Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992.


Pg 32:  Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads, and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.  The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.


Pg 46:  We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire without acting it out.  We need self-control without repression.


Pg 52: Blocking a child’s ability to say no handicaps that child for life.  Adults with handicaps like Robert’s have this first boundary injury: they say yes to bad things…Compliant people have fuzzy and indistinct boundaries; they “melt” into the demands and needs of other people.  They can’t stand alone, distinct from people who want something from them.


Pg 53: This type of boundary problem paralyzes people’s no muscles. Whenever hey need to protect themselves by saying no, the word catches in their throats.  This happens for a number of different reasons:

  • Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
  • Fear of abandonment and separateness
  • A wish to be totally dependent on another
  • Fear of someone else’s anger
  • Fear of punishment
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
  • Fear of being unspiritual
  • Fear of one’s overstrict, critical conscience (guilt)


Afraid to confront their unbiblical and critical internal parent, they tighten appropriate boundaries.  When we give in to guilty feelings, we are complying with a harsh conscience.  This fear of disobeying the harsh conscience translates into an inability to confront others—a saying yes to the bad—because it would cause more guilt.


Pg 55:  The impermeable boundaries of avoidants cause a rigidity toward their God-given needs.  They experience their problems and legitimate wants as something bad, destructive, or shameful….”Compliant avoidants suffer from what is called “reversed boundaries.”  They have no boundaries where they need them, and they have boundaries where they shouldn’t have them.


Pg 56:  Steve has a problem hearing and accepting others boundaries.  To Steve, no is simply a challenge to change the other person’s mind.  This boundary problem is called control.  Controllers can’t respect others’ limits.  They resist taking responsibility for their own lives, so they need to control others.


Pg 58:  Caring for someone so that they’ll care back for us is simply an indirect means of controlling someone else.  If you’ve ever been on the “receiving” end of that kind of maneuver, you’ll understand.  One minute you’ve taken the compliment, or favor—the next minute you’ve hurt someone’s feelings by not figuring out the price tag attached…Controllers are undisciplined people.  They have little ability to curb their impulses or desires.  While it appears that they “get what they want in life,” they are still slaves to their appetites….They hate the word no.


Pg 59:  They desperately need to learn to listen to the boundaries of others to help them observe their own…controllers are isolated…rarely feel loved.  Because in their heart of hearts.  They know that the only reason people spend time with them is because they are pulling the strings.  If they stopped threatening or manipulating, they would be abandoned.  And, at some deep level, they are aware of their isolation.  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18).  We can’t terrorize or make others feel guilty and be loved by them at the same time.


Pg 60: Remember that boundaries are a way to describe our spheres of responsibility: what we are and are not responsible for.  While we shouldn’t take on the responsibility of others’ feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, we do have certain responsibilities to each other…Connecting emotionally with Brenda is part of loving her as himself…He isn’t responsible for her emotional well-being.  But he is responsible to her.  His inability to respond to her needs is a neglect of his responsibility…”Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (that last phrase, “in your power,” has to do with our resources and availability).  …Again, note the condition: “so far as it depends on you” We can’t bring peace to someone who doesn’t accept it!…We are responsible to care about and help, within certain limits, others whom God places in our lives.  To refuse to do so when we have the appropriate resources can be a boundary conflict.  Nonresponsives fall into one of two groups:

  1. Those with a critical spirit toward others’ needs (a projection of our own hatred of our needs onto others, a problem Jesus addressed in Matthew 7:1-5).  They hate being incomplete in themselves.  As a result, they ignore the needs of others.
  2. Those who are so absorbed in their own desires and needs they exclude others (a form of narcissism).


Pg 61:  God wants us to take care of ourselves so that we can help others without moving into a crisis ourselves….It’s like the old joke about relationships: What happens when a rescuing, enabling person meets a controlling, insensitive person?  Answer: they get married!…Actually, this makes sense.  Compliant avoidants search for someone to repair.  This keeps them saying yes and keeps them out of touch with their own needs.  Who fits the bill better than a controlling nonresponsive?  And controlling nonresponsives search for someone to keep them away from responsibility.  Who better than a compliant avoidant?


Pg 65:  In fact, by noting infants and children in their early parental interactions, child development professionals have (been) able to record the specific phases of boundary development.


Pg 66-67:  She well knew how to be compliant, appreciative, and childlike with her mom.  It was only later, when she became angry, that she knew she’d been taken to task again.  She was beginning to give up hope that things would ever change….No matter how much you talk to yourself, read, study, or practice, you can’t develop or set boundaries apart from supportive relationships with God and others.  Don’t even try to start setting limits until you have entered into deep, abiding attachments with people who will love you no matter what…Our deepest need is to belong, to be in a relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional “home.”…other people outside ourselves to bond with , trust, and go to for support….We are built for relationship.  Attachment is the foundation of the soul’s existence.  When this foundation is cracked or faulty, boundaries become impossible to develop.  Why?  Because when we lack relationship, we have nowhere to go in a conflict.  When we are not secure that we are loved, we are forced to choose between two bad options:

1)      We set limits and risk losing a relationship.

2)      We don’t set limits and remain a prisoner to the wishes of another.


So the first developmental task of infants is to bond with their mom and dad.  They need to learn that they are welcome and safe in the world.  To bond with baby, Mom and Dad need to provide a consistent, warm, loving, and predictable emotional environment for him or her.  During this stage, Mom’s job is to woo the child into entering a relationship with the world—via attachment with her…Bonding takes place when the mother responds to the needs of the child, the needs for closeness, for being held, for food, and for changing.  As baby experiences needs and the mother’s positive response to those needs, he or she begins to internalize, or take in, an emotional picture of a loving, consistent mother….The emotional picture developed by infants forms from thousands of experiences in the first few months of life.  The ultimate goal of Mother’s “being there” is a state called emotional object constancy.  Object constancy refers to the child’s having an internal sense of belonging and safety, even away from the presence of the mother.


Object constancy is referred to in the Bible as “being rooted and established in love…God’s plan for us is to be loved enough by him and others, to not feel isolated—even when we’re alone….building good foundations to withstand the separateness and conflict that comes with boundary development.


Pg 68:  As infants gain a sense of internal safety and attachment, a second need arises.  The baby’s need for autonomy, or independence, starts to emerge.  Child experts call this separation and individuation.  “Separation” refers to the child’s need to perceive him or herself as distinct from Mother, a “not-me” experience.


Pg 69:  Three phases are critical to developing healthy boundaries in childhood: hatching, practicing, and rapprochement.

Hatching: “Mommy and Me Aren’t the Same”  (10 months to 18 months – beginning to walk and use words)

Practicing:  “I Can Do Anything!”   (18 months to 3 years – child comes back to reality while bringing a more separate self into the relationship with parent)

Rapprochement: “I Can’t Do Everything”


Pg 70:  It’s especially hard for women who have never really “hatched” themselves.  They long for nothing but closeness, neediness, and dependency from their baby.  These women often conceive lots of children, or find ways to spend time with very young infants.  They often don’t enjoy the “separating” part of mothering.  They don’t like the distance between themselves and baby.  It’s a painful boundary for Mother, but a necessary one for the child.


Pg 71:  Toddlers feel exhilaration and energy.  And they want to try everything, including walking down steep stairs, putting forks into electric sockets, and chasing cats’ tails.  People like Derek who are stuck in this stage can be lots of fun.  Except when you pop their bubble about their unrealistic grandiosity and their irresponsibility.


Practicers feel that they’ll never be caught.  …What practicing infants need most from parents is a responsive delight in their delight, exhilaration at their exhilaration, and some safe limits to practice.


Pg 72:  The Rapprochement Phase is a return to connection with Mother, but this time it’s different.  This time the child brings a more separate self into the relationship.  There are two people now, with differing thoughts and feelings.  And the child is ready to relate to the outside world without losing a sense of self….Rapprochement toddlers are obnoxious, oppositional, temperamental, and downright angry….Let’s look at some of the tools toddlers use to build boundaries in this stage.

Anger.  Anger is a friend.  IT was created by God for a purpose:  to tell us that there’s a problem that needs to be confronted.  Anger is a way for children to know that their experience is different from someone else’s.  The ability to use anger to distinguish between self and others is a boundary.  Children who can appropriately express anger are children who will understand, later in life, when someone is trying to control or hurt them.


