Boundaries Book Study: Session One

boundaries_fron_prooftWelcome to our first week of Book Club, where we will discuss the first two chapters of Boundaries. I’ll share my thoughts, and then please add yours!

Chapter One is basically the in-action example of what it looks like to live without Boundaries. Poor Sherrie, I could feel her pain. While I didn’t necessarily identify with every aspect of her exhausting, over-taxed existence, there were certainly paragraphs that had me nodding in conviction. Yes, yes! I see those tendencies in myself!

My takeaway from the first chapter is: I can’t wait to see how Sherrie gets her life in order. And I found myself very excited and hopeful about what this book will offer. As chapter one says, “we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”

And I appreciate how well the author points out that part of the problem here is not when a person is trying to be rude or self-centered; it’s a false responsibility we as Christians put on ourselves to be kind or generous or flexible in a way that we really can’t afford to be. As fictional Sherrie shows us: “In her desire to do the right thing, or to avoid conflict, she ends up taking on problems that God never intended her to take on…”

Chapter Two examines what a boundary actually is, what a boundary looks like and what falls within those boundaries. At the heart of this chapter is the explanation that boundaries are not walls — they are designed to keep the good in and keep the bad out. I love this — having boundaries isn’t about closing yourself off from the rest of the world. This isn’t about being an island to protect yourself from being hurt or “used.” And in fact, as the chapter points out, we need others to help us as we navigate what our boundaries are. “Creating boundaries always involves a support network.”

There are good examples of what different kinds of boundaries look like, explaining that a boundary helps you differentiate you from someone else, where you begin and end.

One key part of this chapter for me (among the many phrases I underlined) was the idea that many people have been taught “by their church or family that boundaries are unbiblical, mean or selfish.” I was reflecting on this and couldn’t decide if it was anything I’ve ever been “taught” but certainly something I’m working to find balance in. I think it’s very easy to get caught up in a discernment process of saying yes or operating in a way that makes us uncomfortable because we want to be “loving.” But boundaries — understanding where we begin and end — is about being willing to act on the feelings/discernment of knowing our limits. I think another big challenge, area of misdirected kindness, is putting up with some relationships that are painful because of a “can do all things in Christ” attitude, as in Jesus will give me the grace to deal with difficult people. And of course we can to a degree, but thank you God for personal freedom and using the brain God has given us. Which can sometimes be hard to do. Part of having boundaries is being able to identify those situations that rob us of our peace, and finding how we can realistically relate to difficult people.

Now a word about feelings…I kind of think of feelings as a bad thing (at times). As in, I don’t want to make decisions based purely on feelings, and don’t want to allow my feelings to dictate my outlook on life. I appreciate what Chapter Two has to say about feelings — lots to think about there.

There are a lot of “things” going on within our boundaries and it’s our responsibility to learn to deal with the many facets of being “Me” — and let other people deal with theirs. What a relief! Just the knowledge that the only person I can control is myself, and while I can’t fix other people, I have the freedom to allow my boundaries to protect me and guide me along the way.

Personally, it’s all such a relief to realize I have the freedom and personal power to acknowledge the limits I feel — whether in my schedule or relationships or expectations from others — and to make decisions based on that.

What about you?


  1. Jennifer M. says

    I appreciated the inner thoughts portion of chapter one. I struggle with the same inner dialogue, wanting to love without counting the cost. I find the greatest folly of our society is the acceptance and even glorification of “coldness”. But when I examine myself, I do love with a cost, a hope for “warmth” returned. And when it is not returned, as I think it should be, I am resentful. I think the concept of boundaries may help me develop the ability to love without counting the cost because I can give what I am in a position to give based on the “condition of my lawn at the time”. I am reminded a lot of the book of Sirach. In particular, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 3:17-22.

    • I love this, I absolutely get that idea of wanting “warmth” in return. And sometimes we don’t get what we are expecting, and it hurts. Love the idea of boundaries helping us give without counting the cost, because we are in a position to give freely. Thanks! xo

  2. I love the book of Sirach Jennifer. Back to Boundaries. I know that many times I may come across as reclusive, when in reality, I have to set some very specific boundaries. I am a homeschooling mother of 7 and an introvert. By the end of the day, I am tapped out. For me go somewhere or do something else takes too much from me right now in this season and if I ignore that fact not only do I suffer for it, but does my family.

    • Very nice! It sounds like you are very in tune with what your limits are, which is so important. I think that’s really half the battle, knowing ourself and what we can (and can’t handle)…

  3. Sarah Sansone says

    I am a longtime lurker of blogs, particularly yours Rachael! I was FLOORED that you were doing this book study! It was totally the holy spirit. I have a lengthy laundry list of codependent relationships and a great struggle with people pleasing and wanting to be liked. I read this book, gosh, nine years ago now and it absolutely changed the way I had been taught and told what Christianity truly was. I love that Jesus had amazing boundaries. I love that he had a few close friends, how many others do you think wanted to be BFF’s with him? I had a lot of unhealthy relationships to muddle through after reading this and still struggle with finding a balance between “being thoughtful, generous” and “letting people run all over me.” I so much wish it wasn’t such a tight line I walk, but it is. I’ve come a long way from not being Sherrie…but still have a long ways to go. THANK YOU for doing this, I cannot tell you how much I feel the Holy Spirit working through your blog right now!

    • Thanks Sarah! What a great thought — that Jesus kept his inner circle to only a few. It’s so easy and tempting to want to connect with lots of different people, but we can’t spread ourselves too thin in our good, deep friendships. Looking forward to more of your thoughts!

  4. Really enjoying the book so far. I felt exhausted after the first chapter and the little view into her personal life. I feel like I used to have no boundaries then became hurt through a few caustic relationships, you know the type who don’t have you for a friend they take you as a hostage, then I set major boundaries, now I feel like I am coming back to the center of balance. I want healthy boundaries but I also never want to deny Jesus anything He is asking me, which is where discernment and accountability come in.

