My Review: I picked up this book when I got it right after I got off the phone with my mom. We were talking about someone that was especially difficult to deal with and what the right way to handle it was. I laughed a little when I saw this in the mail! I loved it! It has some very simple and biblical advice for staying sane while dealing with those people whom you love to give the benefit of the doubt, that they are not driving you crazy on purpose. But also, realize that whether they are doing it on purpose or not, it is having the same effect. This book is simple. That is what I liked best about it! It will be one to keep on the shelf to go back and look at again later!- Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Setting Boundaries™ with Difficult People

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Allison Bottke is the author of Setting Boundaries™ for Your Adult Children and the general editor of the popular God Allows U-Turns® series and the God Answers Prayer series. She has written or edited more than 20 nonfiction and fiction books. Allison is in frequent demand as a speaker and has been featured on The 700 Club, Decision Today, and numerous other radio and television programs. Visit her at or


Continuing her popular Setting Boundaries series, Allison Bottke offers her distinctive “Six Steps to SANITY” to readers who must deal with difficult people.

S…Stop your own negative behavior
A…Assemble a support group
N…Nip excuses in the bud
I…Implement rules and boundaries
T….Trust your instincts
Y…Yield everything to God

Whether it’s a family member, coworker, neighbor, or friend, readers who have allowed others to overstep their boundaries will learn how to take back their life…for good.

Setting Boundaries with Difficult People is designed to inspire, empower, and equip readers with the tools to transform lives.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736926968
ISBN-13: 978-0736926966


Keeping Your Eye on the Goal

Runners who enter the Boston Marathon know that to successfully complete the race, they will have to run 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards). No one who shows up at the starting line is unsure of the distance he or she will have to run. Likewise, we need to know our goals in relating to the difficult people in our lives. And we need to know that achieving our ultimate goal may require that we accomplish several supplementary goals along the way.

One marathoner said, “After a scare with my heart, I entered the race mostly to get in better physical shape. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run the entire 26 miles, but I knew the training would help.” Another runner gave this reason for entering: “I needed to lose 60 pounds—that’s really why I entered the race. If I reached that goal before race day and never ran, I would have succeeded.” Another said, “I was recovering from knee surgery, and my underlying goal was to increase flexibility and strength in my legs. The race was the catalyst that kept me going, but it wasn’t my ultimate goal.”

In other words, even though these athletes’ goal was to run 26.2 miles, they each had supplementary goals leading up to race day that were every bit as important.

Our Ultimate Goal

When setting boundaries with difficult people, the ultimate goal is to achieve freedom from the bondage of drama, chaos, and crisis that often accompanies challenging relationships. Whether those relationships are with difficult people, adult children, aging parents, teens, or perhaps even food, we need to keep our eye on that ultimate goal of freedom. We also need to understand that breaking free from anything requires hard work, and that means commitment, consistency, and consequences.

Remember too that our emotions will beg for attention when other peoples’ hurtful behavior pushes our buttons. We have all developed our own coping responses as a result of our life experiences. For some of us, these coping responses lead to self-defeating, unhealthy life patterns that we repeat throughout our lives, and they act as roadblocks to freedom. When life situations trigger emotional responses, addressing our feelings is going to be a key factor in reaching our goal.

Our Supplementary Goals

As we work toward our ultimate goal, we want to accomplish several other goals as well: We want…

to stop difficult people from hurting us
to take control and stop the stress
to become healthy and whole
to gain clarity in our lives
to learn new skills to enhance our relationships
to live lives that are pleasing to God
to find SANITY
Two Growth Options

Setting healthy boundaries isn’t something we learn one time and then never have to think about it again. It’s not like tying our shoes or riding a bike—processes we learn and then simply repeat the same way time after time with the same results. For many of us, setting boundaries is not that easy. But it doesn’t have to be as problematic as we often make it.

Bestselling author and radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger says we have two options when dealing with people who have caused us harm—real or imagined: “Either stand up for yourself—or move on. Those are the only two means of growth.”  

That sounded a bit cut-and-dry to me when I first read it. Surely there are more than two options that will help us grow. Yet the more I thought about her statement, the more sense it made. Yes, there are a lot more options, but only if we want to remain stuck or stagnant. If we truly want to move forward (that is, if we want to grow) when someone has hurt us, Dr. Laura is right. We either stand up (speak up) or move on (shake it off    ). There really isn’t anything else to do that initiates growth.

Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean bulldozing your way over someone who has behaved poorly or has made choices that hurt you. Likewise, moving on doesn’t mean glossing over a problem, ignoring it, or denying that something is wrong.

Both standing up and moving on are conscious decisions we must make. Learning how to stand up or move on is a vital part in gaining SANITY.

A Lesson Learned

I was sitting on the outdoor patio at a local restaurant with several friends on a beautiful fall day, enjoying good food and great conversation. I’d just spent several weeks completing a challenging project in my writing cave, and I was truly savoring this time of refreshing calm. A young man walked by, recognized one of my friends, and stopped to chat. There was an empty chair at our table, and my friend invited Ted to sit down and visit with us. Ted had just completed a master’s degree program, but this day he was dressed in the uniform of the times: shorts, ball cap, flip-flops, and a T-shirt that declared he loved a certain restaurant whose name had nothing whatsoever to do with owls.