Pg 73:  Ownership.  Sometimes misunderstood as simply a “selfish” stage, rapprochement introduces words to the youngster’s vocabulary such as, mine, my, and me.  Suzy doesn’t want anyone else to hold her doll.  Billy doesn’t want to share his trucks with a visiting toddler.  …having ownership, or stewardship.  …dominion over the earth to subdue and rule it, we are also given stewardship over our time, energy, talents, values, feelings, behavior, money, and all the other things mentioned in chapter 2.  Without a “mine,” we have no sense of responsibility to develop, nurture, and protect these resources.  Without a “mine,” we have no self to give to God and his kingdom.


Children desperately need to know that mine, my, and me aren’t swear words.  With correct biblical parenting, they’ll learn sacrifice and develop a giving, loving heart, but not until they have a personality that has been loved enough to give live away: “We love because he first loved us”


No: the One-Word Boundary:  While it can emerge during hatching, no is perfected during rapprochement.  It’s the first verbal boundary children learn.  The word no helps children separate from what they don’t like.  It gives them the power to make choices.  It protects them.


Pg 74:  Parents have two tasks associated with no.  First, they need to help their child feel safe enough to say no, thereby encouraging his or her own boundaries.  Though they certainly can’t make all the choices they’d like, young children should be able to have a no that is listened to.  Informed parents won’t be insulted or enraged by their child’s resistance.  They will help the child feel that his no is just as loveable as his yes.  They won’t withdraw emotionally from the child who says no, but will stay connected.  One parent must often support another who is being worn down by their baby’s no.  This process takes work!


Pg 75:  A problematic childhood can be helped greatly by lots of hard work in the family during adolescence.  But serious boundary problems during both these periods can be devastating during the adult years.


Pg 76:  Withdrawal from Boundaries (causes boundary injury)


P 77:  Parents need to stay attached and connected to their children even when they disagree with them.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get angry.  It means they shouldn’t withdraw.


When parents pull away in hurt, disappointment, or passive rage, they are sending this message to their youngster: you’re loveable when you behave.  You aren’t loveable when you don’t behave.


Parents who pull away from their child are, in essence, practicing spiritual and emotional blackmail.  The child can either pretend to not disagree and keep the relationship, or he can continue to separate and lose his most important relationship in the world.  He will most likely keep quiet.


Children whose parents withdraw when they start setting limits learn to accentuate and develop their compliant, loving, sensitive parts.  At the same time, they learn to fear, distrust, and hate their aggressive, truth-telling, and separate parts.  If someone they love pulls away when they become angry, cantankerous, or experimental, children learn to hide these parts of themselves.  Parents who tell their children, “It hurts us when you’re angry” make the child responsible for the emotional health of the parent.  In effect, the child has jut been made the parent of the parent—sometimes at two or three years old.  It’s far, far better to say, “I know you’re angry, but you still can’t have that toy.”  And then to take your hurt feelings to a spouse, friend, or the Lord.  By nature, children are omnipotent.  They live in a world where the sun shines because they were good, and it rains because they were naughty.


Pg 78:  When children feel parents withdrawing, they readily believe that they are responsible for Mom and Dad’s feelings.  That’s what omnipotent means:  “I am powerful enough to make Mom and Dad pull away.  I’d better watch it.”


Hostility Against Boundaries (causes boundary injury)

The parent becomes angry at the child’s attempts at separating from him or her.  Some parents will say to the child, “You’ll do what I say.”  This is fair enough.  God meant for parents to be in charge of children.  But then they’ll say, “And you’ll like doing it.”  This makes a child crazy, because it’s a denial of the separate soul of the child.


Pg 79:  Discipline is the art of teaching children self-control by using consequences.  Irresponsible actions should cause discomfort that motivates us to become more responsible.


Pg 87:  The Ten Laws of Boundaries: #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping can be interrupted.  And it is often people who have no boundaries who do the interrupting.  Just as we can interfere with the law of gravity by catching a glass tumbling off the table, people can interfere with the Law of Cause and Effect by stepping in and rescuing irresponsible people.  Rescuing a person from the natural consequences of his behavior enables him to continue in irresponsible behavior.  The Law of Sowing and Reaping has not been repealed.  It is still operating.  But the doer is not suffering the consequences; someone else is.


Establishing boundaries helps codependent people stop interrupting the Law of Sowing and Reaping in their loved one’s life.  Boundaries force the person who is doing the wowing to also do the reaping.


Pg 88:  Confronting an irresponsible person is not painful to him; only consequences are….Codependent people bring insults and pain onto themselves when they confront irresponsible people.  In reality, they just need to stop interrupting the law of sowing and reaping in someone’s life.


#2: The Law of Responsibility:  Anytime you are not loving others, you are not taking full responsibility for yourself; you have disowned your heart. Problems arise when boundaries of responsibility are confused.  We are to love one another, not be one another.  I can’t feel your feelings for you.  I can’t think for you.  I can’t behave for you.  I can’t work through the disappointment that limits bring for you.  In short, I can’t grow for you; only you can.  Likewise, you can’t grow for me…”Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”


Pg 89: If we were down and out, helpless and without hope, we would certainly want help and provision.  This is a very important side of being responsible “to.”


#3:  The Law of Power:  The Twelve Steps and the Bible teach that people must admit that they are moral failures.  Alcoholics admit that they are powerless over alcohol; they don’t have the fruit of self-control.  They are powerless over their addiction, much like Paul was:  “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hat I do…For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin and work within my members”…This is powerlessness.  John says that we are all in that state, and that anyone that denies it is lying (1 John 1:8).


You [do] have the power to agree with the truth about your problems.


Pg 90:  You may not be able to change it yet, but you can confess…You always have the power to ask for help and yield.  You have the power to humble yourself and turn your life over to him.  You may not be able to make yourself well, but you can call the Doctor!  …If you do what you are able—confess, believe, and ask for help—God will do what you are unable to do—bring about change (1 John 1:9; James 4:7-10; Matt. 5:3, 6)…you can see your sinful parts as aspects that you want to change.


You have the power to humble yourself and ask God and others to help you with your developmental injuries and leftover childhood needs.  Many of your problematic parts come from being empty inside, and you need to seek God and others to have those needs met.


You have the power to seek out those that you have injured and make amends.  You need to do this in order to be responsible for yourself and your sin, and be responsible to those you have injured.  Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”  On the other side of the coin, your boundaries help define what you do not have power over: everything outside of them!


Pg 91:  You cannot change others.  More people suffer from trying to change others than from any other sickness.  And it is impossible.  What you can do is influence others.  But there is a trick. Since you cannot get them to change, you must change yourself so that their destructive patterns n longer work on you….Another dynamic that happens when you let go of others is that you begin to get healthy, and they may notice and envy your health. They may want some of what you have.  One more thing. You need the wisdom to know that is you and what is not you.  Pray for the wisdom to know the difference between what you have the power to change and what you do not.


Law #4:  The Law of Respect: One word comes up again and again when people describe their problems with boundaries: they.  “But they won’t accept me if I say no.”  But they will get angry if I set limits.”  “But they won’t speak to me for a week if I tell them how I really feel.” We fear that others will not respect our boundaries.  We focus on others and lose clarity about ourselves.  Sometimes the problem is that we judge others’ boundaries.  WE say or think things such as this:


“How could he refuse to come by and pick me up?  It’s right on his way!  He could find some ‘time alone’ some other time.”

“That’s so selfish of her to not come to the luncheon. After all, the rest of us are sacrificing.”

“What do you mean, ‘no’?  I just need the money for a little while.”

“It seems that, after all I do for you, you could at least do me this one little favor.”


Pg 92:  We judge the boundary decisions of others, thinking that we know best how they “ought” to give, and usually that means “they ought to give to me the way I want them to!”  When we judge others’ boundaries, ours will fall under the same judgment (by ourselves)…This sets up a fear cycle inside that makes us afraid to set the boundaries that we need to set.  As a result, we comply, then we resent, and the “love” that we have “given” goes sour…We need to love the boundaries of other sin order to command respect for our own.  We need to treat their boundaries the way we want them to treat ours….If we are walking in the Spirit, we give people the freedom to make their own choices…Our real concern with others should not be “Are they doing what I would do or what I want them to do?” but “Are they really making a free choice?”


