Monday, May 23, 2011

More Thoughts on Setting Boundaries

Since I have been thinking so much about boundaries and controlling behavior, I thought it might be a good idea to write about it. After all, why should I be the only one trying to put two and two together in hopes of coming up with a bit of sanity in my life?

One thing that I think is important to note is that not all people who resort to controlling behavior are habitual bullies. In fact, I think most of us indulge in a bit of controlling behavior at times. If, when you are angry you see another person as the source of your anger and either say or do something to try to make them behave in a way that will not anger you, you have been controlling. If you have ever justified aggressive or threatening behavior like yelling, screaming, swearing, slamming doors, breaking or throwing things, name-calling, rude behavior like pouting, ignoring or snubbing someone, slandering someone's reputation (a fancy word for saying something unkind about someone that you know you shouldn't say, or that you're not 100% sure is true), or in any way trying to hurt, humiliate, shame or anger someone, you have been indulging in bullying behavior. I know that I have done many of these things.

One of the most important things that I have learned through my relationship with God and studying the Bible is that I am responsible for my behavior. All of it. God keeps telling me that there is a better way to handle conflict. When I lose my temper and manage to overpower another person with my anger and words, I have not won an argument. I have failed at being who I want to be. This is significant, because for every failure there is forgiveness and a new start. It is also significant because it means that when others try to overpower me with their anger and aggression, they are not exhibiting strength, but weakness and are failing as human beings. I am not weak for walking away and refusing to fight with someone who is falling apart emotionally.

My daughter reminded me of this recently. She was telling me about someone who had called our house, and when Grace answered the phone, this adult was quite rude to her. This is someone who is habitually rude to my daughter and I, and I told Grace about a sarcastic come-back that I wanted to use the next time I met up with this person's attitude. Grace said, "yeah, Mom, but isn't that sinking to their level?" Of course, she was right.

Another thought that I have been having lately is that controlling people will often interpret our efforts to set healthy boundaries as offensive, or controlling. I remember a time when I walked away from someone who was in a fury and calling me names. As I left the room, the person raged, "Oh yes, you always have to be the one in control!" I was in no way hampering the person's right to say what they wanted to say. I was merely exercising my right not to listen. Of course they were free to continue insulting me, but I would not be there to hear it. I also knew that I was becoming angry at the name-calling, and if I didn't leave, I retaliate. I didn't want to do that. Walking away was a responsible way of controlling my desire to lash back in hurt and frustration.

The aggressor's anger came from my refusal to be controlled and not from any effort on my part to control them. Often controlling behavior comes from people who cannot control their own impulses. They are helpless against their own anger and rage, and instead of admitting that fact and taking responsible steps to gain control over their feelings and actions, they try to control what they see as the triggers of their anger, the behavior of others.

When we set healthy boundaries, we need to be very honest with ourselves as far as our motives are concerned. Am I trying to control the behavior of another by setting this boundary, or am I simply taking responsibility for myself and my actions and making that clear to others? Am I establishing where I end and the other person begins? Am I okay with the possibility that the other person may not respond as I wish them to? It is normal to be sad and disappointed when the other person refuses to respect our boundaries and tries to push further, leaving no way to build or maintain a healthy relationship. Still, we need to accept their choices.

This is really hard stuff. I dislike conflict, and yet when in the middle of one, I can cat-fight with the best of them. I think that's a part of why I hate conflict so much. I hate the temptations that it presents, the depths I can sink to if I am not careful. I hate the anger and what it does to me, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

One thing I love, though, is having a God who understands, who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. I depend on that forgiveness daily. He's the Master Teacher, the Master Counselor, the Master Parent. I need all that and more. Thankfully, God is more. Much, much more.

2 comments:

Mrs. Peterson's Place said...

Wow! This was an amazing insightful post. One that I will need to chew on through today. I really like what you wrote about

"If, when you are angry you see another person as the source of your anger and either say or do something to try to make them behave in a way that will not anger you, you have been controlling." That one is the most thought provoking.

The other is:
It is also significant because it means that when others try to overpower me with their anger and aggression, they are not exhibiting strength, but weakness and are failing as human beings. I am not weak for walking away and refusing to fight with someone who is falling apart emotionally."

I really needed that reminder. Thanks for the thought for today :-)

Kelly said...

Thank you for your encouraging words. I needed to hear them today. :)

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