Healthy boundaries are defenses. They represent reasonable expectations we have within our interactions with others that identify acceptable behaviors and allow certain types of safe and respectful interactions with people, and identify unacceptable behaviors and disallow those types of interactions that are not safe or respectful to us.
(by the way, this is not a clinical definition of boundaries, and I’m sure that definition would be much more complete and complex … but this is just what I have learned about boundaries.)
Boundaries result from the sum total of our life experiences up to that moment, and learning from those experiences helps us identify and recognize what is right and what is wrong, and to defend what we know to be right and to be wrong, ideally helping us to become more capable, as time passes, of knowing when it is right to say “yes,” and when it is okay to say “no.”
Every survivor should learn about boundaries: what they are, what they mean, how to identify them, how to defend them. These are very important skills that children should be taught by example; but unfortunately, some children, such as those who grow up in abusive environments, don’t learn how to set and defend healthy boundaries in healthy ways. So, as an adult, they are more prone to get into bad situations with toxic and unstable people — or to mimic those toxic behaviors themselves — because they haven’t yet learned to identify acceptable versus unacceptable behavior with others and within themselves, much less learn to know when it’s okay to say “yes,” and when it’s better to say “no.”
This has been a hard thing for me to learn, too — very hard — but I have been learning over the past several years that, not only are my boundaries reasonable and okay to have (and, by the way, I have also been learning to define which boundaries are not okay or reasonable), but I’ve also gradually learned to recognize when people are breaching my boundaries, and to then unapologetically defend them in an acceptable manner, not allowing others to intimidate me or manipulate me or guilt me into not defending my boundaries, and not allowing others to cause me to believe that I haven’t defended my boundaries in an appropriate manner, even those types of (abhorrent) individuals who try to use Scripture to somehow coerce me into abandoning my very reasonable expectations.
Among other things, HEALTHY BOUNDARIES ARE NECESSARY in order to have and maintain safe relationships and safe interactions.
So don’t let people manipulate you into thinking it’s not okay to set and defend your boundaries, and if people get upset at you for having and defending your boundaries, then they probably aren’t people you’d want to be friends with anyway.
So, for example, when a friend accidentally crossed your boundaries (because not everyone has the same boundaries, and boundaries can be accidentally crossed at any time), then when you tell them that you don’t appreciate what they did or said, and they say “sorry,” (or something similar), and then make a change for the better, then that’s a good indication that they are a good friend to have and a good relationship to pursue, because they respect you and your boundaries.
On the other hand, if they don’t apologize AND make a change for the better (in other words, they must do both — they can’t say “I’m sorry” without actually correcting their behavior!!), and instead begin making excuses, gaslighting, deflecting, etc., then that’s an indication that they are not a good friend to have, because they do not respect you or your boundaries.
This is a must-have lesson for survivors to learn.
Unfortunately, churches and “Christian” organizations and groups teach and promote things like false compassion, false forgiveness, false guilt, and tolerance, that prevents healthy boundaries from being created.
They are, in effect, if not in actuality, teaching that walls (boundaries) are a bad thing, because it keeps people out.
But this is NOT what Scripture teaches at all!
A church without walls is a church that is not of God.
And people without boundaries are people who accept anything and everything as being acceptable, and this is not healthy, nor is it actually what the Word of God teaches.
The Dynamics of False Compassion, False Forgiveness, False Guilt, and Tolerance
Carolyn and I have written much about how Satan masquerades in Christians circles, infiltrating groups through various doctrines that are disguised as “Christian” doctrine… but I haven’t written too much about this “false compassion” except for perhaps when I briefly touched on the topic here, in a round-about way (although maybe I have written about it in other places, but I can’t recall just now): “Tolerance is Not a Fruit of the Spirit“.
(and, well, now that I’m reading over this for editing purposes, I realize that I have written a ton about this ungodly and damaging dynamic in various parts of my bio, but I just haven’t given names to “false compassion, false forgiveness,” etc.)
So what are these things, and why do I call them false?
False Compassion goes hand-in-hand with False Forgiveness and False Guilt, and they run rampant through Christian groups, paving the way for Tolerance, making possible a redefining of sin and a disregard for bad behavior; and every bit of this is made allowances for by using Scripture that has been twisted out of context and given an application and a meaning that the Word of God does not have.
