How People Grow reveals why all growth is spiritual growth and how you can grow in ways you never thought possible. Unpacking the practical and passionate theology that forms the backbone of their counseling, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend shatter popular misconceptions about how God operates to reveal how growth really happens.
Cloud and Townsend, clinical psychologists who are the Gold Medallion Award-winning authors of Boundaries, attempt in this book to chart personal growth from a biblical perspective. Rather than suggesting that real growth happens only to Christians, they argue that most effective therapeutic methods, even those that are ostensibly secular, use biblical concepts. As such, they look to Scripture for the very best strategies for spiritual and emotional growth. While they are critical of a one-size-fits-all approach to human suffering, they do prescribe a combination of prayer, Bible study and regular contact with a "growth group" for virtually every problem they address. The growth groups they describe are populated by healthy, vulnerable people who are willing to confront each other lovingly and own up to mistakes and failures. Cloud and Townsend argue persuasively that such groups facilitate dramatic changes in individuals' lives, but leave the logistical problem of finding such evolved folks to the reader. Perhaps the most radical message of the book is that failure is the norm, even for the most devout. Not only do the authors repeatedly give examples of the best Christians committing the worst sins, but they also insist that such wrongdoing never warrants condemnation from God or other believers. Instead, they argue, sinners must experience total acceptance and love before true repentance and change can occur. This solid, Bible-based argument against guilt and for grace is a powerful elixir for evangelicals who all too often hear the opposite message.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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October 31, 2001
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Excerpt from How People Grow by Henry Cloud
Harder Than I Thought I saw that everything I had been learning that helped people grow was right there in the Bible all along. It was my first day on the job in a Christian psychiatric hospital. I (Henry) was like a kid on Christmas morning. I had been taking college and seminary classes and reading all that I could get my hands on about Christian counseling for about four years, and I was ready to put my knowledge into practice. I showed up at the medical center in Dallas early that morning all geared up to teach the patients how to find the life I knew awaited them as soon as they learned the truth I had been taught. I went up to the nurse's station and waited for the head nurse to finish writing in a chart so that I could introduce myself. The unit was bustling with early-morning activity. I saw patients talking with their doctors and visiting with each other. Nurses were taking patients' vital signs as other people were beginning groups, completing homework assignments, getting medications, and having therapy sessions-all the typical activities of a busy psychiatric unit. I looked down the hall, and a woman in a pink bathrobe walked out of her room. She extended her arms outward and exclaimed, "I am Mary, Mother of God!" Now think about this. Here I am, brand new at Christian counseling, and thinking that all I had to do was come in and tell people God loved them, and if they would understand more of what he has said, they would be well. This was what was going on in my mind. But when I heard what this woman said, I thought: This is going to be harder than I thought. It was a thought I would have many times in the year to come. FOUR MODELS OF HOW PEOPLE GROW IN CHRISTIAN CIRCLES AT the time I was beginning training, there were basically four popular ways of thinking about personal growth: the sin model, the truth model, the experiential model, and the supernatural model. The sin model said that all problems are a result of one's sin. If you struggled in your marriage or with an emotional problem such as depression, the role of the helper was to find the sin and confront you, urging you to confess, repent, and sin no more. If you did that, you were sure to get better. It was like many three-point sermons I had heard in strong Bible churches: God is good. You're bad. 3. Stop it. The truth model held that the truth would set you free. If you were not "free," if some area of your life were not working, it must be because you lacked "truth" in your life. So the helper's role was to urge you to learn more verses, memorize more Scripture, and learn more doctrine (particularly your "position in Christ"), and then all of this truth would make its way from your head to your heart and ultimately into your behavior and emotions. Passages that emphasize knowing truth, renewing your mind, and how you "think in your heart" became a new theology of "thinking truth to gain emotional health." The experiential model held that you had to get to the pain in your life-find the abuse or the hurt-and then somehow "get it out." Proponents of the more spiritual versions of this model either took the pain to Jesus or took Jesus to the pain. In a kind of emotional archaeology, people would dig up hurts from the past and then seek healing through prayer or imagery or just clearing out the pain. Proponents of this model emphasized Jesus' ability to transcend time; he could be "there" with you in your pain or abuse and could change it. The supernatural model had many variations. Charismatics sought instant healing and deliverance; others depended on the Holy Spirit to make the change happen as he lived his life through them. Exchanged-life people (those who hold that you just get out of the way so Christ can reproduce his life in you) as well as other very well-grounded students of the spiritual life trusted God to lead them and make changes in them. While I saw value in all four models-and pract