Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

You know those “A-Ha” moments where you learn something that you wish you knew twenty years ago; this book is filled – cover to cover- with those. “Boundaries” is a wonderful must read book about relationships. From friends to co-workers, to family, marriage and everything in between, this book brings unbelievable perspective to daily life, including (and what I consider most importantly) to how you view yourself. A central message in the book is personal responsibility.
            For me, I did not grow up in the most nurturing of environments. My mother chose to place a priority on her career over family and my father was a hard lined disciplinarian, the phrase, “Because I said so” echoes in my head to this day. Through my upbringing, I learned to be compliant as well as rebel, to keep any and everyone away from really knowing me because I had become comfortable and used to keeping myself from having real relationships with anyone. However, this book showed me that regardless of the time, situation and background, as an adult, I am responsible to how I react and carry myself day to day. Yes the past and everything in it happened, but as an adult I have the choice whether to continue with the unhealthy way I was taught (intentional or unintentionally) to be in relationships, or to choose for myself.
            Up to now I do not have the relationships that I would like with any of my immediate family members. Any time I talk with my parents, the bulk of conversation hovers around sports topics and nothing of substance. With one brother there has been no relational contact for almost ten years, with the other I feel a pressure and burden of not being “Christian” enough. And with my sister, we talk on rare occasion and not nearly as much as I would like to. In retrospect this is not how I pictured my family relationships to be at the age of 26. In each case with all of their intricacies and complexities, one constant remains and was pointed out by reading, “Boundaries,” that I approach each of these relationships like a scared 8 year old child, unwilling to “rock the boat” i.e. make things worse, and I have not asserted who I am nor what I stand for as an individual to any of these people.  
            This is the beauty of, “Boundaries.” Establishing personal boundaries with people you interact with, allows you to re-assess what is important to you in your life and filters out the garbage. In the coming weeks, months and years, I will be conveying to my loved ones what I want most out of our relationships: to have a real one. This will certainly cause hurt feelings and have the ingredients for combustible scenarios, but continuing a façade for the rest of my life, now that brings harm to the other person, and most importantly myself. But whether, through the help of a loving support network and a heart seeking genuine relationships, they accept or reject my drive to have real relationships, at least it will be honest. And through this process I can let go of all past hurts and hang ups that I have carried with me through all of my life, and finally forgive and become the person that I want to become.
            “Boundaries” also has inspired me to establish and build a loving support network of people that will respect my individuality, and in turn I learn to respect theirs. In the coming months, my wife and I will be participating in small groups at our local church, as well as attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University for the first time in a group setting. Through these programs I will be reaching out to find like minded people to hopefully build a webbed support network for real relationships. “Boundaries,” it’s all about becoming the best version of yourself.

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