The dynamic that is played out with false compassion, false forgiveness, false guilt, and tolerance, involves three groups of people: the victims, the offenders, and the enablers.
A false compassion insists that victims remain helpless to defend themselves or others against evil or bad behavior, because that is the “godly” thing to do (so we are taught). Any attempt to point out, defend against, or even to ask defense from, bad, unacceptable, or sinful behavior, is redefined as “being angry,” and as being “hateful,” and as being “retaliatory.” Or simply isn’t believed. And since “vengeance belongs to God,” victims aren’t allowed to defend themselves or others against behavior that is unacceptable; many times they aren’t allowed to leave bad relationships without being made to feel guilty or sinful or even as if they have fallen from God’s grace; and they certainly aren’t allowed to hold others to a standard (boundaries) that does not allow unacceptable behavior without being made to feel “guilty” for supposedly not being “forgiving” and “tolerant” of other people’s “mistakes” (so we are taught).
A false compassion insists that victims should have no boundaries, because walls divide, and we should be “open to love” our “brothers and sisters in Christ,” and not insist on silly things, such as respect and boundaries and common human decency (so we are taught). In this way, holding people to standards of Christian behavior (or even just decent HUMAN behavior…!) is instead seen as a bad thing, and those who insist upon those standards are seen as “intolerant,” “unforgiving,” “selfish,” “not Christ-like,” or other similar sentiments that are meant to guilt those individuals into accepting that which is unacceptable, and into agreeing with those things that are disagreeable. After all, “everyone has their own truth” (so we are taught), and so a false compassion justifies wrong doing by replacing “right versus wrong” with “personal perspective” and “personal truth.”
A false compassion says that we should accept anything and everything our “brothers and sisters in Christ” feel like dishing out to us, because of “love” and “forgiveness” (so we are taught).
A false compassion allows sin or bad behavior to go unchecked under the guise of “forgiveness” and “tolerance” (so we are taught).
A false compassion not only ignores wrongs that have been committed, but insists that they should never be addressed at all, because addressing bad behavior makes people feel bad about their bad behavior, and so victims are instead told to “forgive,” and the narrative behind a false compassion dictates that forgiveness means forgetting (so we are taught).
Since this false compassion frowns upon holding people accountable for their words and actions (because it makes people feel bad about their bad behavior, and it’s not Christ-like to make people feel bad by judging their words and actions … so they say), offenders are enabled to do things like: deflect their bad behavior upon those around them, making a huge deal about the every sin or misbehavior of others (real or imagined), in order to divert the attention away from themselves; use diversion tactics to muddy the waters and to confuse what the issue really is (their bad behavior); they use triangulation tactics to get people on their side and to coerce their victims into silence; etc.
This false compassion enables the offenders to say whatever they wants to do and say without consequence (so they have been taught), and if anyone has the audacity to call them out for their bad behavior, they simply gaslight that individual, evading and dodging the issue by pretending they did nothing wrong at all … or by making excuses for their bad behavior … or by minimizing their bad behavior …. or by making the offense to be something that it is not, and then falsely accusing (which is a deflection) the other person of “not forgiving” them for the offense that was never there to begin with.
A false compassion puts more emphasis on forgiveness rather than repentance, and if repentance is talked about at all, it is often watered-down or redefined — either explicitly through word, or implicitly through practice — as meaning saying “I’m sorry” or “forgive me,” but without actually changing anything about the behavior at all.
A false compassion teaches that “forgiveness” is synonymous with “reconciliation,” thus forcing victims to forever be tied to those who repeatedly exhibit unacceptable behavior, and it turns forgiveness into an activity that does not bring healing to the victims and humility to the offenders (as it should), but instead as something that enables sin and bad behavior.
A false compassion traps the victims of sin and abusive behavior through guilt, manipulating Scripture as a weapon to gaslight their victims.
There are a lot of other examples I could use, and if you have been through this sort of thing, you could probably be able to think back to your own experiences and add your own thoughts, but basically, a false “Christian” compassion gives license to the perpetrators (offenders) to continue in their abuse and sin and unacceptable behavior, using whatever excuse is handy for them to justify their words and actions; it burdens down the victims with guilt and shame, usually by (mis-)using and mishandling Scripture; it downplays, ignores, or waters-down repentance to the point where it’s meaningless words that are used in order to gain permission, through their so-called “repentance,” to commit the offense again; it redefines forgiveness into being synonymous with forgetting and enabling; and it fuels the (self-)righteousness of many self-identified “Christian” men and women who love to pick through their favorite Scriptures to use as shields to protect them from the truth of their ungodly and abusive behavior.
