Are Boundaries Biblical? Collection

This collection includes articles reviewing the teachings from the Boundaries website.

The "Boundaries" teachings of Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have become increasingly popular with both the Christian and secular market. Sadly, many Christians have failed to carefully examine the teaching. It contains some biblical principles, but it also contains some secular principles that can damage relationships. I personally know families living distant and estranged due to these teachings.  If you want to see why warning people about Boundaries is so important to me, please read Why Am I Writing About Boundaries?

This collection includes articles reviewing the teachings from the Boundaries website.

This article explains the basic premises of the boundaries teaching as highlighted in the first and last chapters of the book.
Overview and introduction: How Cloud judges traditional Christian answers, psychological answers, and his answers.

This article examines the three Scripture passages most often used by Boundaries books and online articles to explain the foundation of their teaching.

This article explains the benefit of using "guidelines" instead of boundaries. Boundaries promote protection from difficulties; guidelines promote reconciliation.

This review of Chapter 15 in the Boundaries book examines the Boundaries' claims about what they call "guilt messages."

If you follow popular teachings of the day, you can protect yourself from difficult relationships and prevent your own maturity.
The Boundaries teachings goes far beyond the books of Cloud and Townsend. This devotion offers another popular example.

Reviews of some of the articles from the Boundaries website:  

Hope or Sin: Are "Boundaries" feeding selfish hearts or strengthening hearts for the Lord?
Beware of teachings which blame-shift problems onto parents. It's popular but leads to big losses all around.

This devotion uses a teaching in the Boundaries book to explains two methods of false teachings. 
A review of the Boundaries article "Unsafe People Exist at Church Too." Is it fair? Is it Biblical?
It's hard to believe this is a "Christian" ministry making this recommendation. 
Christians understand that we are fallen human beings who need grace. So why do we choose "Boundaries" instead? 
This article reviews the Boundaries article "Wise, Foolish, or Evil" comparing it's teachings with Scripture.
John Townsend believes husbands are supposed to submit to wives just as wives are supposed to submit to husbands and all submission problems are the husband's fault. This article compares those views with Scripture and with the experiences of a wife married 50 years.

A pastor outlines the major errors in the Boundaries philosophy.
Other Pertinent Devotions:

It's becoming popular to call people "toxic" when they are simply annoying. This is one example of misusing language to disobey God's commands.  

Actions speak louder than words. And our attitude toward others reflects our belief or denial of Scripture. God calls us to deal graciously and persevere in difficult relationships. 

It's becoming increasingly popular to avoid difficult people. This 1-minute devotion explains why that can cause us to miss a big blessing! 

Narcissism is defined by a lack of empathy and a demand for favor. It used to be a rare clinical problem, but many people have taken on narcissistic personality traits making relationships difficult. 

Christians have the power to mend relationships by applying these 3 Biblical principles. A lack of these is a sign of weak faith 

Many boundaries are erected when one person corrects another, especially when parents correct an adult child. These type of boundaries are based on pride, not wisdom. If we can't take correct, how small is our faith!  This 1-minute devotion explains. 

It's very popular to set up "boundaries" in our relationships, but we gain so much more when we build bridges. This 1-minute devotion explains. 

Many Christians are erecting boundaries instead of obeying this command and they're losing great blessings in the process. 

It can be hard to deal biblically with annoying parents, but this devotions explains how to do so biblically. 

Many families are dealing with estrangement. These 4 biblical principles can help us restore family relationships. 

Jesus made a strong warning against those who find excuses not to honor their parents...Blessing or curse....the decision is ours. 

This 1-minute devotion offers 3 reasons people don't get along and 3 biblical solutions  

A helpful look at handling an important relationship which is often neglected or rejected by wives who don’t understand how important it is for the well-being of their marriage. 
The word "boundaries" has taken on a whole new meaning in relationships, and Christians are setting ungodly boundaries at the encouragement of poor counselors.  
Exaggeration is always deceptive, and it does great harm when we use it to avoid reconciliation and forgiveness.
There are some popular self-righteous excuses for avoiding calm, mutual discussion in troubled relationships. This 1-minute devotion gives the Biblical view of such problems. 

Family relationships can be messy at times, but genuine Christians will refuse to make any of these 6 damaging choices.

He told me he was "praying for revelation" but he was missing the enormous revelation at his fingertips. This 1-minute devotion explains.