Pg 93:  The Bible says that true love leads to a blessed state and a state of cheer.  Love brings happiness, not depression.  If your loving is depressing you, it’s probably not love.


Stan learned that a lot of his “doing” and sacrificing was not motivated by love but by fear.  Stan had learned early in life that if he did not do what his mother wanted, she would withdraw love from him.  As a result, Stan learned to give reluctantly. His motive for giving was not love, but fear of losing love.  Stan wa also afraid of other people’s anger.  Because his father frequently yelled at him when he was a boy, he learned to fear angry confrontations.  This fear kept him from saying no to others.  Self-centered people often get angry when someone tells them no. Stan said yes out of fear that he would lose love and that other people would get angry at him. These false motives and other keep us from setting boundaries:

  1. Fear of loss of love, or abandonment…They give to get love, and when they don’t get it, the feel abandoned.
  2. Fear of others’ anger.
  3. Fear of loneliness.
  4. Fear of losing the “good me” inside…Many people cannot say, “I love you and I do not want to do that.” Such a statement does not make sense to them.  They think that to love means to always say yes.
  5. Guilt
  6. Payback
  7. Approval
  8. Overidentification with the other’s loss


Pg 94:  If your giving is not leading to cheer, then you need to examine the Law of Motivation.: Freedom first, service second.  If yt9ousever to get free of your fear, you are doomed to failure.


Pg 95:  #6 The Law of Evaluation


Pg 97: We need to be honest with one another about how we are hurt.  “Speak truthfully to [your] neighbor, for [you] are all members of one body” (Eph.4.25).  As iron sharpens iron, we need confrontation and truth from others to grow.


#7 The Law of Proactivity:  Many of us have known people who, after years of being passive and compliant, suddenly go ballistic, and we wonder what happened…they have been complying for years, and their pent-up rage explodes.  This reactive phase of boundary creation is helpful, especially for victims.  They need to get out of the powerless, victimized place in which they may have been forced by physical and sexual abuse, or by emotional blackmail and manipulation.  We should herald their emancipation….It is crucial for victims of abuse to feel the rage and hatred of being powerless, but to be screaming “victim rights” for the rest of their lives is being stuck in a “victim mentality.”


Pg 98:  Proactive people show you what they love, what they want, what they purpose, and what they stand for.  These people are very different from those who are know by what they hate, what they don’t like, what they stand against, and what they will not do…proactive people do not demand rights, they live them.  Power is not something you demand or deserve, it is something you express. The ultimate expression of power is love; it is the ability not to express power, but to restrain it….Do not try to get to freedom without owning your reactive period and feelings.  You do not need to act this out, but you do need to express the feelings.  You need to practice and gain assertiveness. You need to get far enough away from abusive people to be able to fence your property against further invasion.  And then you need to own the treasures you find in your soul.


Pg 99:  Spiritual adulthood has higher goals than “finding yourself.”  A reactive stage is a stage, not an identity.  It is necessary, but not sufficient.


Law #8: The Law of Envy

Envy defines “good” as “what I do not possess,” and hates the good that it has…But 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. …The problem with envy is that it focuses outside our boundaries, onto others….This time and energy needs to be spent on taking responsibility for their lack and doing something about it.


Pg 100:  We can envy a person’s character and personality, instead of developing the gifts God has given us…These people are all negating their own actions and comparing themselves to others, staying stuck and resentful.


Pg 101:  Your envy should always be a sign to you that you are lacking something.  At that moment, you should ask God to help you understand what you resent, why you do not have whatever you are envying, and whether you truly desire it.  Ask him to show you what you need to do to get there, or to give up the desire.


Law #9: The Law of Activity

The sad thing is that many people who are passive are not inherently evil or bad people.  But evil is an active force, and passivity can become an ally of evil by not pushing against it.  Passivity never pays off.


Pg 102:  God will match our effort, but he will never do our work for us.  That would be an invasion of our boundaries.


But he will not enable passivity.  God’s grace covers failure, but it cannot make up for passivity.  We [have] to do our part….God wants us to preserve our souls. That is the role of boundaries; they define and preserve our property, our soul….Our boundaries can only be created by our being active and aggressive, by our knocking, seeking, and asking.


Pg 103:  We secretly resent instead of telling someone that we are angry about how they have hurt us.  Often, we will privately endure the pain of someone’s irresponsibility instead of telling them how their behavior affects us and other loved ones, information that would be helpful to their soul.


Pg 104:  When our boundaries are in the light, that is, are communicated openly, our personalities begin to integrate for the first time.  They become “visible,”…Healing always takes place in the light.


Pg 105:  The land to which he has brought you has certain realities and principles.  Learn these as set forth in his Word, and you’ll find his kingdom a wonderful place to live.


Pg 107:  Appropriate boundaries actually increase our ability to care about others.


Pg 108:  Selfishness has to do with a fixation on our own wishes and desires, to the exclusion of our responsibility to love others….Jesus told us to “Ask…seek…knock.”  We are to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.  Even knowing that “it is God who works in [us],” we are our own responsibility…This is a very different picture than many of us are used to.  Some individuals see their needs as bad, selfish, and at best, a luxury.


Pg 109:  Our spiritual and emotional growth is God’s “interest” on his investment in us.  When we way no to people and activities that are hurtful to us, we are protecting God’s investment.  As you can see, there’s quite a difference between selfishness and stewardship.


People who have shaky limits are often compliant on the outside, but rebellious and resentful on the inside.


Pg 115:  We all need more than God and a best friend.  We need a group of supportive relationships. The reason is simple: having more than one person in our lives allows our friends to be human.  To be busy.  To be unavailable at times.  To hurt and have problems of their own.  To have time alone….When we’ve taken the responsibility to develop several supportive relationships in this biblical fashion, we can take a no from someone.  Why?  Because we have somewhere else to go.


Pg 116:  Fear tells us to move away from danger, to be careful.  Sadness tells us that we’ve lost something—a relationship, an opportunity, or an idea.  Anger is also a signal.  Like fear, anger signals danger…anger is a sign that we need to move forward to confront the threat…Anger tells us that our boundaries have been violated…angry feelings serve as an “early warning system,” telling us we’re in danger of being injured or controlled.


Pg 117:  individuals with injured boundaries often are shocked by the rage they feel inside when they begin setting limits.  This is generally not “new anger”—it’s “old anger.”  It’s often years of nos that were never voiced, never respected, and never listened to…It’s very common for boundary-injured people to do some “catching up” with anger.  They may have a season of looking at boundary violations of the past that they never realized existed.


Pg 118:  As you develop better boundaries, you have less need for anger.  This is because in many cases, anger was the only boundary you had.  Once you have your no intact, you no longer need the “rage signal.”


Pg 119:  Don’t fear the rage you discover when you first begin your boundary development.  It is the protest of earlier parts of your soul.  Those parts need to be unveiled, understood, and loved by God and people.  And then you need to take responsibility for healing them and developing better boundaries….The more biblical our boundaries are, the less anger we experience!


Pg 121:  When we have a person we can’t take no from, we have, in effect, handed over the control of our lives to them.  All they have to do is threaten withdrawal, and we will comply….The controller continues withdrawing whenever he or she is displeased.  And the boundaryless person continues frantically scrambling to keep him or her happy.


Pg 122:  Some people become so accustomed to others rescuing them that they begin to believe that their well-being is someone else’s problem.


Pg 123:  One of the major obstacles to setting boundaries with others in our lives is our feelings of obligation.  What do we owe not only our parents, but anyone who’s been loving toward us?  Many individuals solve this dilemma by avoiding boundary setting with those to whom they feel an obligation.  In this sense, they can avoid the guilty feelings that occur when they say no to someone who has been kind to them….because we have received something, we owe something.  The problem is the nonexistent debt.  The love we receive, or money, or time—or anything which causes us to feel obligated—should be accepted as a gift.

“Gift” implies no strings attached.  All that’s really needed is gratitude.


