A recent story on the radio show "This American Life" grabbed me and wouldn't let go. It's the true story of a compassionate landlord named Dennis, who for 6 years tried everything he could to help two down-on-their-luck tenants make their rent payments. I could relate to Dennis' position and I think his story will make you wonder what you would do in his shoes, so I recommend you listen to Dennis' story called "Please Re-Lease Me."
Dennis' father shared some chilling advice when he first became a landord. His father said dealing with problem tenants "will make a good person bad." Dennis didn't want that; he wanted to live in service to others. That's why he kept pursuing new, more involved ways to help the struggling couple.
I don't want to spoil the end of his story, but I will say the situation snowballed. Dennis believes the ordeal changed him for the worse, and that his father's words may have come true. "Now I don't like to get personally involved with tenants," Dennis says. "It's just too hard."
This saddened me because I think Dennis could have avoided the more soul-scorching aspects of his experience. As I listened to his story I wanted so badly to talk with him and recommend two books, Boundaries and Beyond Boundaries!
I would recommended Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend because its biblically-based principles helped me learn when I need to say 'no,' and how this doesn't make me a mean person. Since I'm one of those people who can let good intentions get me committed to more things that I can reasonably handle, Boundaries has been helpful in learning to set legitimate, healthy limits on my commitments and relationships. There are times when a Christian can say 'no' because there are times when love says 'no'! Read an excerpt of Boundaries on Scribd.
I would also tell Dennis about John Townsend's new book, Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships. Beyond Boundaries is especially helpful for for people who have already been burned by a breach of trust. It covers how you can know when you can trust someone again, how to heal broken trust, and how to build a strong and healthy foundation in new relationships. I've read several chapters of the book and I've liked it a lot. You can read an excerpt of Beyond Boundaries on Scribd, and there's also a Beyond Boundaries video curriculum.
In a way this post is an open letter to Dennis. So Dennis, if you're reading this, I encourage you to pick up Boundaries and Beyond Boundaries... and God's blessings on you for all you've done to treat your tenants with justice and compassion!
For everyone else, what are your thoughts on Dennis' story? How would you have handled the situation differently? Do you recommend any other books that have helped you discern when a well-meaning commitment has become unhealthy?
PS - To learn more about Beyond Boundaries, tune in to the Beyond Boundaries Live Worldwide Webcast with Dr. John Townsend on October 4, at 8pm EST. Register for the free webcast at www.facebook.com/drtownsendspage.
(-Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team)