And if it sounds like I’m accusing “Christian” churches, organizations, groups, and ministries of harboring abusive narcissists, why, yes, yes I am. That is exactly what I am saying. And many of them not only harbor narcissists, but nurture them, encourage them, and teach their children how to become them, and all in the name of “God.”
If that isn’t blasphemous, I don’t know what is.
So here are some of the things I have learned throughout the years about boundaries.
I already touched on this, but I want to reiterate that boundaries are not a bad thing.
Yes, there are healthy and unhealthy boundaries, but in this blog post, I’m mainly talking about how to define, set, and defend healthy boundaries.
In the past, my boundaries had been defined by other people, and those “boundaries” left me defenseless against the offenses and sins that others insisted upon perpetrating upon me. As I have grown and matured, I have realized that how I was raised, and the things that were done to me, were not okay. And so I began learning to identify which behaviors were acceptable to me, and which behaviors were not; and I began to learn which behaviors were things that didn’t really matter to me one way or the other.
I began to learn what types of interactions I want to have with people: what types of interactions are safe, and which types of interactions make me feel unsafe. I’m still learning this, of course, and I’m learning what to do when interactions make me feel unsafe: do I walk away and say nothing, or do I say something in defense?
Either way, I take a moment to reflect upon the situation to see if it was something that I could have handled differently, or if perhaps it was a moment of simply misunderstanding, or if perhaps I inadvertently breached someone else’s boundaries, etc.
The vast majority of the time, I feel like kicking myself for just walking away and saying nothing.
For instance, a few years back, I was grocery shopping at the same store I always go to because my boys work there, and one of the employees — a man who I knew decently enough to at least wave and say “hi” when I saw him — stopped me to say thank you for the cookies I had made for the store employees, how good they were, etc. Then when a checker walked by — someone else I was also friendly with — he stopped her and started loud-talking about me, laughing and gesturing as if he were making a joke, about how he saw me across the parking lot several months ago, yelling at my children and shaking my fists at them, and how they were cringing and acting scared.
And, oh my! He sure knew how to make a story sound funny — just like my mother.
It was such a bizarre situation, and I tried to think back, wondering if maybe he had seen a situation where my children and I were joking around, and maybe he saw and misunderstood what it was all about, because I don’t go around screaming and hollering and waving my fists around, much less to my children. Second, I was feeling very triggered, because he was falsely accusing me of something that my MOTHER has actually done before, many times. Third, I was angry because he was falsely accusing me of being abusive towards my children, and I wondered (later) if he would think it was funny if I made a “joke” about how he inappropriately touches his daughter….
But I just stood there, listening to all of the CRAP that was coming out of his mouth (disguised as a “joke,” of course), maligning me (“jokingly” of course), and falsely accusing me (“haha”), and, of course, I started to dissociate, feeling myself float out of my body and hover somewhere just above my head, watching, with detachment, as two people who knew me and knew my children, laughed about how “abusive” I was towards my children and how “scared” my children were of me.
And I just turned around and walked away.
I never spoke to that man, ever again, and it took me a long while before I went grocery shopping by myself again.
(I still have problems grocery shopping by myself, actually, because of situations exactly like that: I never know when a situation is going to arise where I just won’t know what to do. So I wait until I’m feeling strong, emotionally and mentally, before I go grocery shopping by myself. Otherwise, I go on the weekends, with my husband.)
Reflecting back, of course, I became INCENSED. And I thought of all sorts of things to tell that
man jackass just how the cow ate the cabbage. But I hadn’t done that, and I regretted it. It’s kinda too late now, of course, but I’ve already made up my mind that if he EVER attempts to talk to me again, I’ll tell him to buzz off (or something similar…).
He probably won’t get it. But I don’t care. He’s a nasty jerk who tried to make a “joke” out of me abusing my children, something that never even happened. And if it did happen, why would he make a joke out of it? It wouldn’t be funny.
