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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Break Through, by Tim Clinton and Pat Springle

**Once again, I must offer warning of a long post. I've edited it as much as I can.**

I'm not even going to start to pretend that I'm the best person to review this book, ok? If you know me in real life and you are reading this, don't get your dander up thinking I'm on a lecturing binge. (It may sound like it, but you would be 100% incorrect in that assumption.) The fact also exists that I can only review this book through my own eyes and life experiences.

Actually, when I first opened the covers of Break Through: When to Give In, How to Push Back, I wasn't sure I liked it. I hesitated about reviewing it because I didn't care for Clinton and Springle's style. The first half of the book was filled with so many "stories" and examples about what they were talking about that I wasn't gleaning much. However, by the second half of the book they were more focused on offering information, wisdom and advice than on story-telling. I began to not only appreciate it, but love it.

Break Through is all about how to correctly think about and deal with relationships in general, and broken relationships, specifically. Since we all have them - broken and unbroken - I think this book serves a purpose and could be a useful tool to every human being on the planet earth. Far reaching? Perhaps. Yet remarkably accurate at the same time! For some time I've wondered if I were some kind of oddity and the only one who ever suffered from broken relationships. However, age and the honesty of others have assured me that I am not unique in the least. We all have strings of broken relationships in our wake - some more horrible and others less - and we need a great deal of humility and wisdom to deal with them effectively. Just as we have bad relationships, we also have fantastic relationships which bolster our spirits and bless us tremendously. Both types of relationships - the good and the bad - are beneficial in our walk with Christ. It just may take an attitude adjustment to believe that that is so.

Before we get much further, I should tell you that being female I tend to fixate on relationships in general. How they work (or don't) is a fascinating and interesting subject matter to me. (Hence this book was interesting to me.) Being a Christian, I have a strong opinion on the importance of choosing one's friends wisely and well. It cannot be under emphasized how crucial it is to form relationships with people that you can trust to be honest and who will point you to the cross, no matter the cost to them or you. (Yet another reason that this book was interesting to me, in that it is written from the Christian perspective.) Close friendships need to be God-centered above our own comfort levels. Because the authors take this position as well, I feel I can heartily recommend this book.

Even though you may find yourself blessed with a fantastically close Christian friendship, the chances are high that it will take a lot of work to maintain that relationship and that it will not be without its set of mishaps. Occasionally the relationship will have a growth spurt and such spurts are not always pleasant. Conflict arises because no two people are exactly alike. As Clinton and Springle point out, one should not believe that a good relationship means an absence of conflict. One should believe that a good friendship is good because it is healthy enough to resolve conflict in a God-honoring and God-glorifying manner. To repeat: conflict is not bad; it is good. Conflict is necessary because it teaches us things about ourselves and our standing before the Lord. Conflict addresses sin areas and although that is likely to be painful, it must be endured and understood to have a glorious purpose. If you have conflict in a relationship, don't panic and slam doors. You might need to take a breather, but it is important to come back when you can and work through the difficulty.

I use the phrase "when you can" because sometimes you cannot. I very much appreciated the fact that Clinton and Springle do not assume that every relationship that you are presented with in life is a particularly healthy one for you to be involved in. Sometimes you just shouldn't be friends with another individual and sometimes the trust that should have been a part of that relationship has been grievously wounded. You should never expect trust to be returned to the relationship overnight. They say the following:

Forgiveness and trust are separate issues. It only takes one person to forgive, but two to reconcile. While God commands us to love and to forgive, we are never commanded to trust untrustworthy people. Trust must be earned by kind, respectful, consistent behavior. It is foolishness - not love - that compels us to give in by trusting those who haven't proven that they are trustworthy. (Chapter Two, Break Through to True Love, page 30)


How many times have you heard the phrase, "You need to forgive that person"? You know this statement to be true. After all, you who have been forgiven much have much to forgive. But as Clinton and Springle point out, forgiveness isn't granted at a command. Sometimes it can only honestly be given when you've had time and space from the offender. And just because forgiveness has been extended and love restored, does not mean that the offender should expect a relationship to instantly resume. Once trust is severed, it is very difficult to rebuild it and consideration of this fact should be given.

. . . [D]on't be confused: Forgiving doesn't mean we have to give in to manipulation. It doesn't mean we have to blindly trust again. it doesn't mean the hurt is magically erased. Reconciliation is based on trust, and trust must be proven over time. Even if both parties want to reconcile, it doesn't happen instantly. The commitment to reconciliation can happen in a moment, but the building of understanding, respect, and trust is a long process. So be strong, be cautious, and be wise, but forgive. (Chapter 12, Speaking the Hard Truth, page 216)


Clinton and Springle talk a lot about dealing with angry people, manipulative people, and those who are conflict avoidant. They discuss difficult relationships with children and adolescents, marriages and just about any other type of relationship which you can imagine having. Relationship blunders abound in all sorts and all types of relationships. In all ages and at all times we are constantly challenged to die to self and live for Christ. And I think that this is what I most appreciated about what they had to say regarding all of the above types of relationships.

