Lately it seems like the issue of setting boundaries is on the minds of lots of folks in my life...sounds like the old “I have a friend”, right??…OK, I will cop to having it in MY life too. What exactly is a boundary anyway and why are they so important to our relationships? I think it is mostly but not solely about our integrity being challenged or violated.
We may not be able to identify our boundaries, but we sure know when someone crosses that line! For me, it happens quickly and can feel like someone kicked me in the shins or the gut and then ran away, leaving me feeling like a limp dish rag.
I see myself as a person that is compassionate, accepting and very tolerant of people’s human foibles and then someone steps into my snare, is jerked off the ground and I smile while they dangle. They should have known better, right? When I get that jolt, I go instantly into why I am not “more tolerant, and most of the time get stuck in self-flagellation. I begin to do my “counselor thing” and remember the other person’s family history (that I have no idea about!). Poor thing…he/she couldn’t help it. They are doing the “best they can” and why I am I so judgmental? If I were a real friend/wife/husband/co-worker/parishioner I wouldn’t feel this way. Familiar???
Boundaries are there for a reason. They help us take care of ourselves and what we believe and hold true as a good and right way to live in the world. At times we will cross someone’s set point and it will be an innocent mistake. We didn’t know. There are people who lack an internal compass, are self-absorbed to the extent that they simply do not honor boundaries. Yes, they may have had a miserable and even traumatic childhood and empathy is useful in understanding them., but when their behavior begins to erode our sense of well-being and our tolerance dishonors our own healthy boundaries, it is time to return to our precious selves, ignoring all messages from those bony-fingered voices that say otherwise.