Attractive, articulate, and clearly extroverted, Ted would have been a breath of fresh air—had it not been for his extensive use of profanity, particularly the f word. It was like he needed the word to inhale air and move on to his next thought. Every other word from Ted was profane, and I found myself cringing at each new onslaught. I felt as if I were being verbally slapped in the face, aurally assaulted with every sentence. After a while, turning the other cheek wasn’t working, and what had been a beautiful day quickly soured into an increasingly uncomfortable situation.

I’m far from a prude, but these days very few of my friends or business associates use such off-color language. Nor do I. That had not always been the case, and I’d worked long and hard to make this change in my own life. I’m sure this made me even more sensitive to this issue.

Could I have simply allowed this young man’s crude language to roll off my shoulders, realizing I would most likely never see him again? Yes. But in that instant I also realized that if I truly believed in God and trusted His Word, I had to believe He placed me in this position for a reason, and I asked myself if the reason was to learn how to keep my mouth shut or to learn how to communicate rationally and perhaps be a light in this young man’s world. (Just so you know, the keeping my mouth shut option is a lesson God frequently teaches me, so I really had to pray hard about this as I sat there.)

In Dr. Laura’s words, would I stand up, or would I move on?

I’ll admit I’m not always good at being calm and thoughtful. Sometimes my words come out far more caustic than I intend them to. Years ago, I probably would have resorted to sarcasm. (“Do you eat with that mouth?”) But on this occasion, I asked God to calm my spirit and give me words that would allow me to set a boundary that would be helpful to Ted, to me, and perhaps to the others present as well.

Feeling convicted that I needed to speak up, I took a deep breath as I said something along these lines:

“It’s really nice to hear someone so passionate about life, but could I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” he said with a smile.

Looking directly at him, I was careful to keep my voice calm and kind. I didn’t want to sound angry or judgmental. I was about to confront him, but I didn’t want this to be confrontational. Please, Lord, give me the right words.

“I’m wondering if you’re aware how much you swear and how offensive that might be for some people? It’s actually making me uncomfortable, as if I were being slapped over and over again. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out whether I should say something. You seem like a smart guy, gifted and good-looking, so you obviously don’t need to talk like that, and it doesn’t do you justice. I’m kind of out of touch with young people today—is that generally how your friends talk? I just wondered.”

Then, I did what I couldn’t have done without God’s help. I stopped talking and prayed that God would make Himself known.

My heart was pounding, and my friends’ jaws dropped at my boldness. This could have gone any number of ways, not all of them good, but to this young man’s credit, he sincerely apologized, clearly sorry that he’d offended me and put a damper on my day. This led to a wonderful conversation about words and their meanings (something very dear to me), and then we talked about effectively setting healthy boundaries verbally. We eventually got around to a spirited discussion about faith. The entire situation turned into what I call a God-cidence moment, and I’d like to think all of us left that day with something to ponder about God’s purpose for our lives and why He places us in situations that test our mettle. And all of this happened because I spoke up and set a boundary about using profanity.

I had the choice to stand up or move on, and I chose to stand up in a way that I felt was pleasing to God. Was I afraid? Yes—but not that what I was doing was wrong. I was only afraid that I wouldn’t say the right words and would miss the opportunity God had provided.

The Moment Is Now

On Palm Sunday at Harvest Church in Watauga, Texas, pastor Chuck Angel challenged those of us in the pews to find the courage to open the door to change and choice. Here are a few of the copious notes I took when I wasn’t shouting “Amen!”

When opportunity knocks, we need to have courage to overcome fear. There’s a difference between understanding what you should do and choosing to do it. The tipping point takes us from knowing what we ought to do to making the decision to act.

God will direct our paths, but He won’t take the step for us. Some of us will stop on the journey. It’s not just knowing—it’s going. Often, there is a gap in the middle between knowing and going.

Life is a parade of “now” moments, not a series of tomorrows. No future moment is more significant than now.

Confronting the Difficult People in Our Lives

Those of us with difficult people in our lives need to learn to stand up and confront them (or our own issues) or to move on. We need courage to walk through doors to freedom. Simply identifying that a door exists isn’t enough; we need the courage to walk through it.

Is this your “now” moment?


For me, the journey to setting healthy boundaries has been rocky. Years ago, I’d reached the end of my rope (yet again) with my adult son, Chris, but this time something was different—this time I turned solely to my Bible, crying out to God not only for wisdom and discernment but also for clear answers to a situation that was continually breaking my heart. Chris was in jail (yet again), and for the first time I felt a powerful conviction that it was time for both of us to start a new life journey. For some reason, this time, enough really was enough, and things were going to change—I was going to change—regardless of whether Chris changed one iota.

I’ve always been a writer. That’s what I do—it’s how I most often process my life. One day, as I was reading Scripture, writing notes, and pouring my heart out on the pages, God imparted a powerful lesson to me. Personally, I learn best using visuals, acronyms, lists, bullet points, words of affirmation…tools that help me to remember important things. So on this day, in almost no time I had developed six critical actions that I knew I needed to do in my relationship with my son. As I read and reread the pages, an acronym formed, and I wrote this at the top of the page.

