building program by fund raising with a cookie drive, don't be 'that person' who always says 'yes'.

4) grow a spine.

5) grow some peaches.

6) grow some walnuts.

the problem i have with this book is that it is the complete opposite of QBQ ... it teaches people how to avoid personal responsibility instead of accepting it.

one more for the wood pile.
Profile Image for Yara Yu.
541 reviews442 followers
April 26, 2023
يا له من كتاب عبقري بحق
هل تعرفون تلك الكتب التي من الممكن أن تغير حياة إنسان .. هذا منهم بالتأكيد
هذا الكتاب موجه للناس المعطاءة بشكل مفرط ... من لا يستطيعون قول لا لأحد علي أي شئ ولا يفكرون أبدأ في أنفسهم .. للذين يحملون نفسهم مسئوليه فرح وحزن الآخرين وينسون أنفسهم .. من يخافون قول لا من أجل مشاعر الآخرين .. من يضاعفون مجهودهم ويحملون أنفسهم أضعاف طاقتها فقط ليسعدوا الآخرين
ليجدوا نفسهم في النهاية مستهلكين مستغلين
من لا يضعون الحدود في حياتهم ولا يعرفوا متي يقولون نعم ومتي يقولون لا
هذا الكتاب بالتأكيد لكم ❤️
Profile Image for Tatiana.
74 reviews
October 4, 2014
Having issues with setting boundaries, I was really excited to start reading this book based on all the wonderful reviews on amazon.com. Imagine my disappointment when I did start and found it utterly ordinary. In fact, it was rather difficult to finish. I feel like half the book was about understanding the different ways you are not setting boundaries. OK, I get it: to find a solution, you need to know the problem. But that was a lot of background.

Then, there are chapters for each type of relation that you may be having issues setting boundaries: with parents, children, spouses, at work, with yourself, and with God. But they were all the same: started off with a story about Nancy and Nick, or Billy and Susan, Janice, Shareen, etc. Then a listing of how boundaries could be a problem in this relationship (didn't we just spend the first 50% of the book going over this?) and finally some ways to address these boundary issues like "you need to know your worth," or "find a support group." In fact, the one thing I did get out of this book is that for me to set boundaries, I need a support group, I can't do it myself.

The book then ends with an example of how setting boundaries makes your life so much better. I understood that, hence my purchasing of this book. In all, rather disappointed by the book.
Profile Image for Nola Tillman.
634 reviews44 followers
July 29, 2008
I listened to this on tape while driving, but I intend to go back and read it (probably more than once) so that it can more thoroughly seep into my head. This is a great book for anyone who has problems saying 'no' to family, friends, church assignments, coworkers, or themselves. It's really good for anyone who has a *RELATIONSHIP* with any of the aforementioned, which is essentially everyone.
FOLLOWUP: I had to return this to the library, without finishing it. I am having a very difficult time with nonfiction books right now, especially ones that inspire me to take notes (I filled up five pages after getting about 2/3rds of the way through). This is definitely a book worth reading, when you can give it your full attention. Unfortunately, I'm in need of more escapism and fun right now than thought-provoking, so I'll have to check it out again at a later date. But it is a fantastic book, and I'm glad I listened to it.
3 reviews10 followers
October 19, 2011
I was hesitant at first to read this book because the synopsis referred to Christians and being that I am not Christian and not seeking to live a Christian lifestyle, I didn't think it would be for me. However, I did start to read the first chapter and soon discovered it was indeed for me. I may not be a Christian, however I was raised Christian therefore learned about boundaries the way Christian see them, a bit too loose and forgiving.

The book may make scripture references but not so much that it threw me off, I could easily skip over the parts that didn't resonate with me. For the most part, the book did a great job identifying our pitfalls with letting others invade our boundaries or refusing to put up any boundaries to begin with. How do people know they have crossed the line if you never drew the line? Or we keep moving the line back to avoid confrontation of a crossed line. This book covers boundaries in every part of life from personal to family to work. I know that others books were written to cover a specific aspect (like Boundaries at Work.) I found this book invaluable to me in helping me identify my lack of boundaries and how to be more assertive when others are going to violate them.

Overall an easy read with a lot of common sense information that some of us may just be in denial about.