Pg 138:  we need to forsake our allegiance to our original family and become adopted by God.  God commands us to look to him as our father and to have no parental intermediaries.  Adults who are still holding an allegiance to earthly parents have not realized their new adoptive status…Do these ties keep us from doing the right thing in any situation? And Have we really become an adult in relation to our family of origin?…If we are not “under guardians and managers” as adults, we can make truly adult decisions, having control over our own will, subject to our true Father.


Pg 139:  Where have you lost control of your property?  Identify those areas and see their connection with the family you grew up in, and you are on your way…You cannot stop acting out a dynamic until you understand what you are doing…See yourself as the problem and find your boundary violations….Maybe we are still entangled because of a need to be loved, or approved of, or accepted.  You must face this deficit and accept that it can only be met in your new family of God, those who are now your true “mother, father, brothers, and sisters,” those who do God’s will and can love you the way he designed…god is willing to meet your needs through his people, but you must humble yourself, reach out to a good support system, and take in the good.


Pg 140:  learn to respond to and receive love, even if you’re clumsy at first.   …When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him forever.


Pg 141:  If you do not forgive, you are demanding something your offender does not choose to give, even if it is only confession of what he did….If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain control of yourself so family members can’t force you to do or say something you do not want to do or say and something that violates your separateness.  When you have kept your boundaries, choose the best option.  The difference between responding and reacting is choice.  When you are reacting, they are in control.  When you respond, you are.


It is good to sacrifice and deny yourself for the sake of others.  But you need boundaries to make that choice….Doing good for someone, when you freely choose to do it, is boundary enhancing.  Codependents are not doing good; they are allowing evil because they are afraid.


Pg 143:  Friends are symbols of how meaningful our lives have been.  The saddest people on earth are those who end their days with no relationships in which they are truly known and truly loved….But for our purposes, let’s define friendship as a nonromantic relationship that is attachment-based rather than function-based.  In other words, let’s exclude relationships base on a common task, like work or ministry.  Let’s look at friendship as comprising people we want to be around just for their own sake.


Pg 144:  The result of two compliants’ interacting is that neither does what he really wants….One symptom of a compliant/compliant conflict is dissatisfaction—a sense that you allowed something you shouldn’t have.


Pg 145:  …they each control the other by being nice…need to have supportive relationships to plug into…Their fear of hurting the other person makes it difficult for them to set boundaries on their own.


Pg 146:  The compliant needs to see that he isn’t a victim of the aggressive controller; he is volunteering his power to his friend on a silver platter.  Giving up his power is his way of controlling his friend.  The compliant controls the aggressive controller by pleasing her, hoping it will appease her and cause her to change her behavior. The aggressive controller needs to own that she has difficulty listening to no and accepting the limits of others.


Pg 147:  He sets limits to let her know that her control hurts him and wounds their friendship. Such limits protect the compliant from further hurt.  The aggressive controller can become as angry or intimidating as she wants, but the compliant won’t be around to get hurt.  He will be out of the room, the house, or the friendship—until it’s safe to come back….if both friends are open, the two can renegotiate the relationship.


Pg 151:  We do need more than fair-weather friends.  However, Scripture teaches us that we can’t depend on commitment or sheer willpower, for they will always let us down….Simply white-knuckling it won’t reestablish the relationship…The answer is being in relationship with Christ, both vertically and horizontally.  As we stay connected to God, to our friends, and to our support groups, we are filled up with the grace to hang in there and fight out the boundary conflicts that arise. Without this external source of connection, we’re doomed to an empty willpower that ultimately fails or makes us think we’re omnipotent….being loved leads to commitment and willful decisionmaking—not the reverse.


Pg 152:  It’s scary to realize that the only thing holding our friends to us isn’t our performance, or our lovability, or their guilt, or their obligation.  The only thing that will keep them calling, spending time with us, and putting up with us is love.  And that’s the one thing we can’t control…as we enter more and more into an attachment-based life, we learn to trust love….in a good relationship, we can set limits that will strengthen, not injure, the connection.


Pg 153:  What does this mean for the person whose boundaries have been injured:  Often, she brings immature, undeveloped aspects of her character to an adult romantic situation.  In an arena of low commitment and high risk, she seeks the safety, bonding, and consistency that her wounds need.  She entrusts herself too quickly to someone whom she is dating because her needs are so intense….This healing can best be found in nonromantic arenas, such as support groups, church groups, therapy, and same-sex friendships.


Pg 154:  …truth-telling in romance helps define the relationship.


Pg 158: Where boundaries can get confusing is in the elements of personhood—the elements of the soul that each person possesses and can choose to share with someone else.  The problem arises when one trespasses on the other’s personhood, when one crosses a line and tries to control the feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, and values of the other.  These things only each individual can control.  To try to control these things is to violate someone’s boundaries, and ultimately, it will fail.  Our relationship with Christ—and any other successful relationship—is based on freedom…the ability of each to take responsibility for his or her own feelings.


Pg 159:  …the wife had been nagging her husband about the way he was and about the way he should be.  He responded by blaming her and justifying his actions…they had continued to talk past each other…We do not communicate our feelings by saying, “I feel that you…”  We communicate our feelings by saying, “I feel sad, or hurt, or lonely, or scared, or…” such vulnerability is the beginning of intimacy and caring….Jim and Susan did not solve their problem by her simply expressing her anger to him.  She needed to go one more step.  She needed to clarify her desires in the conflict.


Pg 160:  The difference is that you wouldn’t be wanting something that he didn’t want to give. Your disappointed desire is what hurts you, not his being late.  The problem lies in who is responsible for the want.  It is your want, not his.  You are responsible for getting it fulfilled.  That is a rule of life.  We do not get everything we want, and we all must grieve over our disappointments instead of punish others for them.”…Problems arise when we make someone else responsible for our needs and wants, and when we blame them for our disappointments….Problems arise when we blame someone else for our own lack of limits.


Pg 161:  Any time you spend doing things for her is a gift from you; if you do not want to give it, you don’t have to.  Stop blaming her for all of this….Bob didn’t like that.  He wanted her to stop wanting instead of his learning to say no.


Pg 162:  It is important that she learns that you are not going to take responsibility for her wants.  You’re going to give as you choose, and she is responsible for the rest…But over time, Bob took responsibility for his limits instead of wishing that Nancy would not want so much, and his limits took effect.  She learned something that she had never learned before: the world does not exist for her….and we must negotiate a fair and loving relationship and respect each other’s limits…only we can be responsible for drawing that line.


Pg 165:  …a boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person…Only these kinds of boundaries are enforceable, for you do have control over yourself….It is giving up control and beginning to love… You are giving up trying to control your spouse and allowing him to take responsibility for his own behavior…the need for revealing your boundaries is important…Boundaries need to be communicated first verbally and then with actions.  They need to be clear and unapologetic.  Remember the types of boundaries we listed earlier: skin, words, truth, physical space, time, emotional distance, other people, consequences.  All of these boundaries need to be respected and revealed at different times in marriage.


Pg 166:  Physical Space.  When you need time away, tell your spouse.  Sometimes you need space for nourishment; other times you need space for limit setting….communicate clearly so your spouse does not feel as though he is being punished, but knows he is experiencing the consequences of his out-of-control behavior.


Time.  Each spouse needs time apart from the relationship.  Not just for limit setting, as we pointed out above, but for self-nourishment.


Pg 167:  Spouses in healthy relationships cherish each other’s space and are champions of each other’s causes.


Pg 168:  Does she have free choice, or is she a slave “under the law”?  Many marital problems arise when a husband tries to keep his wife “under the law,” and she feels all the emotions the Bible promises the law will bring: wrath, guilt, insecurity, and alienation….When the wife begins to set clear boundaries, the lack of Christlikeness in a controlling husband becomes evident because the wife is no longer enabling his immature behavior.


Pg 169:  “Every marriage is made up of two ingredients, togetherness and separateness.  In good marriages, the partners carry equal loads of both of those.  Let’s say there are 100 points of togetherness and 100 points of separateness.  In a good relationship, one partner expresses 50 points of togetherness and 50 points of separateness, and the other does the same.  They both do things on their own, and that creates some mutual longing for the other, and the togetherness creates some need for separateness.  But in your relationship, you have divided the 200 points differently.  You are expressing all the 100 together points, and he is expressing the 100 points of separateness.”


