Why Am I Writing About Boundaries?

This post explains 3 major problems with the Boundaries Teachings. Please beware of any teaching that stunts your spiritual growth.

Why am I writing about Boundaries? Why do I have a whole collection of articles that expose errors in the Boundaries teachings (Are Boundaries Biblical? Collection)?

Up front let’s take physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, and criminal behavior off the table. Yes, these types of behaviors require some “rules” of engagement. If you want to call them boundaries, that’s fine. But I'm concerned about the way Boundaries teachings are used by the majority of Christians. 

I’m writing for three reasons

1. I personally know families unnecessarily estranged due to the Boundaries teachings. And in these cases, the boundary has been erected by the least mature family members because they don’t want to be considerate of others and/or because they will not accept personal correction or disagreement. And I believe the Boundaries teachings attract immature people and encourage them to do selfish damage to their families.

2. I have personally dealt with and am dealing with family members who are toxic, controlling, and “abusive” according to the Boundaries definitions, and I have not erected boundaries. Instead, I’ve seen God transform my heart and give me maturity I wouldn’t have had without these relationship difficulties. He's taught me how to deal with difficult people without becoming one. He's taught me how to refuse manipulation without becoming a manipulator. (see Boundaries versus Guidelines) He's taught me how to return good for evil. It's not been easy, and I've made mistakes in the process, but it's biblical and healthy.

3. But neither of the reasons above is my real reason for writing. My main reason is my love and concern for God’s Word. I have carefully examined certain of the Boundaries teachings and found them to seriously contradict Scripture in many areas.

Quite by “chance” (divine coincidence), while studying the Boundaries teachings, I came across Proverb 18:1

This post explains 3 major problems with the Boundaries Teachings. Please beware of any teaching that stunts your spiritual growth.
ESV: "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment."

NASB: "One who separates himself seeks his own desire; He quarrels against all sound wisdom."

Several commentaries explain: 

Ellicots Commentary: “The man of small mind is here described, who will only follow his own narrow aims…” 

Benson Commentary describes this person as one who: “is wedded to his own opinion, and through self-conceit, despiseth the opinions and conversation of others, seeketh according to his desire, that is, seeketh to gratify his own inclinations and affections, and chooseth those opinions which most agree with them” 

Cambridge Bible Commentary: “The proverb then is a condemnation of the selfish isolation of the self-seeker or the misanthrope.” 

To purposely isolate ourselves from family members who want a relationship is to become the person described in Proverbs 18:1. 

When we begin building fences to isolate ourselves from family members who God has placed in our lives, we may think we are staying “safe.” In truth, we are walking outside the protective boundaries of God’s commands. 

An additional problem with Boundaries teachings is that they assume their readers are mature enough to judge themselves and others fairly. And even if the reader is mature, Boundaries teachings put them in the place of God.

Joseph dealt with toxic and abusive family members and had a different take on our role in family dynamics:

Genesis 50:19-21: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” 

Even though Boundaries encourages forgiveness, they also encourage us to judge others and determine if they've proven themselves worthy of our time and effort. This type of judgement typically encourages self-righteous attitudes and bitterness, not forgiveness.

I am so glad that I choose the Bible over the Boundaries in dealing with my own difficult relationships. Boundaries would have protected me from some of the very hard things I experienced/experience, but I’d have lost so much growth and faith in the process.

3 comments:

  1. I appreciate your explanation. I haven't read the book in years but have given it or recommended it to people in rough relationships that could be considered emotionally abusive but yes, I,too, have had the concept of boundaries used against me. I agree that knowing scripture and maturity is needed to read the book through the proper lens.

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  2. I understand what you're saying .... but isn't this called Gaslighting? I think any good teaching can be twisted and manipulated in the hands of the wrong person ... even Bible verses can be twisted by the wrong people. That doesn't mean that the teaching itself is wrong.

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    1. Gaslighting means intentionally distorting truths for the purpose of harming or misleading someone.

      If you are saying that this article is gaslighting, it is not. It is an evaluation of a teaching that is presented as Christian yet contradicts Scripture in many areas. And evaluating teachings with Scripture is something all Christians are commanded to do.

      If you are saying that the Boundaries teaching is solid biblical teaching, but is used for gaslighting by individuals, I also disagree with you.

      While I'm sure there are people who take the principles of Boundaries farther than the authors intend, the teachings themselves contradict and misuse Scripture.

      I could accuse the authors of Boundaries of gaslighting, making money by encouraging people to fulfill sinful, selfish desires instead of seeking humble, biblical reconciliation. But that’s not my place. I can’t know their hearts. Perhaps they are misled and doing what they think is right. But that doesn't make it right.

      If you read my other articles, you will see scores of direct quotes from the authors of Boundaries that contradict Scripture. You will see that they clearly set forth principles in their books and articles that deny the truths of Scripture regarding honoring parents, treating marriage as a lifetime commitment, carefully judging our own behavior before judging others, returning good for evil, etc. etc. Cloud admits that he has been most influenced by Freudian psychology and that is evident in what he teaches.

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