The authors spent a considerable time focused on the fact that in order to have a healthy relationship in the first place, you must not place the relationship ahead of your relationship with God. They make themselves explicitly clear in saying that if you put too many expectations on the human relationship, then you are idolizing it in an unhealthy and ungodly way. We must set down our idols, be they expectations that our spouses will make us happy, or our girlfriends or our children, etc.

Human nature is selfish. Ultimately, we like people who make us like ourselves and who make us feel happy. We tend to dislike people who in anyway express displeasure by what they see in us. (Grant it, some people have extremely unhealthy, stringent requirements that are placed upon us in an ungodly manner. I personally tend to have high expectations of others and so this spoke well to me.) We want to surround ourselves with love and joy always. Clinton and Springle talk about how our friends are mirrors, showing us who we are - warts and all - that we should pay attention to. It makes me think of the quote I shared from Nancy Wilson's book the other day in which she said:

Realize that each comment has come with God's permission and view it as part of your sanctification.


God puts certain people in our lives for a reason. It may be to break us and teach us how to be more like Christ. We may resent that; and we may resent that unfairly. Distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy relationships is a tricky business and involves quite a bit of wisdom, correctly applied. I can't honestly sit here and say that I just love and adore everyone that God has put into my life. At the same time, I can already gratefully see that He has a purpose in having them here. (It's just that I don't really like the purpose because it brings me pain. That's unfair pain, you know. Right?!) I can't dictate what every relationship looks like (I want to though). I can't reason everyone into seeing things exactly my way (though they should, I mean really!). Ultimately, my trust needs to be in God who works all things together for my good and for His glory. I am responsible for me before Christ and must follow Him. I must trust that my Christian friends and family are doing the same. My task is to respond well to the things which God is having them teach me, knowing that sometimes that is going to hurt me and sometimes it's going to hurt them.

Each person has to carry the responsibility for his thoughts, attitude, responses to people, discipline to get work done, and so on. (Chapter 11, Balancing Our Responsibilities, page 186)

I could go on and on on this topic. Bottom line though: for a relationship to be healthy, it must be acknowledged that it is not more important than Christ. Our complete trust needs to be placed in the Lord God and every relationship submitted to Him. He will work in and through people to teach us how to be more like Him. Sometimes we will experience pain and sometimes the people we are closest to will hurt when we are directed to share a truth with them that they do not like. Relationships may threaten to break. We have to stand ready to forgive and pray and work hard for reconciliation when it is safely possible. Good relationships may hurt, but working through the pain will make them stronger. Above all - live in light of the resurrection! Confess your sins when necessary, extend forgiveness and live knowing that Christ conquered sin and death and reigns victorious. We can be victorious in and through Him and find ourselves blessed beyond measure in the process. And what a joy it will be to enter Heaven and find all our old wounds healed and find ourselves in a position to worship the Lord, no longer broken.

(Here's a song I may or may not have listened to innumerable times when my spirit needed some encouraging.)



Then the world was broken, fallen and battered and scarred
You took the hopeless, the life, wasted, ruined and marred
And made it new

You make all things new
You make all things new
You redeem and You transform
You renew and You restore
You make all things new
You make all things new
And forever we will watch and worship You


Thank you to Worthy Publications who send a copy of this book my direction in exchange for my honest thoughts.

11 comments:

Sky said...

Thank you for the review, this sounds like an interesting and insightful read!

Barbara H. said...

This doesn't sound like a book I'd read cover to cover, but it might be useful for dipping into at various points.

I like that they got into the fact that conflict doesn't have to end a relationship and can even make it stronger once it is weathered.

Shonya said...

Oh Carrie, if you only knew how particularly relevant this review/book is today. I think I need to read this book.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I like that they make the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation, and also recognize that forgiveness isn't something that can be instantaneous.

It seems to be forgotten, particularly in certain Christian circles, that there are certain lines in any relationship that cannot be crossed without damaging the relationship beyond "forgiveness". For lack of a better word, some things are "unforgivable" - they can't be unsaid or undone. I love the line that it requires understanding, respect, and trust. If there is one thing I would emphasize to my own kids about marriage, it is that these are mandatory. Marry a spouse you can respect and trust - and show that respect and trust. Sure, there will be conflict. You can come through it if you maintain that attitude, but the marriage will be over once the line to contempt is crossed.

Susanne said...

Thanks for the good review, Carrie. Sounds like a read that one can get lots out of.

4granted said...

Great review. This book is a game-changer for those who need help setting boundaries in their life. Some of us try too hard to control others; others of us allow ourselves to be manipulated, even bullied. This book addresses both these dysfunctions but offers real life examples of how to change. There’s a helpful article on how to break free of relational enmeshment, based on the insights of the book, at http://www.wikihow.com/Recognize-and-Break-Free-of-Relational-Enmeshment

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