“Set boundaries and find SANITY.”

I’m one of the most severely boundary-challenged individuals I know, so it wasn’t a surprise that during this time of seeking answers, God would lay that conviction on my heart. My own boundary-setting backsliding often left tire tracks of poor choices all over my bruised heart. I knew this was a problem I struggled with.

As a sinner who is acutely aware of what it means to be in bondage, my personal goal since making my own U-turn toward God has been to do my best to live a life that is pleasing to Him and to help others find freedom from their painful pasts. The need to set healthy boundaries consistently plays an active role in many areas in my life. However, since stumbling on the Six Steps to SANITY, I’ve found it easier to get back on the horse when I fall off.

The Spiritual Goal

In her book A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God, my friend Karol Ladd has written a wonderful study of the New Testament book of Philippians. Written by the apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, Philippians is actually a letter to the people of Philippi, teaching early Christians how to experience a true satisfaction of the soul. His story of resilient joy, consistent contentment, and a peace that passes all understanding is one of the most quoted stories in the Bible.

Karol begins her book by weaving together the story of Paul and Silas’s journey to Philippi, recounting the way Lydia was converted, Paul cast demons out of a slave girl, and he and Silas were arrested, beaten, and thrown into a dungeon prison.

Have you ever thought you were following God’s guidance or leading and found yourself in a real mess of a situation? It can tend to make you want to doubt God and question His work in your life. Did I really follow God’s direction? Does He really care about my situation? Why would God allow this to happen to me if I am following His will? The questions are valid, but we will soon see that God often allows the difficulties in our lives for a greater purpose. He will not leave us in the midst of our troubles. The important thing is to learn to react to our situations and challenges with faith and not fear.  

Stories of faith-filled and seemingly fearless men and women abound throughout the Bible. Time after time, these persecuted individuals realized that their power to overcome difficulties came from God and not from themselves. They learned to react to their situations and challenges differently. They chose to look to God. Karol leads us once again to that truth.

We too can learn to turn our eyes upward and have a different response than the rest of the world when it comes to challenges in our life. We are jars of clay with a great and mighty God who is able to bring beauty out of any situation. He will give us the strength we need to endure and persevere through the not-so-perfect places in our lives.  

As we keep our eye on the goal to find freedom from challenging relationships with difficult people, to learn how and when to stand up or move on, let us not forget, as Karol writes, to turn our eyes upward during the journey.

Partners on the Journey

I wondered what setting boundaries with difficult people looks like from different perspectives, so more than a year ago I began to distribute a questionnaire to men and women around the country. I’ll include many of the candid and helpful responses throughout the book. I have changed some of the names to honor respondents’ requests for anonymity.

Also, because I’m a layman in the world of Christian counseling, I invited a professional counselor to join us from time to time, someone who is better experienced therapeutically to help us on the journey. Bernis Riley holds a bachelor of science degree in medical technology from Sam Houston State University and a master of arts degree in counseling from Liberty University. Her major experience is in trauma-related disorders and family therapy. Bernis is a licensed professional counselor and a certified brief strategic family therapist. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and the Christian Counselors of Texas. Bernis is completing a doctoral program in psychology from California Southern University.

Bernis conducts a thriving private counseling practice called SoulCare in the Dallas–Ft. Worth area of Texas. I asked her how she would describe her work.

Life has a way of handing us problems that we are not prepared to handle. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to face those problems alone. A trusted counselor can help you find peace and hope when you are overwhelmed or confused by the problems you are facing. Counseling can help you overcome the issues you struggle with, like depression, anger, fear, and anxiety. It can also help people out of the chaos of codependency, enabling, and childhood abuse.

As we proceed on the road to setting boundaries with difficult people, Bernis will provide soul-searching questions and helpful tips in a section called “SANITY Support” at the end of each chapter. These supportive points to consider will help you apply what you have learned from each chapter to your life right now. Drawing on her experience as a Christian counselor, Bernis has also provided sample scripts and letters at the end of this book to help you approach the difficult people in your life.

Individual Choices

Learning to understand God’s plan is a lifelong journey that can often take us into uncharted territory. The quest to know our purpose in life has confounded men and women since the beginning of time. Just when we think we’ve got things nailed down, the rug gets pulled out from under us, and we find ourselves looking at our lives from an entirely different perspective. Never is this more true than when it comes to setting healthy boundaries with difficult people in uncomfortable situations.

Some of the boundary choices we face will be life-changing. Yet the monumental choices we make that dramatically change the course of our lives are actually no more important than the individual choices we make in the everyday moments of life. Combined, they make us who we are—a rich tapestry of experience woven together by our choices.

SANITY Support

Purchase an inexpensive spiral notebook or steno pad that will fit in your purse or briefcase. Use it in conjunction with reading this book, starting with the questions below.
Who are the difficult people in your life? With whom are you hesitant to set healthy boundaries?
What keeps you from setting those boundaries?
Which growth action—standing up or moving on—are you willing to take with the difficult people in your life so that you are no longer stuck in neutral?

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