Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Lens: Boundaries, Christianity, Grace, and Context

I mistakenly made the wrong judgement call and shared this quote with some people who I shouldn't have:
“F*cked up people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not judgments, punishments, or betrayals. They are a purely peaceable thing: the basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.”

It was on my reading list this morning from HERE and I thoroughly enjoyed the post. The quote was also a strong statement for me. I love strong, sassy or even angry statements. I am not afraid of passion unless it is unhinged and damaging. It depends on the context. 

Which is why it was the wrong judgement call for me to share it with the people I did. I know their context. We are better at basic relationships without talking about what fuels us or what our personal beliefs are. These people are amazingly supportive to one another and we enjoy each other's company when it comes to movies ect. They are also great people to watch my kids and I trust them with the people I love most. However, I should have considered context. They come from a religious background (so do I- but that has evolved over the years to manifest quite differently) and value the word grace above all else. To them, swear words or strong statements can come across as contrary or selfish. I should have considered that before I shared. Often I do not share much of my inner thoughts, but sometimes I confuse the lines and forget their boundaries and send quotes I would send kindreds who have similar lenses to me. Context is crucial for healthy relationships and information.

In a different situation, like a healthy marriage, it would actually be very important to discuss why I like the quote and my partner's reaction. It would be important to explore the deeper ticking of personality and inner beliefs. But each relationship has a different context. In families, acquaintances,  friendships, business relations ect. we function at different levels. In this particular context, these people are invaluable to me but they are not the ones I talk about my deeper beliefs with. Many factors have to be considered when it comes to certain topics. Only my husband, children and best friend get that side of me. I cover some of the surface of my "innerness" in my writings or with other friends. The deepest passions are saved for safe places which sometimes are those other friends ect. but it really does depend on the singular relationship.

When we consider context, it is not appropriate or conducive to certain relationships to talk about such things.  Each person has their own life experiences, personalities, belief systems and biological components that make up their unique view of their world. Their view is not wrong and needs to be respected. My view is not wrong either- a lens can not be evil in itself nor can it be good. It's a lens of which to look out of. It could be distorted, blurry or obstructed at times, but what a person sees from the device is their OWN experience.

"To me the quote comes across as angry. It makes me upset. What right does that person have to determine who is screwed up based on their world view? I just found it weird that she would say, I’m not judgemental but you are screwed up. Those statements don’t belong together. I wonder where grace comes into the picture."

I find this an interesting argument. Because non religious grace is sometimes the very essence of setting a boundary. I do find that the first sentence can be taken that way and perhaps it would be more effective in other language, but when I continue to read the quote, I find that it's tone is quite compassionate yet passionate. But that is my lens and I can understand that it may look different to someone else.

I find it ironic because often the people who ask 'what right people have to determine who is screwed up based on their world view' are often christians. Christianity believes that everyone is sinful and unless they do a certain thing or conform to a certain type of belief or ask God to forgive them anyone else is "wrong" or 'screwed up'  in essence. Christianity has some deep beauty to contribute to the world, but first we must recognize some of what is harming or full of contradictions of what is acted versus what is believed. 

To be fair, EVERYONE has some versions of this. We ALL, at some point, if we are being truthful, determine who is screwed up based on our world views. Some more than others, but its a struggle that is real. We can't throw boundaries out the window simply because this happens. We also can not negate what someone is saying just because it comes across strong or within their set of beliefs. 

For myself, grace comes into my picture, when I hear a statement I may disagree with and I try to put myself in the other person's context. I try to see their lens...and if I can't I try to decide how important it is to continue on in the conversation. What type of relationship is it? Do we have a past misunderstanding in moments like these? Is this person set in their ways? Am I set in my ways in this topic? If I am, it must mean I either need some growth I am not ready for, or I need to move on until I am ready. Depending on the answers, a simple exit from the conversation may be best...especially if I was the one who started it. I may strongly disagree with some of the statements but how important is it for me to make that point? Or if I do make that point, it is important for them to understand me? Why do I need that understanding in that context? Maybe this is important for me to explore in a more appropriate relationship. I don't need everyone to understand me. Just because I disagree does not mean I expect them to conform to my lens, to see it MY way, or to be upset. I can accept and move on. To me, that is my version of a humanist type of grace (which is not really the true definition of grace.)

I also do believe that you can be non judgemental yet make your own calls about who has hurt you and what you can handle. I do think you can look at other people and say, "you screwed up" but still have grace of a certain type. 

Grace in it's basic definition is "a christian concept of the free and unmerited favour of God through salvation." Why are we expecting humans to manifest constant grace? To me it not only unrealistic but it ultimately often does damage to relationships if this is the ultimate goal. Especially if the other person does not believe in the christian god. Often the person who is giving grace is already deeming the other unworthy, selfish or not as righteous as them. It IS a judgement call often disguised as the ultimate sacrifice. 