Pg 170:  “If you want him to move toward you,” I continued, “you need to move away from him and create some space for longing.  I don’t think Paul ever gets a chance to miss you.”…If someone does not have boundaries and begins to do another’s work for him, such as creating all the togetherness in the relationship, that person is on the road to codependency or worse.  The other partner will live out the opposite side of the split.  Boundaries keep partners accountable through consequences and force the balance to become mutual.


Pg 171:  Boundaries are not built in a vacuum.  We need bonding and support before we build boundaries; the fear of abandonment keeps many people from setting boundaries in the first place…You have not set boundaries because you are afraid; the only way out is though support.


Pg 172:  Forgive.  To not forgive is to lack boundaries.  Unforgiving people allow other people to control them.  Setting people who have hurt you free from an old debt is to stop wanting something from them; it sets you free as well…figure out what you want to do, set your curse, and stick to it.  Decide what your limits are, what you will allow yourself to be a party to, what you will no longer tolerate, and what consequences you will set.  Define yourself proactively, and you will be ready to maintain your boundaries when the time comes.


Pg 181:  All this time and energy translates into an enduring attachment, in which the child learns to feel safe in the world….skills such as saying no, telling the truth, and maintaining physical distance need to be developed in the family structure to allow the child to take on the responsibility of self-protection.


Pg 182:  He learned to resist things that weren’t good for him….permission to disagree…practice disagreeing with people who were important to him without losing their love.  He didn’t fear abandonment in standing up against his friends.


Pg 183: She would send guilt messages, such as “How can you say no to your mom who loves you?”  His dad would get angry, threaten him, and say things like, “Don’t talk back to me, Mister.”  It didn’t take long for Paul to learn that to have his way, he had to be externally compliant.  He developed a strong yes on the outside, seeming to agree with his family’s values and control.  Whatever he thought about a subject—the dinner menu, TV restrictions, church choices, clothes, or curfews—he stuffed inside…. “Someday you’ll feel sorry for hurting your mother’s feelings like that.”  Paul was being trained to not set limits….Paul seemed to be a content, respectful son….the first people he said no to were his parents—at twelve years old…Resentment and the years of not having boundaries were beginning to erode the compliant, easy-to-live-with false self he’d developed to survive.


Pg 184:  Janice didn’t understand her own God-given, legitimate needs.  She had no vocabulary for this thinking… “If I were in your shoes, I know what I’d need.  I’d really need to know that you people in this room cared for me, that you didn’t see me as a colossal, shameful failure, and that you’d pray for me and let me call you on the phone this week for support.”…Something about her friend’s empathic statement touched her in a place she couldn’t herself touch.  And she allowed the comfort that comes from others who have been comforted to take its place inside her….Our limits create a spiritual and emotional space, a separateness, between ourselves and others.  This allows our needs to be heard and understood.  Without a solid sense of boundaries, it becomes difficult to filter out our needs from those of others.  There is too much static in the relationship.  When children can be taught to experience their own needs, as opposed to those of others, they have been given a genuine advantage in life….When children have permission to ask for something that goes against the grain—even thought hey might not receive it—they develop a sense of what they need.


  • Allow them to talk about their anger
  • Allow them to express grief, loss, or sadness without trying to cheer them uop and talk them out of their feelings.
  • Encourage them to ask questions and not assume your words are the equivalent of Scripture
  • Ask them what they are feeling when they seem isolated or distressed; help them put words to their negative feelings.  Do not try to keep things light for a false sense of cooperation and family closeness…We must allow our children to experience the painful consequences of their own irresponsibility and mistakes.


Pg 209:  You only have the power to change yourself.  You can’t change another person.  You must see yourself as the problem, not the other person.,  To see another person as the problem to be fixed is to give that person power over you and your well-being.  Because you cannot change another person, you are out of control.  The real problem lies in how you are relating to the problem person.  You are the one in pain, and only you have the power to fix it.


Pg 216:  For overeaters, food serves as a false boundary.  They might use food to avoid intimacy by gaining weight and becoming less attractive.  Or they might binge as a way to get false closeness.  For bingers, the “comfort” from food is less scary than the prospect of real relationships, where boundaries would be necessary.


Pg 217:  The problem of our financial outgo exceeding our input is a self-boundary issue.


Pg 219:  Their internal no hasn’t been developed enough to keep them focused on finishing things.


Pg 220:  she drew her breaths n the middle of her sentences, rather than at the end.  That kept people sufficiently off-balance so that she was rarely interrupted…he who holds his tongue is wise.  A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.


Pg 221:  “restrain” refers to “the free action of holding back something or someone.  The actor has the power over the object.  It’s a boundary-laden term.  We have the power to set boundaries on what comes out of our mouths….Our saying, “I didn’t mean that,” is probably better translated, “I didn’t want you to know I thought that about you.”  We need to take responsibility for our words.  “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken….The individual caught up in an out-of-control sexual behavior generally feels deeply isolated and shameful.  This keeps what is broken in the soul sequestered in the darkness—out of the light of relationship with God and others, where there can be neither help nor resolution….sexual boundarylessness becomes a tyrant, demanding and insatiable.


Pg 222:  Why doesn’t our no work on ourselves?  We are [sometimes] our own worst enemies.


Pg 223:  our instincts have been to withdraw from relationship when we’re in trouble, when we most need other people.


Pg 224:  Grace must come from the outside of ourselves to be useful and healing.  We can sustain neither life nor emotional repair without bonding to God and others.  We need to be “joined and held together by every supporting ligament” of the body of Christ to heal and to grow up.


  1. We try to use willpower to solve our boundary problems.


Pg 225:  The willpower approach is simple.  Whatever the problem behavior is, just stop doing it.  In other words, “just say no.”  Imperatives such as “Choose to stop,” “Decide to say no,” and “Make a commitment to never do it again” about in this approach.  The problem with this approach is that it makes an idol out of the will, something God never intended….Will is only strengthened by relationship; we can’t make commitments alone….The boundaryless part of the soul simply becomes more resentful under the domination of the will—and it rebels.  Especially after we make statements such as, “I will never” and “I will always,” we act out with a vengeance.


Pg 226:  …may have learned that out-of-control behavior brings relationship.  The family came together when the alcoholic member drank….Some people use their tongues to keep other people at bay.


Pg 227:  We all need love during the first few years of life.  If we don’t receive this love, we hunger for it for the rest of our lives.  This hunger for love is so powerful that when we don’t find it in relationships with other people, we look for it in other places, such as in food, in work, in sexual activity, or in spending money….Food addictions and compulsive spending are often reactions against strict rules….They may abuse substances to distract from the real pain of being unloved, unwanted, and alone.  If they were to stop using these disguises, their isolation would be intolerable….our body conflicts may not be all our fault.  They are, however, our responsibility….It’s useless to try to deal with your boundary conflicts with yourself until you’re actively developing safe, trusting, grace-and-truth relationships with others….disconnected from God’s source of spiritual and emotional fuel.  Plugging in to other people is often frustrating for “do-it-yourself” people who would like a how-to manual for solving out-of-control behaviors.


Pg 228:  They wish to get this boundary-setting business over with quickly…many people with self-boundary struggles are also quite isolated from deep relationship…they have to take what they think are steps backward to learn to connect with others.  Connecting with people is a time-consuming, risky, and painful process.  Finding the right people, group, or church is hard enough, but after joining up, admitting your need for others may be even more difficult.  Do-it-yourself people will often fall back into a cognitive or willpower approach, simply because it’s not as slow or as risky.  They’ll often say things like, “Attachment is not what I want.  I have an out-of-control behavior, and I need relief from the pain!”  Though we can certainly understand their dilemma, they’re heading toward another quick-fix dead end….isolation guarantees spiritual vulnerability.  It’s only when our house is full of the love of God and others that we can resist the wiles of the Devil.  Plugging in is neither an option, nor a luxury; it is a spiritual and emotional life-and-death issue….Here are some ways to begin practicing setting boundaries on yourself.


