This week in chapter 3 of Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend we learned some character defects around boundaries, our boundaries, lack there of, and boundaries of others.

The difficult situation we can get ourselves into; saying “Yes” to the bad, and “No” to the good.  This chapter began to lay out some basic fundamental categories as we begin to understand boundaries more.

Compliants: Saying “Yes” to the Bad

The introduction to this topic did not start out with the compulsion to do wrong, but more from where one might learn it.  Many compliant people were raised in an atmosphere where they were not allowed to say no, to set boundaries. They were told they did not have a right to oppose others. Parents teach children that setting boundaries or saying no is “bad”, so they automatically don’t fight the bad and just go along with the bad.

At first, I thought this was someone else’s situation. Then a touching example;

Compliant people pretend to like the same restaurants and movies their friends do “just to get along”. They minimize their differences with others so as not to rock the boat.

Can you identify with the challenges of compliants? What seems to be your motivation or justification?

The inability to say “no” is a big boundary problem, it can impact ourselves and those around us. The following list are some reasons, how many can you relate to or identify with?

  • Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
  • Fear of abandonment and separation
  • A wish to be totally dependent on another
  • Fear of someone else’s anger
  • Fear of punishment
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
  • Fear of being unspiritual
  • Fear of one’s overstrict, critical conscience

Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid.

Avoidants – Saying “No” to the Good

Avoidance is saying no to the good. It’s the inability to ask for help, to recognize one’s own needs to let others in. Avoidants withdraw when they are in need; they do not ask for the support of others.

Our discussions in the previous weeks touched on an interesting situation that many of us have noticed. “Men don’t ask for prayer much”. Then we get to this section and we may have hit a nerve.

Compliants experience their problems and legitimate wants as something bad, destructive, or shameful. This causes some to not open up to God or others.

Some may think this is not really a boundary problem, this is just the shy humble nature of who I am. Yet it truly is a character defect.

Bad combination Compliant & Avoidant

Now for a painful example, see if you can related to this situation:

When someone needs two hours with you, you can’t say no. When you need someone for ten minutes, you can’t ask for it.

This is a prime example of saying yes to the bad (compliant) and saying no to the good (avoidant).

Compliant avoidants suffer from “reversed boundaries”. They have no boundaries where they need them, and they have boundaries where they shouldn’t have them.

What is your thoughts, or experiences with compliance and avoidance? Do you think these may be boundary areas that need attention?


We have heard about controllers probably for most of our lives. If we have not been accused of, or struggled with, we have at least heard about them. Controllers come in two types:

Agressive controllers

These are the blatant ones we have most likely been exposed to. They are the ones that don’t listen to others, they run over other people with no regard to others boundaries.

Manipulative controllers

These individuals are less honest than the aggressive controllers, manipulators try to persuade people out of their boundaries. They manipulate situations to get their way. They use guilt messages.

What are your insights, struggles and experiences with either of the controlling types? Have you or do you struggle with these challenges?

Painful Combination

Believe it or not, compliants and avoidants can also be controllers, they tend to be more manipulative than aggressive. When compliant avoidants need emotional support, for example, they may do a favor for a friend. They hope that by being loving they will receive love.

Even using scripture to support such action, such as “do to others as you would like them do to you” – Luke 6:31. But this behavior is always love.  The love that God talks about doesn’t seek a return on its investment. Caring for someone so that they’ll care back for us is simply an indirect means of controlling someone else.

This can get real sensitive. Some justifications immediately pop up, “lead by example”, “give what you desire”. But when the motivation is based on a need, it is unhealthy.

What are some experiences you have had with this painful combination? Have you caught yourself in situations where you are frustrated or angry because you did not get a response from others to your actions?

Functional & Relational

Another boundary problem is the difficult challenge of determining the difference between functional and relational boundaries.

Functional Boundary refers to a person’s ability to complete a task, project, or job. It has to do with performance, discipline, initiative and planning.

Relational Boundary refers to the ability to speak truth to others with whom we are in relationships with.

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42 NKJV

Can you notice the different boundary characteristics in this example from the bible?  

Many people have good functional boundaries, but poor relational ones; they can perform tasks at quite high levels of competence, but they may not be able to tell a friend that they don’t like their chronic lateness.

Or how about the opposite; Some people can be absolutely honest with others about their complaints and dislikes but be unable to get up for work in the morning.

Can you relate to one style more than the other? Are there different times when you struggle with one or the other?

These are a few different categories of boundaries. These characters that make up who we are don’t just happen on their own. They are learned, embraced and taught over a lifetime. Most of them come from the family, or lack of family in our life, how we grew up.

This week, be aware of these categories. Don’t be judgmental, but be aware and alert. Journal this week when you catch yourself partaking in these unhealthy situations. The first part of learning and changing is acknowledging…