Book Review: Boundaries

Once a month I review a book – usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk reading!

Has anyone ever trespassed on your property?

photo by Paul Englefield

photo by Paul Englefield

Not much fun, is it? A sprinkler of ours hooks up to the side of our house. Neighborhood kids think they’re awesome in front of their friends when they take it upon themselves to “help us out.” They come into our yard and turn off our sprinkler when it’s on, or vice versa. They could find worse mischief, but it’s not theirs to mess with. I feel really old when I get annoyed about this.

On the flip side, what’s on our property is our responsibility. A couple of shrubs beg for a good haircut. The house could use new paint. It’s up to us. The neighborhood kids sure won’t do it for us. Not their job.

And that’s the message of Boundaries, a recent-classic, non-fiction book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Rating: 4 mochas out of 5

You might like this if you like: Anything by Henry Cloud, The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

What it’s about: It examines when to say yes and when to say no. …And knowing what’s our “property” (responsibility) and what we have no business shouldering ourselves. For instance, if I give money (yet again) to a friend who spends it all on, say, buying chinchillas instead of paying her rent, am I doing myself or her (or the chinchillas) any favors? Or, if I slack at work and expect a willing coworker to fill the gaps, am I owning my responsibilities?

The goal is to manage our personal resources so that we can serve and love the way God wants us to. The alternative is what so many experience every day: feeling used up, run over, and burned out, with nothing left to give anyone.

What I liked: I’ll be honest: I’m picky about which non-fiction books I read, no matter the topic. I want to make sure I’m not opening my mind and heart to an author whose beliefs are off-center, to put it nicely. Nationally-recognized leaders have talked up this book for a long time. Even so, I hesitated. And then I took the plunge this summer.

I’m so glad I did.

This is the kind of book that confirms some things you knew deep down but don’t always feel the permission to acknowledge. …That it’s okay not to put yourself in harm’s way with someone untrustworthy, even though you’ve forgiven them. It’s not unkind.

Or, it’s okay (and necessary) to step up to do the things you know God wants you to do. He’ll equip you to fulfill the responsibilities He’s handpicked for you.

This book is saturated with Scriptures used appropriately. I like that and find it refreshing.

I wasn’t crazy about: There wasn’t much I disliked. The authors’ approach stems from a counseling/therapy background, so many of the examples hail from the counseling office or support group settings. They can tend toward deep-seated problems. However, the advice proves useful for everyday life. Practical suggestions can be applied immediately.

The bottom line: I plan to reread this every couple of years, which I don’t say often about any book. I’d recommend this for adults of every age and situation. Even if you don’t take every piece of advice to heart, my bet is that more than once you’ll recognize yourself in these pages and find something you’ll want to put into practice.

Your turn: Do you think people, in general, struggle with boundaries in some way? On a different note, confession time: Did you ever cause mischief in your neighborhood?