Pg 229:  Address your real need….Their fear of being faced with those kinds of emotionally laden situations may cause them to use food as a boundary….They learn to ask for help for the real problem—not just for the symptomatic problem…The recurrence of destructive patterns is evidence of God’s sanctifying, maturing, and preparing us for eternity.  We need to continue to practice to learn things.  The same process that we use to learn to drive a car, swim, or learn a foreign language is the one we use for learning better self-boundaries.  We need to embrace failure instead of trying to avoid it.  Those people who spend their lives trying to avoid failure are also eluding maturity…People who are growing up are also drawn to individuals who bear battle scars, worry furrows, and tear marks on their faces.  Their lessons can be trusted, much more than the unlined faces of those who have never failed—and so have never truly lived…you need others who will let you know about it in a caring way.  Many times, you are unaware of your own failures.  Sometimes you may not truly understand the extent of the damage your lack of boundaries causes in the lives of those you care about.  Other believers can provide perspective and support.


Pg 230:  “Keith,” his friend said, “Several times I’ve asked you about the money I lent you.  I still haven’t heard from you.  I don’t think you’re intentionally ignoring my requests.  At the same time I wanted to let you know that your forgetfulness has been hard on me.  I had to cancel a vacation because I didn’t have the money.  Your forgetfulness is hurting me, and it’s hurting our friendship.”…When others in our support system let us know how our lack of self-boundaries hurts them, we are motivated by love, not by fear… This kind of confrontation builds an empathy-based morality, a love-based self-control.


Pg 231:  You need others who will be loving and supportive, but who will not rescue…Generally speaking, friends of people with self-boundary problems make one of two errors:

1)      They become critical and parental.  When the persona has failed, they adopt an “I told you so” attitude, or say things like, “Now, what did you learn from your experience?” This encourages the person to either look elsewhere for a friend (no one needs more than two parents), or simply avoid the criticism, instead of learning from consequences…restore him gently…Replace this parental position with gentle restoration, understanding that “there but for the grace of God go I.”


2)      They become rescuers…They hold up the entire dinner for the latecomer, instead of going ahead with the meal.  Rescuing someone is not loving them.  God’s love lets people experience consequences…”I’m sorry you lost another job this year, but I won’t lend you any more money until you’ve paid back the other loan.  However, I’m available to talk to for support.”…The manipulator will resent the limits and quickly look for an easier touch somewhere else.


Pg 233:  Trust, the ability to depend on ourselves and others in times of need, is basic spiritual and emotional survival need.  We need to be able to trust our own perceptions of reality and to be able to let significant people matter to us.


Pg 234:  Victims often lose a sense of trust because the perpetrator was someone they knew as children, someone who was important to them.  When the relationship became damaging to them, their sense of trust became broken…In fact, victims often feel that they are public property—that their resources, body, and time should be available to others just for the asking…They take on badness that isn’t theirs.  They begin believing that the way they were treated is the way they should be treated.


Pg 235:  Boundaries and God…But to us, the Bible is a living book about relationship.


Pg 236:  The Bible clarifies those boundaries so that we can begin to see who should do what in this labor of love…God respects our boundaries in many ways.  First, he leaves work for us to do that only we can do…He is not willing for any of us to perish and takes no pleasure in our destruction… but he wants us to change for our own good and his blory…he respects our no…When people say no, he allows it and keeps on loving them….The prodigal son was direct and honest: “I do not want to do it your way.  I’m going to do it my way.”  We are more often like the second son in the parable of the two sons in the vineyard.  We say yes, but we act out no.  God prefers honesty. “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.”


Pg 237:  In the safety of grace, which was allowing him to see himself as he really was, he began to regret who he was…In our deeper honesty and ownership of our true person, there is room for expressing anger at God.


Pg 238:  Many people who are cut off from God shut down emotionally because they feel that it is not safe to tell him how angry they are at him.  Until they feel the anger, they cannot feel the loving feelings underneath the anger….People abandoned us or attacked us when we told them how we really felt.  Rest assured, however, that God desires truth in our “inner parts.”  He is seeking people who will have a real relationship with him.  He wants to hear it all, no matter how bad it seems to us.  When we own what is within our boundaries, when we bring it into the light, God can transform it with his love.


We call people ad because they do not do what we want them to do.  We judge them for being themselves, for fulfilling their wishes.  We withdraw love from them when they do what the feel is best for them, but it is not what we want them to do.


Pg 239:  Job expressed his anger and dissatisfaction with God, and God rewarded his honesty.  But Job did not “make God bad,” in his own mind.  In all of his complaining, he did not end his relationship with God.  He didn’t understand God, but he allowed God to be himself and did not withdraw his love from him, even when he was very angry with him.  This is real relationship…”No, I do not choose to love you in the way that you want right now.  I choose to love you with my presence.”


Pg 242:  There is no unity without distinct identities, and boundaries define the distinct identities involved.


Pg 245:  That we should be obedient to God, who tells us to set and maintain boundaries, is certainly the best reason….what is right is also good for us.


Pg 246:  We have to fight for our healing as well…Part of this process of healing is regaining our boundaries…The battles fall into two categories: outside resistance and inside resistance—the resistance we get from others and the resistance we get from ourselves.


Pg 247:  She learned through the next few weeks that others were going to fight hard against her limits and that she needed to plan how she was going to fight back.  If she did that, the chances of their changing were pretty good.  In fact, that is exactly what happened.  Her husband finally learned that he could no longer “have it his way” all the time and that he needed to consider other people’s needs as well as his own….People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem.  Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort.  They see others as extensions of themselves…It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others.  They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves.


Pg 248:  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.  If you do not realize this, you may think you have a 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.  Second, you must view anger realistically.  Anger is only a feeling inside the other person.  It cannot jump across the room and hurt you.  It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important.  Let the anger be in the other person.  He will have to feel his anger to get better.  If you either rescue him from it, or take it on yourself, the angry person will not get better and you will be in bondage.  Third, 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.


Pg 249:  “I will not allow myself to be yelled at.  I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me….” People with poor boundaries almost always internalize guilt messages leveled at them; they obey guilt-inducing statements that try to make them feel bad.


Pg 252:  “Sounds like life is hard right now. Tell me about it.”…Be a listener, but don’t take the blame…  “Sounds like you are feeling lonely, Mom.”  He would make sure she hears that he hears the feeling beneath the guilt message.


Pg 253:  Others have what psychologists call “character disorders”; they don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions and lives.  When their friends and spouses refuse to take responsibility for them, they move on.  When you count the cost of the consequences, as difficult or as costly as they seem, they hardly compare to the loss of your “very self.”…Is the “cross you must pick up” worth it to you for your “very self?”  For some, the price is too high.  They would rather continue to give in to a controlling parent or friend than to risk the relationship.


Pg 254:  They would rather continue to give in to a controlling parent or friend than to risk the relationship….Setting the limit is not the end of the battle.  It is the beginning.


Pg 255:  you limit setting may nudge them toward responsibility…blamers have a character problem.  If they make it sound as though their misery is because of your not giving something to them, they are blaming and demanding what is yours…Listen to the nature of other people’s complaints; if they are trying to blame you for something they should take responsibility for, confront them.


Pg 256:  Learn what your limits are, give what you have “decided in your heart” to give, and send other people in need to those who can help them.  Empathize with thee people’s situations.  They often need to know that you see their needs as valid and that they really do need help.  And pray for them.  This is the most loving thing you can do for the pain and needs around you that you can’t meet.


Pg 257:  You need to clearly communicate that, while you have forgiven her, you do not trust her yet, for she has not proven herself trustworthy. There has not been enough time to see if she really is going to change.


Pg 260:  To start to say no to a controlling parent is to get in touch with the sadness of what you do not have with them, instead of still working hard to get it.  This working hard keeps you away from the grief and keeps you stuck.  But accepting the reality of who they are and letting go of ht wish for them to be different is the essence of grief.  … “if only I would try harder instead of confronting his perfectionistic demands, he will like me.”  Or, “if only I would give in to her wishes and not make her angry, she will love me.”  Giving up boundaries to get love postpones the inevitable: the realization of the truth about the person, the embracing of the sadness of that truth, and the letting go and moving on with life.    Let’s look at the steps you need to take to face this internal resistance:

1)      Own your boundarylessness.  Admit that you have a problem.  Own the fact that  if you are being controlled, manipulated, or abused, the problem is not that you are with a bad person and your misery is their fault.  The problem is that you lack boundaries.  Don’t blame someone else.  You are the one with the problem.