It's a popular cultural idea, but it's not biblical to "Trust Your Heart." However, many of the Boundaries articles encourage us to do that very thing. This 1-minute devotion explains why trusting our hearts is an unbiblical idea.
The story of Joseph is especially pertinent to our discussion of the Boundaries teachings. It was Joseph's brothers who tried to set up boundaries, not Joseph. Of course, they were violent and ungodly, but that's one of the major flaws in the Boundaries teachings: it's often the immature or vengeful family member who sets up the boundaries, and it prevents them from growing up. Christians may be able to avoid their Genesis 50:19-20 situations but they won't be better people because of it.

Most adult children are “speck-finders” when it comes to their parents, but the blessings belong to “log-removers.” This 1-minute devotion explains.

See also: Unbiblical Boundaries of Self-Protection by Debbie Dewart
This collection includes articles reviewing the teachings from the Boundaries website.


  1. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in man, He says. It is good to prayerfully consider different perspectives. If you have neither been a toxic person nor been controlled or damaged by one, and your family members are all willing and able to mature discuss problems or differences, that's truly great! But the church has at times been guilty of leaving abused people feeling hopeless, sinful, etc. Jesus set boundaries. No one could lay a hand on Him until the Father's time. He disappeared from a crowd at least once. He separated himself to have private communion with the Father. He laid down His life, but He did not lay down His authority as God the Son in the synogogues. He taught. He rebuked. He loved in accordance with His nature as detailed in I Corinthians 13 and elsewhere. He was not an "enabler." I so appreciate these Bible Love Notes, and agree with so much of what you say, but some osf the "Boundaries" teaching is needful in the church and the home. I suffered for lack of it, but by God's grace, came through my excruciating experiences compassionate toward others rather than being a hurt perso hurting people. I hope that is always true of me, because I never want to hurt someone the way others have hurt me.

    1. Dear Hojawile,

      It sounds like you believe that my opinion is based on my experiences as having a wonderful family without any toxic or controlling members. I purposely do not air my personal family situations online, but you couldn't be farther from the truth. And I know that if I had followed Boundaries teachings I would never have understood God's power to change my heart even when others refused to change.

      In addition, the way the words "Toxic" and "Abuse" are used by Boundaries teachings rarely qualify as either of those things. I have dealt with toxic and abusive behavior and the many boundaries articles and resources I’ve studied rarely address behavior that is actually abusive or toxic. I personally know families estranged by the Boundaries teaching when their problems were normal interaction between fallen human beings.

      But these experiences are not the reason I have written these posts. I've written them because I have examined the actual teachings presented by Cloud online, and they directly contradict Scripture in some areas and in many areas they give instructions without the clarification needed to apply them biblically.

      But let me address some of your specifics":

      "the church has at times been guilty of leaving abused people feeling hopeless, sinful, etc."
      This is true, but it is not representative of the church, and the problem is not their lack of teaching about boundaries.

      "Jesus set boundaries. No one could lay a hand on Him until the Father's time."
      Jesus is God, perfect in every sense, fully aware of every thought and attitude of a person's heart. We are not able to discern things as He discerned them. We cannot see into men’s hearts. However, I believe that the Boundaries teaching often puts us in the place of God, and that is a major problem with the teaching.

      The Bible tells a different story: For example, Joseph had genuinely toxic people in his family, but Joseph never set up boundaries. Scripture implies that his brothers never genuinely repented to Joseph, nor dealt with their issues until their father died, and when they came to him begging him not to use his power to harm them, He said this: 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.”

      You also mentioned 1 Corinthians 13. If we read that chapter with ourselves in mind, not trying to conform others but to conform ourselves (which is the heart of the Gospel), we read that love is patient, kind, not proud, not dishonoring others, not self-seeking, keeping no record of wrongs, always persevering. Even though Boundaries teachings encourage us to forgive, they encourage “record-keeping” and an end to perseverance.

      We should never allow ourselves to be physically abused, nor are we required to choose friends who are negative or difficult. But God gives us our family, and He expects us to persevere in family relationships, not set up boundaries.

      If you read these articles with an open mind, you will see how much the Boundaries teachings contradict Scripture. If I had followed the boundaries teachings in regard to my family problems, I would have protected myself from some of the very hard things I experienced/experience, but I’d have lost so much in the process.

  2. I would be curious to hear what your thoughts are on the book Bold Love by Dan Allender. God calls us to love others. He also wants us to have honest relationships as well as to pursue peace (Jeremiah 6:14).