  5. I’m soooo enjoying this book! I love the flexibility of having this book study in a virtual format too 🙂 Thankfully, I don’t feel like I’m quite to the point where Sherrie’s at, but I too could relate to her in several ways. I find that for me, I want to say yes to too many things. Often this is because of my natural temperament…I love being able to love people by serving them and I’m also an extrovert. I feel like there is a constant need for service with an unending opportunity to say “yes.” I do want to say “no sometimes, but even when I want to say “no,” I have a hard time if I cannot think of a valid, logistical excuse i.e. “I have a calendar conflict.” I have to be careful of overcommitting myself. In my early years of marriage, I’m learning that it really is helpful for me to run things by my husband before I commit to them. He is able to step back with a less emotionally attached perspective and help me make the right choice which also takes some of the pressure off of me. It’s also hard to say “no” when they’re all good things that I even want to do. The problem comes when I say yes to too many things and then don’t have enough time or energy to keep up with my own personal responsibilities around the house, to my family, etc. In these instances, I’m watering others’ lawns and letting mine die, causing stress and unpeacefulness. I’m looking forward to the authors’ help on “how to say no” and how they will untangle the misconceptions of scriptural and moral boundaries…or lack thereof.

  6. Cathy McAdams says

    I want to join the study if I may? I have the book and read it a few years ago. Would like to revisit it again.

  7. I am so glad to be a part of this and thankful that you chose this book and topic. Our boundaries are shaped and challenged by people with all sorts of personalities and temperment – I look forward to hearing how others interpret this message. I also felt exhausted by Sherrie’s story and wished it would move faster toward solutions. Throw that sweet soul a lifeline 🙂 Chapter 2 overwhelmingly satisfied me with a well-reasoned guide for establishing those solutions ourselves, with the conviction of biblical teaching. I love the distinction between a burden and a load and hope to use that when deciding to ask for help, which I find so difficult. I also like the reminder to “own our feelings,” which will be a helpful tool in times of argument. I instantly recalled the many times I have said “you make me feel….” thereby giving up my power to change the situation. Lastly, the idea of the heart as a “trust muscle” that needs the reciprocal flow of love to function properly. I would a love a guide for teaching children these lessons, but imagine that nothing beats setting a good example. Looking forward to the next chapters!

  8. I am really enjoying the book. I kept nodding my head at Sherrie, seeing myself in some of her actions. As a Catholic, sometimes I always feel that I should help others and continually give of myself, but that would leave me depleted as I would eventually have nothing left to give. What is worse is that I give and give to others OUTSIDE of my family, and then my family gets the leftovers. Where are my boundaries?? Who is most important but my 4 small children and husband right now?
    I find now that if asked to do something, if I don’t immediately say “HECK YES!”, then it is a no. Plain and simple. I used to try and give reasons why I say no, thinking someone would be mad at me if I said no. Now, I just kindly say, no thank you- I can’t volunteer in the classroom today, bake 24 cupcakes, chair the spring fling, take on another work project, etc..Creating this little boundary for myself has been tremendous. While it would be nice to teach Sunday school this year, when asked, I muddled over my answer, and then realized, its not a HECK YES. I have 4 little little kids . I could do this at another time, another season. But today, I have a boundary.
    Another thing I have done recently is “clean out my friend closet”. I enjoyed chapter 2 with validation of people in your lives who are not positive and good for you or your family, then you should let go. It was hard to let go of some, but I had to look within my boundaries to say, is this person a positive influence on me or my family? Why spend time with someone who criticizes your kids or your choices? As an extrovert, this was difficult but again, I am learning my boundaries.
    I am looking forward to what the other chapters will bring. Looking forward to more ideas for a people pleaser like myself to create some healthy boundaries.

    • Mom in Transition to Older Boys says

      Exactly!….”What is worse is that I give and give to others OUTSIDE of my family, and then my family gets the leftovers. ” Except that I have been married for over 20 years, and my 4 children are teens and 20-somethings. My husband would bring this up over the years, and I would cut back, but it has been a problem!

  9. I could relate to some of Sherrie’s boundary problems. I am struggling with how to deal with them without hurting the people I love. I have enjoyed reading the first two chapters and look forward to hopefully finding some answers for myself in upcoming chapters. Thank you Rachel!

  10. Allison Owen says

    Good food for thought. For me, it’s less about keeping the “bad” out and the “good” in but rather, what do I have the energy for? Something I have to ask and pray about daily. Many years ago, I would say yes to everything and then wonder why I was so exhausted. (People-pleasing is part of it for me, but also a genuine desire to help.) I still struggle with this.

  11. I’m a frequent reader, rare commenter, thought I’d join in! I was thrilled to see you chose this book, Rachel. Already, your insight is so great; you are such an eloquent writer. This summer I started their other book, Boundaries With Kids, which my sister gave me (she told me not to get mad at her for choosing such a book, but to give it a chance; how right she was!). Over the years my relationship with my children has gotten weak and I was feeling like their doormat. No longer; the past 6 months with applying some of their techniques, we have great improvement! It’s also helping me to advise them in their decisions and sometimes difficult teen friendships. I’m going to get Boundaries from the library, and join you a little late. Keep up the great work you do, in spreading the love and hope of Our Lord. Happy Advent!

  12. I apologize for joining the conversation late. Thank you, Rach, for starting this book club and thank you all for your insightful comments. The big take away for me in Chapters 1 and 2 is that for boundaries to be established at all, we must rely on knowledge of the Lord and His ways. Oh that I would always ask the Lord to direct my decisions and guide my boundary setting!