2)      Realize the resistance.  You may think, “oh, I just need to set some limits,” and that you are then on the road to getting better.  If it were this easy, you would have done it years earlier.  Confess that yo do not want to set boundaries because you are afraid.  You sabotage your freedom because of inside resistance.

3)      Seek grace and truth.  As in every other step in the process, you cannot face these hard truths in a vacuum.  You need the support of others to help you own up to your internal resistance and also to empower you to do the work of grief.  Good grief can only take place in relationship.  We need grace from God and others.

4)      Identify the wish.  Behind the failure to set limits is the fear of loss.  Identify whose love you are going to have to give up if you choose to live.  Place a name on it.  Who are you going to have to place on the altar and give to God?…you get stuck in your “affections,” your ties to people you need to let go of.

5)      Let go.  In the safety of your supportive relationships, face what you will never have from this person, or who this person symbolizes.  This will be like a funeral.  You will go through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, acceptance.  You may not necessarily go through these stages in this order, but you will probably feel all these emotions.  This is normal…. To let go of what you never had is difficult.  But in the end you will save your life by losing it.  Only God can fill the empty place with the love of his people and himself.

6)      Move on.  The last step in grieving has to do with finding what you want.  “See, and you will find.”  God has a real life out there for you if you are willing to let go of the old one.  He can only steer a moving ship, though.  You have got to get active and begin to seek his good for you…All of your attempts to preserve the old life were taking a lot of energy and opening you up to a lot of abuse and control.  Letting go is the way to serenity. Grief is the path.


Pg 262:  Each of the two partners who had feared the anger of the other man came from homes where anger was used to control; the third partner had never been exposed to that tactic.  As a result, the latter had good boundaries.  They elected him to meet with the president of the other company/ He confronted the man, saying that if he was able to get over his anger and wanted to work with them, fine.  But if not, they would go somewhere else…They acted like he was the only person in the world that they could depend on, and so his anger frightened them…If angry people can make you lose your boundaries, you probably have an angry person in your head that you still fear.  You will need to work through some of the hurt you experienced in that angry past…You need love to allow you to let go of that angry parent and stand up to the adults you now face.


Pg 263:  Being controlled by others is a safe prison…The Bible has many stories about people called by God out of the familiar to an unknown land.  And he promises them if they will step out on faith and live his way, he will lead them to a better land.


Pg 264:  It may comfort you to know, that if you are afraid, you are possibly on the right road—the road to change and growth….You will have mixed emotions as you let go of the old and familiar and venture out into the new…Prayer gets us in touch with the one in whom our security lies.  Lean on God and ask him to lead your future steps.


Pg 265:  Learn from the witness of others.  Research and experience has shown that it is very hopeful to get with other people who are struggling and who have gone through what you have gone through.  This is more than support.  It is being able to hear the stories of people who have been there, who have been scared, but who can witness to the fact that you can make it…God was faithful to them…  Have confidence in your ability to learn.  There is nothing that you are presently doing that you did not have to learn.  At one time the things you are now able to do were unfamiliar and frightening…you can learn.   People who have strong fears about the unknown have a strong need to “know everything” beforehand, and no one ever knows how to do something before they do it.


Pg 266:  Many depressed people suffer from a syndrome called “learned helplessness,” in which they have been taught that whatever they do will make no difference on the outcome.  Many dysfunctional families caught in destructive cycles reinforce this in their children….you do not have to stay stuck in the helplessness you learned at home.   You can learn new patterns of relating and functioning; this is the essence of the personal power God wants you to have…Often when you have to make a change or go through a loss, you find that your fear or sadness seems greater than the situation warrants.  Some of these heightened emotions may come from past separations or memories of change.


Make sure that you find someone with wisdom and begin to see if the fear and pain you are feeling as you face the present is coming from something unresolved in the past….Rework the past and do not let it become the future….For many people life changes are unbearable because of the loss of structure they entail…Internal structure will come from creating boundaries, following the steps in this book.  In addition, gaining new values and beliefs, learning new spiritual principles and information, having new disciplines and plans and sticking to them, and having others listen to your pain are all structure building.


Pg 267:  Set a certain time every day to call a friend, schedule weekly meeting times with your support group, or join a regular Bible study or a twelve-step support group.  In chaotic times, you may need some structure around which to orient your new changes.  As you grow, and the change is not overwhelming, you can begin to give up some structure….Hope is rooted in memory.  We remember getting help in the past and that gives us hope for the future….look back into your life and remember how he has intervened, the situations from which he has delivered you, the ways that he has come through for you…If he has let you down or it seems that he has never done anything for you, allow him to start now.


“To err is human, to forgive is divine.”  And to not forgive is the most stupid thing we can do.  Forgiveness is very hard.  It means letting go of something that someone “owes” you.  Forgiveness is freedom from the past; it is freedom from the abusive person who hurt you.


Pg 268:  The Bible compares forgiving people to releasing them from a legal debt.  …Attempts at collection may take many forms.  You may try to please them to help them pay you back.  You think that if you do a little something more, they will pay their bill and give you the love they owe….You think that if they just understood, they would make it better.  They would pay what they owe….the problem is that things will get resolved in only one way: with grace and forgiveness.  An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth does not work.  The wrong can never be undone.  But it can be forgiven and thereby rendered powerless…. To forgive means we will never get from that person what was owed us.  And that is what we do not like, because that involves grieving for what will never be: The past will not be different.  For some, this means grieving the childhood that never was.  For others it means other things, but to hang on to the demand is to stay in unforgiveness, and that is the most destructive thing we can do to ourselves.


Pg 269:  Limits guard my property until someone has repented and can be trusted to visit again.  And if they sin, I will forgive again, seventy times seven.  But I want to be around people who honestly fail me, not dishonestly deny that they have hurt me and have no intent to do better.  That is destructive for me and for them.  If people are owning their sin, they are learning through failure.  We can ride that out.  They want to be better, and forgiveness will help. But if someone is in denial, or only giving lip service to getting better, without trying to make changes, or seeking help, I need to keep my boundaries, even though I have forgiven them.


Forgiveness gives me boundaries because it unhooks me from the hurtful person, and then I can act responsibly, wisely.  If I am not forgiving them, I am still in a destructive relationship with them. Gain grace from God, and let others’ debts go.  Do not keep seeking a bad account. Let it go, and go and get what you need from God and people who can give.  That is a better life.  Unforgiveness destroys boundaries.  Forgiveness creates them, for it gets bad debt off of your property. Remember one last thing.  Forgiveness is not denial.  You must name the sin against you to forgive it.


External Focus (BLAME):  People tend to look outside of themselves for the problem.  This external perspective keeps you a victim.  It says that you can never be okay until someone else changes.  This is the essence of powerless blame.  It may make you morally superior to that person (in your own thinking, never in reality), but it will never fix the problem.  Face squarely the resistance to looking at yourself as the one who has to change.  It is crucial that you face yourself, for that is the beginning of boundaries.


Pg 270:  Guilt:  It is a state of internal condemnation.  It is the punitive nature of our fallen conscience saying, “You are bad.”  It is the state Jesus died for, to put us into a state of “no condemnation.”…Scripture teaches that we are to be out from under condemnation and that guilt should not be a motivator of our behavior.  We are to be motivated by love, and the resulting emotion that comes out of love when we fail is “godly sorrow”


[guilt feelings] can appear when we have not done anything wrong at all, but have violated some internal standard that we have been taught.  We have to be careful about listening to guilt feelings to tell us when we are wrong, for often, the guilt feelings themselves are wrong.  In addition, guilt feelings are not good motivators anyway.  It is hart to love from a condemned place.  We need to feel not condemned, so that we can feel “godly sorrow” that looks at the hurt we have caused someone else, instead of how “bad” we are.  Guilt distorts reality, gets us away from the truth, and away from doing what is best for the other person.