So anyway, that’s just an example of how I feel after I reflect upon my actions when someone has crossed my boundaries: I usually feel like kicking myself for not saying anything at all.
On the other hand, sometimes walking away is the best option, especially when it’s strangers involved. Or extremely volatile people. For my own safety, it is probably best to just walk away and not try to engage violent people.
Yet, now that I am learning to define and set my own boundaries, there are people who try to cause me to believe that my boundaries are unreasonable. They have tried to guilt me into redefining my boundaries. To manipulate me into lowering my boundaries in order to allow for their unacceptable behavior. They have tried to convince me that my boundaries are like a thick brick wall with barbed wire across the top, keeping everyone out (namely, them). That my boundaries are too high, that my walls of defense are too thick.
And now that I am learning to defend my boundaries, people have tried to convince me (and, in many gaslighting attempts over the years, have tried to convince others), that my act of defending my boundaries is unreasonable. That I’m “irrational.” That I “fly off the handle.” That I “overreact.” That I am being “toxic” when I have defended my boundaries. That I am being “un-Christ-like.” That I am being “unforgiving.” That I am being “hateful.” That I’m being “vindictive.”
No, my boundaries are not unreasonable, and I am not unreasonable in my defense of them.
(I knew this one before, but because of so-called “Christian compassion,” I ignored the warning flag, but I’ve learned NOW to not ignore it.)
I’ve learned that when someone, shortly after meeting me, quickly claims to have “sisterly love” or “sisterly affection” or “Christ’s love” for me (or quickly claims any sort of “love” or “affection” period), that this is not a good thing, and it’s probably a good indication that the other person has some sort of mental or emotional problem that I’m simply not equipped to deal with.
This might sound awful to some of you who haven’t yet learned this lesson, but let me explain why.
Healthy relationships — whether platonic or romantic — are BUILT DAY BY DAY, through honest conversation, healthy interactions, and mutual respect. They take WORK on both parties; they are not created in an instant.
Children make instant declarations of love and affection because they have not yet learned to be discerning of who is safe and who is unsafe; they have not yet learned to be discerning of what sorts of behaviors are acceptable and which are not; they have not yet learned what it is that they find desirable and acceptable in relationships, and what they find to be disagreeable; etc.
Adults who are still stuck in this pattern of imagining an instant “bond” with you, or who make proclamations of “love” for you (and beware ESPECIALLY those declarations of love using God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, etc., or other spiritual terms, whether Christian-based or not), are people who are probably mentally and emotionally unstable. They may be broken, but sometimes they are toxic, too, and this can be used as a manipulation tactic to try to get what they want from you.
Regardless, at the least, it is a sign of extreme emotional and mental immaturity that will blow up in your face if you allow it. So have a relationship with those types of people at your own risk, but I won’t do it anymore. When I see this sign of instant and persistent declarations of affection and love (in toxic situations, this can be a manipulation tactic called “love bombing“), I’ll just keep my distance.
Some of the more persistent ones may protest my refusal to engage them with much anger, tears, guilt, etc. … or they may try to use Scripture as a weapon against me to try to make me feel a responsibility towards them that I do not have … or they may pepper their insults and false accusations with more love bombing … or they may try to make me look like the bad guy, bringing in others — even unsuspecting passersby — in a triangulation attempt to try to force me, through manipulation, into letting down my guard.
But still I will keep them at a distance. They’ll eventually find themselves an easier target for their smothered affection that remains, in their eyes, forever unrequited.
Note: these types of attempts are characteristic of narcissists; but I’d like to point out that not everyone who does these things, or attempts these things in some fashion, are necessarily full-blown narcissists. Sure, maybe they have some type of personality disorder, like NPD or BPD, I don’t know, and this probably isn’t a very popular opinion, but as I mentioned before, sometimes people are broken, not necessarily toxic. Sometimes people don’t know how to act any other way, because it is all they know. NO, this does not in any way excuse this type of behavior, of course, but this is why I keep saying that education is SO important in the healing process. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong, and it IS possible for someone to learn to how to interact with others in a safer, more respectful manner — if they want to learn!
