Book Review: Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger

Stop Walking on Eggshells is a practical book that describes the complexity of what psychologists define as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD or BP). I actually like the book for the sake of the descriptions and examples of conversations and expectations, however, I would not recommend this book to anyone unless they had a strong biblical counseling background. The reason to read it is to understand the demanding, unstable and volatile, emotional way a BP person lives. A BP person demands his intimate ways and reacts in harmful ways to anyone who does not support and go along with him. The term BP comes from psychological theories that such people had a mental illness, which borders between neurosis and psychosis. There is no way to understand God’s view from this book.  It is a man-centered approach to a life-dominating sin pattern that is never called sin.

Mason and Kreger actually have done an excellent work on compiling hundreds of responses from people diagnosed with the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). They have divided the book into several parts. Part One is “Understanding BPD Behavior.” The emotional reactions of people caught between psychosis and neurosis in BP is explained well, except for the fact that their attitudes and actions are never defined as sin. If a person starts and ends with man’s view, he will never get to a clear understanding of the behavior, nor will he understand how to get to the cure.  However, the explanations help the reader understand how complicated the emotional revolt of the soul is, and they give many examples of what might face a Biblical counselor. Understanding the psychotic behavior on paper and then relating it to Biblical understanding is a good way to be forewarned and forearmed when dealing with the emotional roller coaster of a BP. I would strongly recommend having an assistant in counseling, so there is a witness to the words that are spoken. The effect of BP on a person without it is often incredible and can create sin patterns in the non-BP person as well.  When Mason and Kreger recommend the non-BP person get therapy, they are probably wise, although from a Biblical counselor who would lead him back to Jesus in Scripture.

Part 2 addresses “Taking Back Control of Your Life.” There are many good examples of how to objectively deal with the BP person (again, this is a life-dominating sin pattern). One of the wise things the authors recommend is to accept 1) you cannot make your BP person get help, 2) you cannot force change in the BP person and 3) to stop taking the BP person’s actions personally (pp. 83-88). They do not however, give spiritual guidelines on how to confirm completeness in Jesus, or understand God’s will, or understand how to seek restoration Biblically. The basic premise is how to “cope” while the BP person either continues in his sinful behavior or gets some help to return to “more normal” behavior (pp. 92-104).

There is some good practical advice given that could be used with Biblical principles. For example, basic criteria for maintaining a relationship, understanding your own limits (at this point in your spiritual life) and how to explain some of those limits to the BP person (which might be a humble approach to express human weaknesses and inadequacies). Of course our adequacy is in Christ and the Christian can do all things in Christ, but transparency can be helpful to express to a BP person, IF he might listen and IF he cares.

There are good suggestions regarding specific communication skills to understand what sets off a BP person (pp. 111-128). For example, defuse anger and criticism by not defending, denying, counterattacking or withdrawing (pp. 129-130).  However, these principles can and should be drawn solely from Scripture (Ephesians 4, for example).

The problem is each set of principles would require great discernment to understand the differences of God’s view and man’s view.  Statements like “There are no villains here. We just see things differently” and “I’m not will to take more than 50 percent of the responsibility” sound good (p. 154), but they are subtly and Biblically wrong. They are comparing people and behavior to a nebulous standard rather than the holiness of God.

In their suggestions on what to do “if your limits aren’t observed,” Mason and Kreger suggest, “You can call a crisis line or shelter,” or “You can change your phone number, get Caller ID, or change the door locks,” which may need to be done, but the purposes are not given in order to restore the relationship. The purpose is rather to figure out how to cope better, which sounds humanly good, but falls short of God’s view and doesn’t help the BP person.

Mason suggests how to “measure your success by the things you can control.” (p. 157) The suggested factors sound good humanly, but success is determined by obedience or disobedience to the Lord, not whether there is relative calm in the relationship with the BP person.

When a BP makes false accusations, Mason provides several good suggestions. First, keep detailed records of all doctor’s appointments and meetings with school officials that  do not substantiate the claims. Second, keep a diary of your activities. Third, ask other children if they are willing to testify (that may be questionable based on age and relationship). And fourth, make sure a third party is present when you are with the child. These are common sense and practical.

The bottom line is that Mason and Kreger treat BP as a disorder (p. 18) or mental illness (p. 223). When you begin with that premise, you will only be able to get to coping mechanisms, not lasting restoration.  Mason and Kreger acknowledge there is no single cause of BPD (p. 237), but they do blame the brain and do blame environmental factors. They do not hold the person responsible for decisions made or in reaction to situations and relationships.

Regarding treatments, they cite common medications that are used as well as psychotherapy. They mention several different forms of therapy and then also make recommendations on how to find a therapist. If the client is drugged and directed by a secular counselor, the result will be a hardening away from God, because the Lord will not be a part of the process.

My soul goes out to those who live with a BP person. Living in the chaotic emotionalism would be most confusing and destabilizing. The BP oscillates between clinging dependency from fear of abandonment and attacks of condemnation. The sin pattern rides the roller coaster of self-condemnation and self-righteousness. That would wear anyone out who is living with the BP person.

The core issue is pride. The BP thinks people should organize their life around them. The BP is dependent on what people think rather than God and is self-absorbed. He does not practice self-control and is feeling-oriented rather than God-centered. The BP person should be given the gospel and begun on the journey of Biblical sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit in God’s Word.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger

  1. Thank you for the review I found it helpful. However I feel your analysis of Borderline Personality Disorder lacking. Would you tell a person dealing with bipolar or schizophrenia to just accept Christ? While i believe all suffering with mental disorders can be saved and need the gospel there are real disorders with medical treatments and valid therapies. I believe there needs to be more literature on the balance between the biblical perspective and clinical.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I respect your views. I stand by my comments that the book does not give a Biblical analysis, but only makes psychological observations and suggestions for solutions. It falls short of addressing God’s view. Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem of life and for someone who has a life-dominating sin pattern of BP needs great care and understanding, because he is living by the emotions, previous injuries, offenses and/or mistreatments. To say something else, is to deny the power of the gospel and the Word that Jesus Christ provided. There is an incredible source of literature found in the Scriptures. I’d refer you to the book review I will post on 6/12/14. I continue to see an over dependence on medical solutions, which some are needed because of how some have chosen to live and some are found to be, and far too little dependence on the miraculous power available by God’s Spirit and His Word.

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