Pg 271:  If you have been raised in a family that said implicitly or explicitly that your boundaries are bad, you know what I am talking about…If you do not rescue someone who is irresponsible, you feel guilty….Guilt will keep you from doing what is right and will keep you stuck….the guilt is your problem.  May people without boundaries complain about how ‘so and so makes me feel guilty when I say no,” as if the other person had some sort of power over them.  This fantasy comes from childhood, when your parents seemed so powerful…A part of you agrees with the message because it taps into strong parental messages in your emotional brain.  And that is your problem; it is on your property, and you must gain control over it.  See that being manipulated is your problem, and you will be able to master it.

1)      Own the guilt.

2)      Get into your support system.

3)      Begin to examine where the guilt messages come from.

4)      Become aware of your anger.

5)      Forgive the controller

6)      Set boundaries in practice situations with your supportive friends, then gradually set them in more difficult situations.  This will help you to gain strength as well as gain the supportive “voices” you need to rework your conscience….new information that will become the new guiding structures in yoru head instead of the old voices.


Pg 272:  Acquire guilt.  This may sound funny, but you are going to have to disobey your parental conscience to get well.  You are going to have to do some things that are right but make you feel guilty.  Do not let the guilt be your master any longer.  Set the boundaries, and then get with your new supporters to let them help you with the guilt….You need the new connections to internalize new voices in your head.  Do not be surprised by grief.  This will be sad, but let others love you in that process.  Mourners can be comforted.


Abandonment Fears: Taking a Stand in a Vacuum:  Remember from the developmental section in Chapter 4 that boundaries come after bonding.  God designed the learning process this way.  Babies must be secure before they learn boundaries so that learning separateness will not be frightening, but new and exciting.  Children who have good connections naturally begin to set boundaries and move away from others.  They have enough love inside to risk setting boundaries and gaining independence…Many people stay in destructive relationships because they fear abandonment.  They would rather have no boundaries and some connection than have boundaries and be all alone. …People often vacillate between compliance and isolation.  Neither is healthy or sustainable for very long.


Pg 273:  They repeatedly say that the understanding support they received in the program fueled them to do the hard things they had never been able to do….Running into resistance is a good sign that you are doing what you need to do.  It will be worth it…. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”


Pg 276:  Step #1: Resentment—Our Early-Warning Signal


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….Will teasing Randy.  Will humiliating Randy in front of friends.  Will taking Randy for granted.  Will taking advantage of Randy….Our inability to get angry is generally a sign that we are afraid of the separateness that comes with telling the truth.  We fear that saying the truth about our unhappiness with someone will damage the relationship.  But when we acknowledge that truth is always our friend, we often give ourselves permission to be angry… “ Do I have permission to feel angry when I’m controlled by others? Am I aware when I’m being violated? Can I hear my early-warning signal?” …. As you are better able to be honest about differences and disagreements, you will be better able to allow your anger to help you.


Pg 278:    Step #2:  A Change of Tastes—Becoming Drawn to Boundary-Lovers


People with immature limit-setting abilities often find themselves involved with “boundary-busters.”… As boundary-injured individuals begin developing their own boundaries, however, a change occurs.  They become attracted to people who can hear their no without being critical.  Without getting hurt.  Without personalizing it.  Without running over their boundaries in a manipulative or controlling fashion.  People who will simply say, “Okay—we’ll miss you.  See you next time.” ….And when we find relationships in which we have freedom to set limits, something wonderful happens.  In addition to the freedom to say no, we find the freedom to say a wholehearted, unconflicted, gratitude-driven yes to others.  We become attracted to boundary lovers, because in them, we find permission to be honest, authentic, loving individuals…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….We need to join with boundary loves in deep, meaningful attachments.  …As we make connections involving asking for support and understanding with these people, God gives us, through them, the grace and power to do the hard work of limit setting.


Pg 280:  Step #3: Joining the Family

We begin developing close and meaningful connections with people who have clear boundaries.  We begin either growing in boundaries in our present relationships, or finding new attachments in which to invest, or both.


Pg 281:  It is this very combination of his


Step #4:  Treasuring Our Treasures


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 some else’s property.  They don’t value self-stewardship because they relate to themselves the same way that significant others have related to them.  Many people are told over and over again that nurturing and maintaining their souls is selfish and wrong….Grace must come from the outside for us to be able to develop it inside….we can’t value or treasure our souls when they haven’t been valued or treasured.


Pg 282:  …not be able to shake a deep sense of being worthless and unlovable, no matter how much people try to show them their lovability….All I knew was that someone wanted something from me, and I felt it was my duty to give it to them—for no other reason than that they wanted it!  I felt that I had no say-so in the matter….Helen had not been treasured by one of the people who should have treasured and cherished her most.  As a result, she did not reassure herself….She had no sense that her body and feelings were a “pearl of great value,” given to her by God, which she was to protect and develop….Taking care of themselves becomes important.


Pg 283:  Whatever we don’t value, we don’t guard.  The security around a bank is significantly tighter than that around a junkyard!


Step #5: Practicing Baby No’s


Pg 284: Growth in setting emotional boundaries must always be at a rate that takes into account your past injuries.  Otherwise, you could fail massively before you have solid enough boundaries.


Pg 285: Step #6: Rejoicing in the Guilty Feelings


As strange as it may seem, a sign that you’re becoming a boundaried person is often a sense of self-condemnation, a sense that you’ve transgressed some important rules in your limit setting…They struggle to make value-based decisions on their own, but they most often reflect the wishes of those around them.  And even though they can be surrounded by supportive boundary lovers, they still experience trouble setting limits….The culprit here is a weak conscience, or an overactive and unbiblically harsh internal judge…extremely self-critical—and inaccurate—conscience.  They feel that they are transgressing when they aren’t…Because of this overactive judge, the boundary-injured individual often has great difficulty setting limits…The conscience moves into overdrive, as its unrealistic demands are being disobeyed.  This rebellion against honest boundaries is a threat to the parental control of the conscience.  It attacks the soul with vigor, hoping to beat the person into submitting again to its untruthful do’s and don’ts.


Pg 286:  In a funny way, then, activating the hostile conscience is a sign of spiritual growth.


Step #7: Practicing Grownup No’s


Our real target is maturity—the ability to love successfully and work successfully, the way God does.  This is the goal of becoming more like Christ…Boundary setting is a large part of maturing.  We can’t really love until we have boundaries—otherwise we love out of compliance or guilt.  And we can’t really be productive at work without boundaries; otherwise we’re so busy following others’ agendas that we’re doubleminded and unstable…The goal is to have a character structure that has boundaries and that can set limits on self and others at the appropriate times.


Pg 287:  Sometimes the large no will precipitate a crisis…The truth will expose the divisions in relationships.


Step #8: Rejoicing in the Absence of Guilty Feelings


You can take this step now that you have shifted allegiance spiritually and emotionally.  You have changed from listening to your internal parent to responding to the biblical values of love, responsibility, and forgiveness.


Step #9: Loving the Boundaries of Others

Pg 288:  If we expect others to respect our boundaries, we need to respect theirs for several reasons….Loving others’ boundaries confronts our selfishness and omnipotence. When we are concerned about protecting the treasures of others, we work against the self-centeredness that is part of our fallen nature.  We become more other-centered….Loving others’ boundaries increases our capacity to care about others.


Pg 289:  Step #10: Freeing Our No and Our Yes


…house parents in a children’s home…“There are two ways you can start off with kids: first, you can say yes to everything.  Then, when you start putting limits on them, they’ll resent you and rebel.  Or you can begin with clear and strict limits.  After they get used to your style, you can loosen up a little.  They’ll love you forever.”…The lesson you need to learn is not to promise too much before you have done your spiritual and emotional calculations.


Step #11: Mature Boundaries—Value-Driven Goal Setting


Pg 292:  But does life interrupt the process of the person with mature boundaries: Won’t there be trials, complications, and people wanting me on their track and not God’s?  Absolutely….There will be all sorts of resistances to our boundaries and goals.  But the person with mature limits understands that, makes room for that, allows for that.  And he or she knows that, should it be needed, a no is waiting inside the heart—ready to use.  Not for an attack.  Not to punish another.  But to protect and develop the time, talents, and treasures that God has allocated to us during our three-score and ten years on this planet.


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