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Based on my experiences of pastoral counseling during my 28 year pastoral career, the most common issue faced by people revolves around giving and receiving forgiveness. But running a close second is confusion over boundaries.

According to Boundaries by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud, co-authors of a book entitled “Boundaries,” published in 1992, by Zondervan, “having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.” A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible and not responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. As Christians, we want to be loving and unselfish in our relationships with others, but how do we keep from being overrun by the unhealthy demands and expectations of people who are unable or unwilling to assume responsibility for their own lives? What about our own limits and limitations as human beings? Christians struggle with questions like: Can I set limits and still be a loving person? What are legitimate boundaries? What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries? How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? Aren’t boundaries selfish? Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?

In their book, “Boundaries,” Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves. This book was published 16 years ago but I still recommend it regularly for people who are seeking help in this area. I have used it in a church-wide video teaching format and recommended it for private use. Feedback has been extremely positive as to the helpfulness of its content. “Boundaries” comes with a workbook by the same title for those who wish to delve more deeply and practically into setting clear and healthy boundaries in their own lives, while still obeying Christ’s command to love one another generously and sacrificially. I highly recommend this book and it is available for online purchase. – MAJ