I have not posted in a few weeks. I have been busy, other interests have taken priority over blogging. In a sense, this is an appropriate springboard for boundaries. Boundaries, according to John Townsend and Henry Cloud, authors of the book, Boundaries, serve the function of defining and protecting. Our boundaries state what we are OK with, what we like, what we are interested in as well as what we do not like, are not OK with, and are not interested in. Our boundaries say something about who we are and who we are not. This then transfers into what we will allow inside our boundary. If I do not like to be hit, then I will say no to someone hitting me, get out of the way, or get out of the relationship. I know that example is loaded and I know it is not always that simple. The person with a solid boundary is going to get out of or avoid an abusive relationship. The person who stays, despite not being OK with the abuse, does not have a solid definition of herself. Her boundary wall has become intertwined with the wall of another. She is defined, in part, by the abuser. That is why it is so hard to get out of the relationship. The person resembles a conjoined twin. Part of her being belongs to herself, but part belongs to another. As hard as it can be to hear this, it is a choice to be intertwined with another. We can choose who defines us.
Usually, our fuzzy, indistinct definition of self started in the late infancy/early toddler years. This is the stage in life when we begin to notice that we are separate from our mother or primary caregivers. If that separation was encouraged by our primary caregivers, then we have a much better chance at developing a strong sense of who we are (also referred to as a strong sense of self). If our primary caregivers did not welcome this stage or were inconsistent in their parenting, we probably have boundary issues today. All is not lost, there is hope!
Begin to notice why you do what you do, believe what you do, feel what you do. Is it for others, because of what others will think of you, or to gain acceptance? What if it did not matter at all what others think or how they react to you? What would you do, think, or feel? I am not talking about things that are illegal or unhealthy. Who are you at your core? What are you passionate about? What do you like to eat? How do you feel about politics? Do you like to travel? What are your thoughts about spirituality? Asking yourself these questions can help you begin to define yourself. You are finding out what you like and what you do not like. You might not know the answers. Begin to find out. As you eat the meal in front of you, notice the taste and feel of the food in your mouth. Is that enjoyable to you? If it is, then that goes inside your boundary as something you like. If not, then put it outside of your boundary. When you read a book or article, ask if you like or even agree with the concepts presented. The same goes for things like movies, music, colors, styles, and people. We do not have to like everyone. We are to be kind toward all people, but we do not have to agree with them or even enjoy being around them. It is not only acceptable to have separate views, likes, and dislikes, it is imperative in defining yourself.
A huge word of warning: Not everyone in your life is going to like that you are clearly defined. Often the people in our lives who have robbed us of the gift of defining ourselves will protest our efforts to separate. As painful as that can be, whose life do you want to live? Yours or theirs? At the end of your life will you have a smile on your face for discovering who you are and living out the life God intended for you or because you lived someone else’s life? I believe an authentic smile and a sense of satisfaction come from the former. We live in a culture that does not welcome boundaries. Often people who speak their likes and dislikes are viewed as offensive. That is unfortunate. It is refreshing to be with a person who is clearly defined. We know exactly where that person stands. They are consistent. We also know the relationship with a healthy, genuine, well defined person is safe.
It is important to note that a clear definition of self does not give us license to treat people in a cruel way. We can disagree with kindness and appreciate that we are different from one another. We can have compassion in our voice as we tell someone we do not see eye to eye with them or that we will not be doing what they want us to do. If the person is unwilling to accept us because we do not agree, then we may have to let that relationship go. We can give the person opportunities to be in relationship with us, but not control us. Some people in this case will self eject out of the relationship. In some ways it sounds like, “Fine! You won’t do it my way? Then I’m not “playing” with you anymore and you can’t come to my party!”
If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to get in touch with a local safe house. Abusive people do not give up easily. There are cases where the abuser kills the person trying to leave. Please do not become a statistic. There are a lot of community resources dedicated to helping people get out of abusive relationships. Conduct a computer search for shelters in your area, but not on your home computer. Go to a local library and use a computer there to find the answers and the help you may need. Follow the advice given. You will need their support.