Profile Image for Lizzie Jones.
711 reviews15 followers
March 28, 2023

The concepts taught in this book have had a dramatic impact on my life. I first read it ten years ago and since then I've talked about it continually with friends and family. I recommended it to yet another friend a few weeks ago and realized it might be high time for a re-read. It is still as poignant as when I first read it and I consider the information in this book crucial to my emotional intelligence and development. The principles of the law of the harvest and of personal responsibility are still the most valuable takeaways for me all these years later and because these principles are truly foundational to my interactions with others, I have to continue to rate this book 5 stars. It really was an absolute life-changer for me.

However, this book was written in the early 90's and it shows. Some examples and language are outdated. I know they've put out an updated version (this is just the version I have, so it is what I re-read) so I wonder if some of that has changed in their newer book, but be warned that it does feel like a 30 year old book sometimes. Still very applicable, just a little dated. It also can be a little dry as well, though practical. But if boundaries are something you struggle with, this book could potentially change your life like it did mine.
Incredible book. It has helped me so much to consider how to navigate situations at work, at home and in social situations. I highly recommend it, especially if you don't especially love confrontations, like myself.

This is from the book's description: "Often Christians focus so on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limitations. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend offer biblically based insights into how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves."

My dad recommended I read this book when I was in the middle of a difficult friendship. I felt put upon and walked over and didn't know how to change the expectations of this overly needy person in my life. I had assumed that the only option was to love her "as Christ would" and allow her to use my time, resources and patience as she needed. I had also assumed that due to my duty to love her as Christ would, I needed to "turn the other cheek" when she mistreated me or lost her temper, which was happening often. Through reading this, I was able to identify several things that were unhealthy and was given ideas on how to change the relationship while still being loving and consistent.

The book teaches about the law of the harvest and also helped me to understand that God is perfect at setting perfect boundaries. Although the authors are not of my own faith, I was able to apply all that they were expressing to my own beliefs. God is a perfect being who has certain requirements for anyone who wants to be in His company. He welcomes all of His children freely and without constraint but in order to carry the Spirit of the Lord, there are qualifications you must fulfill. This taught me that I can kindly welcome everyone into my life with open arms, so long as they understand that a respect for me, for those I love, and for what is important to me is something I am allowed to expect. It does not make me any less Christlike.
Profile Image for Mary.
87 reviews6 followers
February 11, 2008
This book really helped to clarify for me that it is not selfish or unChristian to get your own life in order using boundaries. Keep pushing forward with defining your boundaries, although others may react negatively. That is their problem with boundaries of others, not yours.
I think the authors secretly spied on me and all my interpersonal relationships to write this book! But seriously, reading this and using my bible as help...lots of scriptural references to how God wants us to set our boundaries so we will be able and available to love/help others. Will definitely keep this as a reference book to go back to and maybe read some sections again.
Profile Image for Relstuart.
1,161 reviews101 followers
January 15, 2016
I took my time reading this one. It's got some pretty powerful questions about how you treat yourself and see yourself in relation to other people in your life.
235 reviews10 followers
December 20, 2008
This is an excellent book. I actually purchased and read a newer edition, with a white and red cover.
This book could apply to many different troublesome situations. If you're a people pleaser that tends to get stressed out, there are some really helpful things in here. Or if you are liable to be taken advantage of.
I like the Christian viewpoint, because it takes into account the fact that followers of Christ WANT to serve others and not be "selfish." Yet it also teaches why we must set boundaries so that we don't "run faster than we have strength."
From a grief point of view, this wasn't as helpful as I had hoped. My therapist said to apply it to internal boundaries. I'm still trying to understand exactly how to do that. . . .
Profile Image for Meredith.
19 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2008
A five-star book for those of us who just san't say no to others. If you need to learn how to distance yourself and protect your family from needy people in a moving way, check it out. It's ok to say no. It's ok to take care of your own needs sometimes!
Profile Image for Milad.
144 reviews19 followers
March 22, 2019
“You must learn how to say no to your friends” told me my beloved aunt a decade ago and gosh it was never easy:D

As a non-believer, I was disappointed when starting reading and honestly I wouldn’t have bought the book in the first place if I had noticed it had been about setting boundaries based on biblical ideology.

That said, the book became more intriguing as I progressed. What’s more, I’m utterly satisfied with its useful information and interestingly, now I wish I had read it earlier. Although it might not give one the ultimate remedy to set boundaries vividly, it clarifies the variety of boundary-difficulty scenarios one might be stuck in considering relationships, family and occupation.

