Boundaries: Summary & Review

boundaries henry cloud book

Boundaries” (1992) by Henry Cloud draws from psychology and religious teaching to help readers draw their boundaries, become more assertive, and say no when they need to say no.

Bullet Summary

  • Clear boundaries are essential to a healthy lifestyle
  • Christians struggle with boundaries in fear they won’t be lonely
  • People who can’t respect your boundaries were taking advantage of you

Boundaries Full Summary

About the Author: Henry Cloud is an American Christian author. He holds a BS in psychology from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Biola University.

Boundaries Derive From God’s Nature

Henry Cloud and John Townsend say that boundaries derive from the very nature of God.
God is a distinct being, separate from his own creations as well and he is responsible for himself. He tells us what he likes and dislikes, who he is, and who is not.

God gives us his own boundaries.
No, he doesn’t set limits on what people can do, but he sets his standards. And when they behave outside his standards it’s like he is saying “you can be that way if you want, but you can’t come to my house”.

Emotional Distance is Temporary Boundary

The author says that emotional distance is a temporary boundary for when you need to be safe, but it cannot be a long-term state or solution.

The author says though that it’s good to keep your distance and emotional distance if you have been in dysfunctional relationships or abusive relationships.
And you need to make sure you see concrete signs of sustained change before even thinking of going back and opening yourself up again.

Also, read:

Boundaries to Save Relationships

The author says that people put up with a lot to be in a relationship because our need for relationships is one of our biggest needs.

But it should be the opposite, he says.
He asks poignantly:

How many marriages could have been saved if one spouse had followed through on the threat “if you don’t stop drinking.. ” or “hit me” or “yelling at the kids” I will leave until you get some treatment.

Don’t Help Those Who Don’t Learn

Henry Cloud introduces the law of cause and effect as a natural law that gives you the fruits of what you sowed.
And if you sow badly by drinking, smoking, and spending more than you earn, than chances are you will reap poorly.

But the law can be suspended when people keep helping and intervening to prop up the individual who keeps repeating the same bad behavior over and over again.

Sometimes this happens in codependent relationships, but in introducing the law of responsibility, the author says that people must be responsible for themselves.
And helping irresponsible people does not help them and drags you down.

Set Boundaries Or Resentment Will Grow

People who fail to set boundaries are likely to grow to loathe the people who overstate their unstated boundaries.
The author mentions people who say nothing for decades and then “express” their feeling by filing for divorce (this made me chuckle).
Or parents who “love” their children by giving their everything and giving in all the time while the children grow up feeling unloved. then those parents wonder “after all I’ve done?”

This is not too dissimilar from what Jordan Peterson says in 12 Rules For Life, whereby parents who allow children who disrespect them eventually grow to resent them.

Also, read:

Adults live within their means and pay for their own failures

Henry Cloud

If Someone Asks You for Money

If people who are always in trouble ask you for money this is what you can say:

I’m sorry you lost another job this year. But I won’t lend you any money until you pay back the other loan.
However I’m available to talk for support.

Boss Employee Relationship Troubles

A boss-employee relationship can trigger authority complexes in some individuals.
A boss can evoke unresolved authority issues with a parent or a teacher.

These people tend to overreact and feel they have been put down when the boss gives feedback or asks for something to be done differently.

To have boundaries, the author says, means to take responsibility for your own transfers (note: “transfer” is a phenomenon in psychology by which the patient projects love or hatred towards an authority figure).
Look within yourself and wonder why you have such strong reactions. Do they remind you of your mother or father?

My note: So true
This is very deep indeed. I have a quiz to check if you have this issue in Power University.
Also read I’m OK you’re OK.

Competitive Feelings

Similarly, too strong competitive feelings at work might be unresolved issues from a childhood struggle with a sibling.

Did Your Family Make You Feel Guilty?

The author says that some people have difficulties setting boundaries because their parents and family of origin made them feel guilty for defending their own space.

People who grew up in these families still feel guilty for setting up boundaries as adults.

Boundaries Attract High-Quality People

The author says that a funny thing happens when we start setting our boundaries.
People who cannot accept our “nos”, the people whom you probably don’t want in your life, will disappear.
And you start attracting high-quality people who can accept your “no” instead without resorting to anger, manipulation or taking it personally.

Not taking things personally is also a hallmark of people with a growth mindset. Read here how to develop a growth mindset.

Also, read:

Boundaries Quotes

On being an adult:

To be an adult you must live within your needs and pay for your own failures

On truth and knowing yourself:

There is always safety in the truth, whether it be knowing God’s truth or knowing the truth about yourself.

Many people live scattered and tumultuous lives trying to live outside of their own boundaries, not accepting and expressing the truth of who they are.

Honesty about who you are gives you the biblical value of integrity, or oneness.

On people who don’t respect your boundaries:

Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships.

Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness.

Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our nos. They only love our yeses, our compliance. “I only like it when you do what I want.

Real-Life Applications

Own The Problem
If you don’t like your job, if you are working too much overtime, if your job is driving you crazy, you must do something about it.
Stop looking at yourself as a victim and own the problem.


Independently of one’s religious creed and fully respecting Cloud’s writing, knowledge, and beliefs, I always wish for more data, more psychology, and fewer scripture references.


There is some great psychology in Boundaries.
I especially liked the analysis of the authority issues some people have -I know I have it- and the analysis of codependent relationships.

And the idea that people who don’t respect your boundaries are there to prey on you is also very in line with the philosophy of this website.

Wonderful Audiobook Version
The reader of the audiobook version is a top speaker. Great vocal variety, great dialogues, great tonality.. Really gives life to the book and it feels like listening to a play.

boundaries henry cloud book


Boundaries have great psychological depth and, if you’re religious, this is your N.1 book to draw your boundaries, learn to say no, and become more assertive.

Henry Cloud is a licensed psychologist, and it shows.

If you’re not religious, you might find all the scriptures’ references off-putting.
Boundaries are peppered with Biblical references. In my opinion, it was too many.
But I still enjoyed the good-quality content.

Check the best social skills books or get the book on Amazon

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