In a perfect world, Dara would start each day with an apple fritter or other sweet treat from the Donut Den. But she’s no cream puff! Dara is one of those lovely Southern women who would have smiled at a Yankee soldier before putting a bayonet right through his heart. She is smart, strong, and fiercely protective of her children.
Speaking of children – one of the big things she’s learned lately is to listen and not immediately react when talking with her teenager. She tries her best to withhold judgment: “You’ll be shocked at what your teen will tell you because they feel safe talking to you.”
Dara’s read quite a lot lately. She didn’t much care for Gone Girl, which she found “deeply disturbing on so many levels.” She has read a number of books on – hold your breath – polygamy. “I have a few friends who share my weird obsession… you know who you are!” She has recently discovered John Hart and is all in. “He’s a combination of John Grisham and Harper Lee, a North Carolina native who’s had four New York Times bestsellers with The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child and Iron House. I can’t wait for more.”
Dara’s working hard these days as Director of Marketing and Client Relations at Boone, Brandon, Johnston & Evans. She’s got lots of friends from years spent in Junior League (including time as President), in Leadership Nashville, and at her kids’ schools. I’ve admired her organizational skills, energy, and Southern charm for a long time, which I first observed many years ago when she and a very pregnant (but still energetic!) Perian Strang co-chaired Belle Meade Plantation’s Fall Fest. Those were the days when it was an entire weekend’s worth of an antiques show, a seated dinner, and a Sunday outdoor party for the kids – a big hairy monster of a weekend. She kept a calm head and the trains running on time – no small feat!
Dara recently read a series of books that got her attention and that we thought might be an interesting and different offering at Bacon. Today, she shares her thoughts on Boundaries, Beyond Boundaries, and Safe People, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
Last year, the beloved mother of one of my Harpeth Hall classmates died. After the visitation, many of us were discussing recent happenings with family, children, and spouses, when one of them mentioned a series of books that somehow seemed meant for me.
Boundaries, Beyond Boundaries, and Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer Biblical guidelines for establishing healthy relationships with family members, friends, a spouse, a dating relationship or colleague. “When words don’t work, boundaries must come next. That is, when an individual doesn’t acknowledge the effect of his/her actions on you, you will need to set a limit.” While we all deal with relational issues, these books bring diagnostic tools, understanding, and acceptance to something that so many of us simply just can’t do – set boundaries.
The first book, Boundaries, discusses the need to avoid the abusers and controllers in our lives, whether this is physical, emotional or mental. The book cites a variety of cases where people are dealing with all types of situations, in desperate need of boundaries for the sake of themselves. And yet, these same people are simultaneously plagued by guilt and fear of setting such limitations. Why? “You face a great risk setting boundaries and gaining control of your life. In most instances the results are not drastic, for as soon as the person finds out that you are serious, they start to change.” Of course, not all are willing to change…and are you willing to “risk loss” for freedom? This book offers the “10 Laws of Boundaries,” which are the steps to bring you into a healthy relationship.
One such law is “The Law of Power.” Oh, how I love this law! It’s all about understanding what you have the power to change, but more importantly, understanding what you cannot change: OTHERS! “Since you cannot get them to change, you must change yourself so that their destructive patterns no longer work on you.”
The subsequent book, Beyond Boundaries, evaluates when to risk trust in a relationship again. You must ask “is the relationship worth the time I put into it?” You want to know that “the people you are ready to risk with must be concerned about their impact on you. They must care about how they affect you.” The book reminds us that “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Yes, “you can change who you are attracted to. You can actually find yourself deeply drawn to better and healthier people. This is true for any kind of relationship – romance, friendship, family or business.” God made the process so that you may “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) “In a healthy relationship, people give grace and support to each other. They are interested in each other, draw one another out, are safe and provide empathy. You come away from an encounter with the other person feeling more alive, refreshed, loved and ready to take on the challenges of life.”
The third and final book, Safe People, takes a look at the traits of unsafe people. “We don’t get a lot of training in evaluating character…we look at worldly success, charm, looks, humor, status, and education, accomplishments, talents and giftedness, or religious activity. But then we experience the pain of being in a relationship with them, and come up very empty-handed.” God looks at someone’s character. “But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look upon his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) “Jesus warns us to first face what’s inside our hearts, and only then will we be able to judge others accurately and pick safe relationships.”
The book goes on to identify eleven traits of unsafe people and examine them as character issues. A few of those traits include identifying unsafe people as: defensive instead of open to feedback; blaming others instead of taking responsibility; stagnant instead of growing; and religious instead of spiritual.
Do you know anyone like this? The authors remind us that “safety breeds safety. And safe people make us better people for being around them. We cannot fail to be influenced, for better or worse, by the people in whom we invest. It will always show: ‘bad company corrupts good character.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33) And good company builds up our hearts.”
“It takes a lot of courage and character to deal with a difficult person in the right way. We can only know that we have done the right thing and that we truly have character when we have been tested in the fire of the relationship.”