I highly suggest reading it for those who cannot easily say no.
Profile Image for Fadeela.
122 reviews51 followers
April 18, 2014
هو كتاب علم نفس رائع جداً ومفيد يعلمك كيف تصنع الحدود ويعطي أمثلة ونماذج من الحياة ويحلل تصرفات الأشخاص ازاء الحدود وأسباب عدم وجود الحدود. الكتاب من وجهة نظري لغته سهلة وسلسلة بالنسبة لكتب علم النفس لا يحتوي على كلمات معقدة. كما انه يعرض نصوص مسيحية ويناقش رأي الكاتب من وجهة نظره المسيحية ووجهة نظره كمتخصص نفساني انصح بقرائته
Profile Image for Amy.
206 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2019
A lot of really good advice justified by a lot of scripture.
I was raised in the church, not by choice. ;-) So, my biggest takeaways from reading this book are the verses of scripture I can respond with the next time someone attempts to use scripture to guilt me into allowing them to cross healthy boundaries. The holidays with the family are going to be so much more fun now!
Game on! ;-)

***I'm 6 months into establishing more healthy boundaries & I find myself referring to this passage each time I'm met w/resistance to my new healthy boundaries:

“The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem...Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.

“Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.” (p.248)

When someone responds w/anger or irritation that I won't just do what they want or I just won't say "yes" to their request or makes a comment along the lines that my boundaries are too rigid, I now respond with "The boundaries I've established are mine, the issues you have with my boundaries are yours. Your issues are not mine to solve & my boundaries aren't yours to establish."

I've also learned how to walk away from relationships/friendships with people who don't respect & accept my "no" the first or second time I say it. If I have to say "no" more than once or twice, I won't continue to engage w/the person. If you have to say "no" more than twice, you're dealing with a manipulator.
I've found that if you push back w/"No, I don't want to do that but you're more than welcome to do it yourself" you'll see that they're trying to control you because most of the time their response will be along the lines of "No, I don't want to do it" to which I respond "Neither do I. If you're allowed to say "no" then so am I.”
I've found that putting it back on them & asking them why you should do anything that they wouldn't or don't want to do will leave them speechless. There's no valid answer other than "Because I'm controlling & want you to do what I want you to do" & there's no way they're going to admit that out loud.

I didn't expect this to be true but it is:
“One of the first signs that you’re beginning to develop boundaries is a sense of resentment, frustration, or anger at the subtle and not-so-subtle violations in your life. Just as radar signals the approach of a foreign missile, your anger can alert you to boundary violations in your life.”

Establishing healthy boundaries has created an internal radar system that goes into alert when my boundaries aren't respected. If my "no" isn't respected the first time I say it, I start to feel anxious. If I have to say "no" a second time, I start to feel angry at the person for not listening.

I used to really not be able to say "no" if someone made me feel guilty. Now if someone starts to make me feel guilty for saying "no"...I get pissed because I realize their needs aren't my responsiblity & that by trying to guilt me into taking responsibility, they're attempting to manipulate me.
I had someone recently tell me that if I didn't give her a ride to the event, it would be my fault that she didn't get to attend & that she would be really disappointed because she really wanted to attend the event. The icing on the cake was the poor pitiful me comment of "I guess I'll just have to hope that there's another interesting event in the future.”
Nope. Not my responsibility to get a grown adult from point A to point B because she wants to attend the event. If she really wanted to attend the event, she would find her way there via her car, or carpool w someone else, or via one of the following or a combination of the following: bus, train, water taxi, car taxi, Uber, Lyft, horse drawn carriage, bike, Segway, scooter, rollerblades...

One aspect that surprised me that isn't covered in the book as much as I think is necessary is how some people will react to your new boundaries via attacking your mental health. This type of reaction is just as unacceptable & maybe even more insidious than a reaction of anger. The person who can't accept "no" is the unhealthy one, not the person establishing boundaries. Walk the fuck away from anyone who makes comments along the line of "You're boundaries are too rigid" or "You're a completely different person" or "You've changed too much."

If they go after your mental health or use guilt...just walk away...they're not friendship material.

I've learned more from this book than any other book I read in 2019. Highly recommend it if you have bossy controlling people in your life &/or if you struggle with saying "no" & holding firm.
Profile Image for Kelley.
432 reviews6 followers
March 2, 2022
My dear friend gave me this as a gift in a phenomenally difficult season and I knew then that I probably needed it – but it took more than a year for me to get the courage to open it up.

The scenario at the start about took my breath away. From there, I spent a lot of time thinking and learning, not just about myself as an individual (and adult child) but also as a parent. It wasn’t always easy and I wasn’t sure about a few things I read. For example, a couple of Bible verses seemed to be pulled out of their broader context to make a very specific point. And the concluding scenario – a complete 180 from the opening – felt way too neat as a resolution of the struggles we’d just spent 300 pages discussing.

