Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boundary Walls

When you struggle in a certain area, the possibility exists for those you love to wound you in ways you didn't even know were possible. We are all insecure about certain things that are specific to us, and the people closest to us can cut us to our core with a few words, or a look, or a roll of the eyes, and when we are at our most sensitive, the effects can be devastating.

For my personality type, I tend to take on way more than what actually belongs to me. In addition to my own burdens, I will readily take on those that others should be carrying and working on, and I'm realizing clearly that I must stop that. I am learning how to draw a line in the sand, raising a boundary wall that I must not cross, for the sake of my own mental health.

It takes me outside of my comfort level to practice this kind of restraint. I want to volunteer to fix the problem, but when it's not my problem to fix, I can't take on all of that stress because it simply doesn't belong to me. It weakens me, chipping away at my reserves until I have nothing left to give, and the problem wasn't even mine in the first place.

We all possess the ability to wound each other, particularly those who are closest to us. We sometimes fight with unfair weapons, hitting below the belt where we know it will hurt the most, because out of our own brokenness we want to break someone else. I'm trying to separate my pain from the situations I am in, but very often it's entwined like a braid, and untangling my own hurt feelings tends to become messy in a way that becomes hard to control.

Recognizing that all human relationships are messy is perhaps the first step to recovery for me. It's not neat and clean to be a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. We all carry weapons and often they are loaded. Our words can embarrass, mock, demean and damage, and once the words have been spoken they can never be retrieved. Apologies help to settle the dust when the skirmish is over, but they don't remove the poison from our system. It's still in there, swimming around, kicking us in the shins when we least expect it.

I wish I knew how to be kinder and less afraid of being hurt, all at the same time. I would love to be able to sew up my own mouth sometimes so I couldn't say things that hurt people I love, and I wish I could sew up a few other mouths too. I understand that there is a place for grace and mercy where I fail, and that forgiveness must also be extended to those who hurt me. But sometimes the pain runs so deep that I simply don't know how to move on from it, and the fear that it will never improve tends to haunt me from a distance.

Recognizing the fragility of all communication might help me to be more aware of what I say and how I say it. I know that I am responsible for my words, and that I must be more careful with how I speak. I can't control what others say and do, but I can firmly keep my boundaries in place, so I'm not blindsided as often by the kind of things that hurt me the worst.

I think I want to take on other people's issues because I feel some measure of control if I'm trying to fix what isn't working, but I have enough of my own problems to fix, and other people have to be responsible for their own judgements and biases. It's really hard to be vulnerable and honest while at the same time developing a thick skin so you aren't wounded all of the time. I haven't learned to do it yet, but every day is another chance to practice the balance, and try to find the mix that will work best in my relationships.

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