Boundaries Book Summary - Boundaries Book explained in key points
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Boundaries summary

Henry Cloud and John Townsend

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

4.4 (610 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is a self-help book that teaches readers how to set healthy boundaries, both with themselves and with others. Through real-life stories and practical advice, they show how boundaries can lead to healthier relationships and a more fulfilling life.

Table of Contents

    Boundaries
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Setting boundaries is an act of kindness.

    Walls, fences, No Trespassing signs: when you think about it, your physical environment is delimited by all kinds of concrete boundaries. What’s more, those boundaries exist for good reason. That barbed wire fence around a nuclear power plant? It’s there for your own protection – it prevents you from inadvertently wandering into a hazardous zone.

    Boundaries are just as necessary for your emotional and spiritual protection. Unlike physical boundaries, however, emotional and spiritual boundaries aren’t laid out in a way that’s clear to everyone. That can make it difficult to establish your own boundaries and to discern those of others. Worse, enforcing your boundaries can make you feel mean. But it shouldn’t.

    The key message here is: Setting boundaries is an act of kindness.

    When you set a boundary, you take ownership of your needs, wants, and feelings. Yet when we do this and prioritize ourselves, we often feel like we’re neglecting those of others.

    Let’s be clear: setting healthy boundaries doesn’t mean you have no stake in other people’s problems or spiritual concerns. It simply means that you’re not solely responsible for them. As the Bible’s book of Galatians teaches, you are responsible to others but for yourself.

    Still confused by this distinction? We can unpack it with the example of a hypothetical family. Let’s call them the O’Rileys.

    The O’Riley’s are a loving family, but their son James has lost his way. He’s been expelled from school and developed a drug problem.

    The O’Riley’s can take responsibility for their son’s issues by enrolling him in another school and paying the fines when he’s busted for drug possession. But will James solve his problem? Unlikely. Functionally, he doesn’t even have a problem – his parents have shouldered it for him.

    Alternatively, the O’Riley’s could own their responsibility to their son without taking responsibility for his problems. They can listen to him, support him, and take steps to facilitate his sobriety – all without stepping in to solve his problems for him. The O’Riley’s are taking care of themselves by setting those boundaries. But they’re also taking care of James. Setting boundaries is not just an act of kindness toward yourself. It’s an act of love toward everyone around you.

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    What is Boundaries about?

    Boundaries (1992) is a handbook for those who can’t say no, those who won’t take no for an answer, and everyone in between. Grounded equally in Christian faith and contemporary psychology, this book is an eloquent argument for the emotional and spiritual necessity of firm, healthy boundaries.

    Boundaries Review

    Boundaries (1992) is a book that explores the importance of setting boundaries in our personal and professional lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Practical guidance: It offers actionable advice on how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries, helping us improve our relationships and take care of ourselves.
    • Real-life examples: The book uses relatable stories to illustrate the consequences of our boundary-related choices, allowing us to better understand the impact of setting and respecting boundaries.
    • Engaging perspective: With its engaging storytelling, the book keeps us captivated from start to finish, making it an enjoyable and enlightening read.

    Who should read Boundaries?

    • Doormats who let others walk all over them;
    • Emotionally unavailable people who never let anyone in; and
    • Martyrs who do everything for others but accept no help in return.

    About the Author

    Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist and leadership expert. Dr. John Townsend is a business consultant, leadership coach, and psychologist. Separately, each has authored multiple books on leadership and psychology. Together, they are co-authors of the New York Times best-selling Boundaries and leaders of the acclaimed GrowthSkills workshop series.

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    Boundaries FAQs 

    What is the main message of Boundaries?

    The main message of Boundaries is that setting healthy boundaries is essential for personal growth and healthy relationships.

    How long does it take to read Boundaries?

    The reading time for Boundaries varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Boundaries a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Boundaries is a valuable read for anyone looking to improve their personal and professional life. It offers practical insights and actionable steps for setting and maintaining boundaries.

    Who is the author of Boundaries?

    The authors of Boundaries are Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

    What to read after Boundaries?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Boundaries, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab
    • How to Stay Sane by Philippa Perry
    • Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
    • Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean
    • The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
    • The Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban
    • The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
    • 12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson
    • The Power of a Positive No by William Ury