Still, reading this was a necessary difficulty for me, something I’ve been needing to wrestle through for a long time. If no is a hard word for you, if guilt is a regular companion, you may need to be brave and read, too.
Profile Image for Lori L (She Treads Softly) .
2,257 reviews87 followers
September 27, 2011
I've been taking a class this summer on boundaries, based on the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. According to Wikipedia, "Personal Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits. Personal boundaries define you as an individual. They are statements of what you will or won't do, what you like and don't like...how close someone can get to you."

Setting and communicating our personal boundaries to others allows us to protect ourselves. They allow us to separate who we are as unique individuals, including our thoughts and feelings, from others. They prohibit other people from manipulating, abusing, or using us. Boundaries allow us to preserve our individual integrity.

Boundaries also prohibit us from taking responsibility for things that are not our responsibility. "No" is not a bad word. Other people need to understand that their actions have consequences. Setting our own personal boundaries can allow others to experience the consequences of their actions and their choices and prohibit them from blaming us for their actions and choices.

For me, the class has been eye-opening and life-changing. At this point I'm a convert and would suggest that if you have the opportunity to take a class on boundaries, do so - and then start setting them. I'm hardly an expert and could probably benefit from taking the class again in a few months, but at this point I can say with conviction that any abuse, even "just" emotional, is not okay with me and that I am not responsible for the choices and actions of others. I am responsible for my actions and my choices. Boundaries are freeing.
very highly recommended - along with the classes on video


Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.
Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. pg. 29

No is a confrontational word. The Bible says that we are to confront people we love, saying, "No, that behavior is not okay. I will not participate in that." The word no is also important in setting limits on abuse. pg. 34

Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries.... you can remove yourself to get away from danger and put limits on evil. The Bible urges us to separate from those who continue to hurt us and to create a safe place for ourselves. pg. 35

Behaviors have consequences. As Paul says, "A man reaps what he sows" (Gal. 6:7-8). pg. 41

We need to take responsibility for our choices. This leads to the fruit of "self control" (Gal. 5:23). A common boundary problem is disowning our choices and trying to lay he responsibility for them on someone else.... We need to realize that we are in control of our choices....
Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. pg. 42-43

Envy defines "good" as "what I do not possess," and hates the good that it has....what is so destructive about this particular sin is that it guarantees that we will not get what we want and keeps us perpetually insatiable and dissatisfied. pg. 97

To a boundary-injured person, people who can say a clear no sometimes seem curt and cold. But as the boundaries become more firm, curt and cold people change into caring, refreshingly honest people. pg. 273

You will begin to see that taking responsibility for yourself is healthy, and you will begin to understand that taking responsibility for other adults is destructive.
When people are treated as objects for long enough, they see themselves as someone else's property...

Grace must come from the outside for us to be able to develop it inside. The opposite side of this truth is that we can't love when we aren't loved. And, taking the thinking further, we can't value or treasure our souls when they haven't been valued or treasured.
This is a key principle. Our basic sense of ourselves, of what is real and true about us, comes from our significant, primary relationships. pg. 275
Profile Image for booklady.
2,230 reviews65 followers
March 12, 2023
I was surprised just now to discover I had not written a review of this book, which has made such a huge difference in my life.

The first time it was recommended to me was back in 2007 when I was on a pilgrimage, and I admit I was not all that impressed. It seemed like another example of psychobabble. It wasn't until I returned to it seven years later, after another similar relational difficulty that I was willing to admit, "Yes" there are such things as "Boundary Issues" and I have them, as perhaps do many people, to one degree or another.

Some people are lucky enough to instinctively have strong healthy boundaries and so they may never need such a book and others may rely on manipulating others as a mode of life so much they will never want to read this book, but for the rest of us, this book is GOLD!

What I came to see was in any relationship where I feel tension, it is usually due to boundary confusion.

Have you ever felt taken advantage of? Have you ever had someone just cut you off and you had no idea why? Have you ever had someone you could not get rid of? Do you feel tremendous pressure from someone which you cannot satisfy? If so, you probably have had or do have boundary issues.

This is one of those rare books I have bought multiple copies of, but only those with which I had very good stable relationships.
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
June 5, 2019
Most people will say their family of origin was dysfunctional. They struggle with healthy relationships in work, spouse/partner relationships and even with children. This is a book to learn how to be able to define what we missed growing up so we don't repeat our history...