The quicker you notice this type of person, and the quicker you make your way AWAY from them, the easier it will be. Don’t be like I was for years, and ignore this red flag. If you ignore it, or make excuses for why it’s okay to be there, or argue with yourself over what shade of red the metaphorical flag actually is …
“Is this ‘full-stop’ fire-engine red…? Or is it ‘proceed with caution’ orange-y-red…? Or maybe it’s not red at all, but I just think it is…? What color is this flag, anyway?! Or, wait! Omigosh, is there even a flag at all…?! Maybe I’m just making it up because I’m insecure…! Oh, I’m so confused!”
… it’ll be that much more difficult, even if just emotionally and mentally, to extract yourself in the future.
Friendships are two-way streets. They are positive and reciprocative interactions between two or more people.
Yes, sometimes one or the other has a bad day or week or month … but if I am the only one who, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year (!!), is making an effort to connect, then I have become comfortable in realizing that it’s not a relationship I want to be in.
For example, if I let my “friend” know that I am having a very difficult time and am not doing well, and she makes NO attempt whatsoever to contact me and check in on me and see if I’m okay (and my friends KNOW how to get in contact with me… it’s not hard!!), then I have now become comfortable in realizing that is not a relationship I want to be in.
That is my boundary — my expectation. And I am now okay with having this expectation.
Therefore, I will now stop interacting with any “friend” who does not attempt to actually BE a friend. It’s just not worth my time and effort.
After all, what do I know but that my attempts at connecting aren’t being seen as “smothered affection” by the other person…? Maybe they are! And maybe they have fallen prey to the “too nice” thing, too, just like I have in the past, and don’t really like me, but are “too nice” to tell me to buzz off.
Or … maybe it has nothing to do with me at all, but maybe they are at a point in their life where they are too busy with whatever stresses or general business in their life to nurture yet another friendship.
In the past, I would have automatically assumed the first scenario, and taken their actions (or inactions) personally, as if it were a “rejection” that was indicating that something was wrong with me. But I don’t see it like that anymore, because, first, the other person’s refusal (or inability) to reciprocate isn’t necessarily a reflection of me; and second, there isn’t anything wrong with me.
So, I’m not taking anything personally, no, and I’m not angry about anything at all, but I just won’t be the only one to reach out and “touch base,” just to see how a friend is doing. If such a “friend” does not reciprocate my attempts to connect, for whatever reason it may be, then such a person is not actually a friend.
It has taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m glad I’ve learned this lesson, and I’m glad that I’m finally comfortable as seeing reciprocative relationships as being a reasonable expectation.
When someone, who claims to miss me and who KNOWS how to get in touch with me (telephone, email, address, etc.), bypasses me and opts, instead, to tell another mutual friend how much they “miss me” and “love me” and “please tell Loren hi for me,” or something similar — or, conversely, asks ME to pass on a message to a mutual friend, when they are more than capable of passing on the message themselves — that pisses me off for reasons that are too much to get into right now.
It’s been something that has bothered me for a long time, and I’ve just recently, as of several years ago, begun to recognize that it bothers me, why it bothers me, and that it is a reasonable expectation to insist that when friends want to talk to me, then they are to come to ME and talk to ME, rather than use others as an intermediary to pass on their messages.
After all, do I tell my son, “When you talk to your sister next, tell her that I love her and miss her”?
NO! That’s just bizarre! That’s not healthy behavior!
I do what I need to tell her myself! And if there’s a barrier in our relationship that prevents open communication (there isn’t, but if there were…), then I would do what I need to do to fix that problem for myself, and not use my son as the go-between!
And so, if a “friend” keeps doing this to me, even after I’ve asked her to stop (or hypothetically “him,” but I don’t have any male friends, so this is why I say “her”), then they won’t be a friend for very long, because it’s rude and incredibly insincere.
Maybe this isn’t your boundary, but it’s mine, and I’m glad that I now feel comfortable as this being one of my reasonable expectations.
In fact, this was something that came between Carolyn and I for a while: she, having been told LIES about me by Duval (of Bride Ministries) and by others in his BM group (that basically boiled down to “Loren’s having a rough time right now, but she doesn’t want to talk to anyone”), passed on a message of love and concern through who was, at that time, a mutual “friend,” who was the only one in the group of survivors who would actually talk to me. Everyone else had practically shunned me for months, under the carefully-worded “encouragement” (lies) of Duval and some of the other leadership (so I found out later).
And so, Carolyn thought, at the time, that sending a message to me through another person who was already talking to me, would be a good way to contact me without crossing what she had been told by others were my “boundaries.”