    From the Back Cover
    IF CHRIST HAD PRACTICED THE KIND OF LOVE WE ADVOCATE NOWADAYS, HE WOULD HAVE LIVED TO A RIPE OLD AGE. We’ve come to view love as being nice. Forgiving and forgetting. Yielding to the desires of others. Yet the kind of love modeled by Jesus Christ has nothing to do with manners or unconditional acceptance. Rather, it is shrewd. Disruptive. Courageous. And, as a result, socially unacceptable. In Bold Love, Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III draw out the aggressive, unrelenting, passionate power of genuine love. Far from helping you “get along” with others, Bold Love introduces the outlandish possibility of making a significant, life-changing impact on family, friends, coworkers-even your enemies. “Bold love is anything by passive,” writes Dr. Allender. “It is unpredictable, cunning, and creative. It is a violation of the natural order of things. In many cases it will unnerve, offend, disturb, or even hurt those who are being loved. But in the end it will also compel them to deal with the internal disease that is robbing them (and others) of true beauty.” So if it feels like you’ve turned the other cheek so many times your head is spinning, it’s probably time to take a second look at your practice of love. Because there’s nothing redemptive about a love that just accepts people for who they are.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      I've never heard of the book, and it's possible that the authors are intentionally using strong words to draw attention to the book, but it sounds as if they have taken several biblical concepts too far.

      Yes, it's important to realize that Jesus wasn't popular. Most people hated Him because He revealed their sins (John 7:7). And He said His followers would also be hated. We must please God first and foremost and speak up for His truth even if it makes us unpopular. But we are supposed to forgive and consider the desires of others (Philippians 2). I think it does involve "manners" such as respect for authority and avoiding rudeness. It can be disruptive and offensive, but that shouldn't be our intent. In fact, I think rudeness rarely draws people to the Lord.

      In addition, we are not Jesus. We don't know everything about those we encounter. He perfectly understood each person and each situation and He could speak rebukes perfectly. We don't have that kind of knowledge when we address people.

      We should not back away from the truths of Scripture, but we have multiple commands to approach people graciously, carefully, patiently, and kindly:

      With the unsaved:

      Colossians 4:6: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

      1 Peter 3:15-16: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

      With fellow believers:

      1 Thessalonians 5:14: "Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone."

      Galatians 6:1: "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted."

      As I said, perhaps they are purposely explaining their book in harsh terms, and maybe what they write is good. Let me know what you think if you read it.

  3. I’ve actually read their book several times. . It is very good. They talk about knowing the difference between loving an evil person, a fool, and a normal sinner (all three talked about in the book of Proverbs). They also discuss what it means to honor a “wicked” parent. I highly recommend their book.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. Can you give readers a short synopsis of their view of honoring a wicked parent?

  4. Hi Gail, I was praying that some Christian author would write something to open the eyes of young adults who have been blinded by the Boundaries books, as we are now among the "families living distant and estranged due to these teachings". I was so excited to find you online. We used to be a happy, close-knit family with 4 children. We have a wonderful, godly, obedient daughter who had been very easy to raise, and our relationship with her had always been great - until someone recommended the Boundaries book to her. Suddenly, my husband and I are villains against whom she needs to put boundaries. She is in her early twenties, lives with us, and is finishing up in university, but our opinions don't matter anymore. Her focus is being able to do whatever she wants, and no weight is being given to how we would feel. The Boundaries books are a perfect example of how the devil appears like an angel of light, and that his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy, and he would use even well-meaning authors to accomplish his purpose. I don't know if I could subscribe to a blog, but if there's a way, please let me know.

    1. I'm so sorry that you are another family suffering from the Boundaries teachings. I've prayed that God will give you wisdom and help your daughter see the errors in the Boundaries teachings.

      I'd love to have you subscribe....If you are using a phone, you will need to view the web version and click the link on the right side bar that says "Have devotions delivered to your email." Then you should get a devotion in your email the following weekday.

      God bless you!

    2. P.S. that wasn't very clear -you will need to enter your email in the subscription box after clicking the link.

  5. Thank you for this! I keep seeing more book suggestions, more devotional suggests, and topics on setting boundaries. Some were recommended when I was going through difficult times with different people, but I couldn't get into the books, something about them didn't set right. I'm glad I ran across this, so I can learn more about the topic.