I have probably read this at least 5 times and recommended it to many dozens of people in the last 30 years. This is one of the primary manuals that I think you need to define what a happy future looks like. It will amaze you how applying the principles will enable to communicate expectations with others in a pleasant, rewarding fashion.
Profile Image for Nguyễn Chí Thanh.
20 reviews21 followers
May 12, 2016
Trông chờ dữ lắm rốt cuộc thất vọng bực mình, dị ứng với một nùi mấy câu kinh thánh, đưa vô chục câu thôi còn được, đoạn nào cũng có 1 câu thì sao chịu nổi. Cuốn này chắc hợp với mấy con chiên ngoan đạo, loại vô đạo như mình thật không đọc nổi.
Profile Image for Sarah.
172 reviews4 followers
September 23, 2010
This is a literal story of not judging a book by its cover...

Someone I trust very deeply about such issues recommended I read this book called "Boundaries." When I found it at the library, I was horrified! It looked like a cheesy self-help book, and worse, it had won the Gold Medallion Book Award - "in recognition of excellence in Evangelical Christian literature." Needless to say, I was terrified; in no way do I self-identify as an Evengelical. But like I said before, I trusted this person, so I checked it out and started reading...


I'll just go ahead and say I wasn't much for the "real life examples" they put in the book, but I recognize the need for them in the book. However, that was nearly my only complaint with the book.

Broken into three sections (What are Boundaries?, Boundary Conflicts, and Developing Healthy Boundaries), this books takes the reader through the entire scope of boundaries. We learn how they are formed/neglected in early childhood, why they are good, how they create healthier relationships with ourselves, others, and God, etc. I especially like this book because it is honest. It admits that "the Christian Church" is a major contributor to bad boundaries or boundary-less people, but point out what the Bible really tells us about our boundaries with self, God, and others. It also tells the reader that creating boundaries is not really the most pleasant experience - it will make us happier and better people in the long run - but at first we will have intense feelings (anger, guilt, hurt) that mean we're probably successfully establishing boundaries, and that some so-called "relationships" may be lost in this growing process. It also was helpful because it addressed all human relationships: parents, children, romantic/spouses, and work.

I highly recommend this book to, well, everyone. I don't think there is a person out there who couldn't find something helpful in its pages. I would even recommend it to people who aren't especially religious or adhere to one faith (I'm not "textbook Christian" if there is such a thing, and I ignored the part where they said something complimentary about James Dobson). Biblical references aside, it offers us helpful tools and thoughts for happier, healthier, and more meaningful lives. It's one I will probably revisit many times over the coming years...
Profile Image for Summer Meyers.
628 reviews29 followers
December 25, 2014
The first chapter of the book was awful. It opens with a story about Sherri and she is guilt ridden at every turn, from her mother ("you never have time for a little old lady!"), to her boss ("Could you have these done by tonight?"), to her family ("Whats for dinner?" "You can't make me!" etc etc).

Its pretty much awful.

After reading through that agonizing beginning, the next few chapters for me were like, "YES! YES! YES!". I loved it. I thought this was it! I have this and this problem and this book is going to help me.

About page 80 I had lost my enthusiasm again and could only think "This is a bunch of baloney." What irked me was the extreme examples he gave for people submitting and resenting it (ie not able to say no) and that the only real solution was to say no and to hell with the relationship.

Case in point-- Wife is chronically late. Husband nags and begs his wife to be on time. She doesn't respect his boundaries by not changing and coming on time. Solution? Leave with out her. After doing this a couple of times, she'll come around.

... really?

I get that it is important to protect yourself, to stand up, to say "this is not good for me". But it is also important to preserve your relationship with your spouse and your children and "my way or the highway" is not going to cut it.

eh, interesting read. I did mark a few things that I liked. Otherwise, I'd keep searching on how to say no.
Profile Image for Nora St Laurent.
1,390 reviews74 followers
July 9, 2015

This book changed my life forever. This is a very powerful book that teaches you what boundaries are and how to set them. This book set me free and brought great healing to my life. Some of the principles were hard for me to implement just because of past hurts. But they have made me a happier and healthier person. The concepts are easy to understand and get. I just had to have the courage to let God move in this area of my life. When I did EVERYTHING changed for the good. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Learning what healthy boundaries are gave me hope and wisdom into the God-given gift of boundaries. This insightful book helped set my spirit free to bloom and grow in God’s love!

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com
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