This happened to be a time when I was in a very desperate situation with the so-called “counseling” with Dan Duval, and I could have used ACTUAL and TRUE friendship and care, rather than a showing of such friendship and care. In fact, I had even expressed this many times to Duval and to others in the groups, including some of the leadership, that I was in desperate need of a friend to talk to, yet he and some of the other people in the group, lied about me, purposefully did everything they could to keep people away from me, and told Carolyn just the opposite of what I had actually expressed.
So when I received Carolyn’s message of “love and concern,” I was VERY angry and hurt, and I emailed her and told her that I was upset about her “disingenuous show” of love and support, and that if she had something to say to me, she didn’t have to go through a third party, because she knew how to get in touch with me.
She got angry with me, of course, words were exchanged, and she and I stopped talking for a while. I understand now, from her perspective, why she was angry with me at the time, because, after all, from her perspective, she was just trying to be nice, but without being upsetting to me. But at that time, I was very hurt and angry over it.
After a few months, however, when Carolyn started realizing all the awful shit that Duval was involved in, she started realizing, too, why I had been upset with her for passing on a message of care and concern when she could have easily passed it on herself. And she realized that she should stop taking other people’s word for what her friends think or feel, and instead ask her friends for herself!
Long story short, after we exchanged stories and learned the truth, she apologized, I accepted, and now we’re best friends.
(Unlike what one woman has recently falsely accused me of, I am NOT unforgiving at all. In fact, I am a VERY forgiving person. I have plenty of negative qualities, yes, and I’m working on them, but I am a very forgiving person.)
So, anyway, I share this as an example that sometimes things don’t work out, but sometimes they do.
Regardless, I’ve learned to stick to my boundaries, and the true friends will learn to respect me and my boundaries.
As for the others…? They aren’t worth my energy.
This is something I’ve just started recognizing as being one of my boundaries, but it’s related to the point above: if someone claims to “miss me”, but then does nothing whatsoever to reach out to me when they know how to get in touch with me, whether it’s my telephone number, my Facebook page (although, obviously this one doesn’t count if I’ve deactivated Facebook page…), my physical address, my email address, or through my websites, then that is another red flag to me and I won’t be sucked in by people like that anymore, nor form an expectation of any sort of friendship with them at all. It’s a waste of my energy.
In the past, I have thought, “oh, well, that’s sweet,” and then have gone out of my way to make myself available so they can have access to me in the way that is most comfortable to them.
But never again!
If anyone wants to get in touch with me, I am not impossible to get in touch with! But it will be on my terms, not on theirs.
If people are uncomfortable or angry over that, or whatever other emotional problem they may have with my decision, then they shouldn’t try to contact me … but it is disingenuous for someone to claim to miss me, when they have done nothing to actually reach out to me.
I’ve dealt with this for a LONG time, such as when I run into people I used go to church with. One lady I accidentally ran into at the bowling alley a few years back (and I say accidentally, because if I would have seen her beforehand, I would have gone the other direction to avoid her, for the exact reason I’m about to illustrate) and after asking me how my mother’s doing …
… she exclaimed with a sweet little smile, “I think of you every time I pass by your house!”
So… she thinks of me every time she passes by my house, which was often, according to her, but she doesn’t think enough of me to stop and see how I’m doing…?
Is that little nonsense platitude supposed to make me feel better…?
Well, it doesn’t.
Insincere platitudes annoy me. They are meaningless. Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t try to bullshit me.
(And by the way, the defense of this boundary usually simply consists of being aware of the types of people who offer insincere platitudes as being someone I do not want to try to form a relationship with, and to not expect anything more than that if I happen to run into them around town, or somewhere else. There’s no need to say anything much at all. They probably wouldn’t get it anyway, and are likely to get offended, and it’s not an offense worth making.)
Mutual respect of myself and of my boundaries is a must, and selfish, manipulative, or narcissistic-type of behaviors are now WELL NOTED, and are not ignored or excused away.
I didn’t always used to be this way. I used to make excuses for people’s behavior, mistaking my allowances as being a part of the “Christian compassion” I’ve mentioned, and as being a necessary attitude for me have because I was supposed to be “good” and “kind” and “loving.”
But not anymore.
See, I’ve learned that there is a difference between understanding that there may be many reasons for why people do and say what they do and say, but that reasons do not necessarily mean the same thing as excuses.
For example, my mother has, I’m sure, many reasons for why she is compelled to be such an incredibly abusive person, and I’m sure that those reasons are valid; but this does not excuse her behavior.
I’m sure my ex-husband has many reasons for why he’s a self-absorbed, selfish liar, and I’m sure those reasons are valid; but this does not excuse his behavior.
I’m sure Duval has many reasons for why he’s chosen the path he has chosen, and I’m sure those reasons are valid; but this does not excuse his choices.
The same goes for all the other abusive and/or disrespectful people who have come (and gone) in my life: I’m sure there are many reasons for why they do and say what they do and say, and I am sure those reasons are valid; but their reasons are not excuses for them to be disrespectful, abusive, mean, rude, manipulative, or whatever unacceptable character trait they may be displaying.
I’ve also learned that I can be just as loving and kind of a person, without unnecessarily putting up with people’s bullshit. In fact, sometimes being a loving person means pointing out to someone when they are being rude, offensive, etc. — to point out when they are crossing your boundaries. Sometimes part of being a loving person is not enabling the other person to treat you like their doormat.
Or their punching bag.
Or their garbage dump.
Or their toilet.
Or their security blanket.
Or their surrogate child.
Or their surrogate parent.
Or their therapist.
Or their patient.
Or their god and savior.
Or their “fill-in-the-blank with whatever else that is inappropriate and unreasonable.”
True, that sometimes it’s better to just walk away, especially if it’s a complete stranger, or if it would lead to unnecessary conflict that isn’t really worth my time and energy, and I’m working on trying to figure that out for myself right now.
But a friend?
When a friend is disrespectful of me and my boundaries, I will tell her about it because I value our friendship and I would like for it to be a healthy one, with mutual respect and honest communication.
But if she refuses to acknowledge her offenses and adjust her behavior, she is not a friend I want to have.
And if she turns around and tries to manipulate me by gaslighting me, using triangulation tactics, using diversion tactics, deflecting, etc…, all the while using Scripture as her banner to mark her position of moral superiority?
She is a friend I will NEVER have.
So these are some hard-learned lessons about BOUNDARIES that I have learned over the years. Some of them I had already learned, yes, but they were certainly reinforced by more recent events, and I have seen the importance of not ignoring those lessons! AND I have experienced, first hand, how helpful a little bit of education can be in overcoming conflicts that arises because of people who aren’t happy with the choices I have made and with the boundaries that I defend.
This is why a proper education about things such as toxic behaviors, boundaries, cults and cult groups, etc., is so important! It helps us recognize manipulative, ungodly tactics, so that not only do we become aware if we are engaging in unhealthy behaviors, and can then ask God to help us change, but to also become aware when others are exhibiting unhealthy behaviors. Then it’s easier to not be sucked in and sucked dry by the manipulations. To not be swayed or to get overly emotional. To forgive, learn, and move on with our life.
Education is such an important part of our healing process, and every survivor needs to learn about boundaries as quickly as possible!
It takes practice.
LOTS of practice.
But it’s something that is obtainable, day-by-day, situation-by-situation.
Hopefully this blog post has helped you think about YOUR boundaries:
What are your boundaries?
What is the difference between reasonable boundaries and unreasonable boundaries, and how can you tell the difference?
Once you are comfortable with your boundaries, how can you recognize behavior that is encroaching upon those boundaries?
What steps can you take to make sure your boundaries are respected?
What should you do when people disrespect your boundaries?
How should you handle people who don’t like that you have defended your boundaries?
As you grow older and wiser, how do you change your boundaries and defend them?
What about other people’s boundaries?
How should you handle other people’s boundaries that may be disagreeable to you?
How should you handle the situation when other people have made it clear that you have disrespected their boundaries?
What steps can you take to make sure you respect other people’s boundaries without compromising your own?
These are things I’m still learning, and I imagine I’ll be learning about them for the rest of my life. And that’s okay. That’s a good thing.
It’s okay to have healthy boundaries. That’s a good thing. That’s a natural thing. They are a necessary part of life and are integral to our interpersonal relationships.
Don’t be afraid to define your boundaries, to set your boundaries, and to defend your boundaries.
After all, doesn’t God do the same with us?