If you are a christian, grace comes into the picture because of belief. Christians can still have grace and boundaries. There can still be the statement of, "you did screw up by hurting me or not respecting me and I can forgive you, but since we are human and this history has been repeating itself, I need to remove myself from this situation. There needs to be an ending. Forgiveness does not equate you being in my life in the same way you were before this happened again and again. Forgiveness means I wish you no ill will as a human and I have chosen to move on but it may not be in the same way. I know you are worthy of the love of God as I believe I am and I will inherently respect that without having the same relationship we had before." We are not God and we should not aspire to be. As I recall, Satan aspired to be like God and thus had his fall, according to christian belief, so why are christians setting that standard for themselves? It seems ironic and also deeply unfair. Christians deserve to have boundaries and be human too.

"Actually the quote made me feel sick to my stomach, very angry in tone. And why you felt the need to share it with us was even more upsetting.  It's like you're accusing and saying screw you if you disagree with me in any way, you're just fucked up. Boundaries change and are not set in stone.  Yes, they are necessary and a natural part of life.  My problem has nothing to do with boundaries, it was the tone of the quote.  Very selfish, accusatory and rude.  I'm not saying you are that, I am saying the tone of the quote was.  It could have been stated in a much better way and accomplish a much better result as far as understanding from the reader.  That's all I was saying."

understand the stance in the quote above. The original quote  by Cheryl DOES come across strong. Especially to a person who is generally kind, careful with their language and emotion and thoughtful in spirit. It is important to speak to our audience in context if we can, and I honestly should have sent a different quote with the same message. Actually, I should have not sent anything. Sometimes, because I am a passionate person myself, I stay true to myself and forget about the person I am speaking with. This is fine to do in a marriage or with a best friend because the nature of those relationships REQUIRE me to be my full self, and I expect and accept them to be their full selves. Very deep and gritty relationships require these truths. But most relationships in life require varied versions of this to stay healthy. It would be weird, in certain situations to be completely authentic. Not only weird, but unsafe in situations that people take advantage of us or where there is abuse (which is not the case in my relationship with this particular person, but it is important to say for anyone who is in those situations.) There are layers to ourselves. 

It's like being layered outside in certain weather patterns. In the cold we can take our sweaters off- it is important to not reveal our inner layers or put more on.  In the heat we take off some layers. Each layer is a true layer in the sense that it belongs to us and is a part of us while it is on. Because it is transitory does not mean it is not authentic. It depends on the outer context.

I disagree that the quote is selfish and accusatory. I could see how it would be considered rude if a person finds language rude. I do not, but I gave that statement a thought. Selfishness is another lens and for this person, through their lens, it is seen as accusatory and selfish. I can't argue with their lens thus I didn't, but here, where I am allowed to write what I think, I can say that it isn't to me. To me it is brave, it is stating a strong stance because this person has been hurt again and again. The quote is true in the sense that boundaries are not judgements. Those who take them as such have a problem with change or understanding different lenses. We all struggle with change and necessary endings can be painful. For the person who the boundaries of respect are being asked for, it can be even more pain inducing. It feels selfish often to the person on the receiving end of a boundary, because they do not take responsibility for the pain they caused or worse, do not see it, so to them the person setting a boundary is selfish.

Our culture has a tough time implementing boundaries or accepting them. Some of it is religious, some political, some sociological. We don't understand that to have healthier relationships is akin to pruning plants. It's necessary to implement change, to ask to be respected and to love ourselves in our messiness if we are to love others. For me this means accepting that I am fine with language others may not be fine with and to respect their stance but to be who I am too.  If I am in a deep, authentic relationship or in a place that is mine, like my home or blog, I have the autonomy to be and say what I need to. But in other places, it is important to refrain, to add another layer or put on a coat I wouldn't normally wear but is also a version of me to be in a situation with another.

I am a person who tends to immediately share quotes that speak to me. Sometimes I pick the wrong forum. Today I did. I picked people who I am better sharing a meal with, laughing at a show, going shopping or helping raise my kids with. All of which require a different sort of depth and very different boundaries. In a way, I crossed their boundaries by bringing the quote up in the first place. This would be ok if I was speaking to my husband because we have a different relationship. If he would have taken offence we would have had more of a conversation about it. I would have stuck to my guns but also respected his stance and we would have had to find a way to be at peace with that. But in this circumstance it is better for me to accept what they felt about the quote, release it as not my stance, but still understand that it's not something for me to explore on that particular texting feed. Instead, I can explore it here, where the pen is my home and my perceptions are mine and allowed to be explored. I sent the same quote to another friend who responded with, "Wow strong but so true! What a great statement." This friend is not better than the last, they just have an inherent understanding of me and did not take me sending it as anything personal in regards to our relationship. Instead they knew I like to share about what speaks to me and they responded in kind. A different context. It's not better, it's not worse- it just IS.

I am thankful for all the rich differences, nuances and systems within my relationships. Each require different approaches, thought process and respect. All require love and boundaries in each way. I made a mistake in my approach but I don't deem it as something to regret. My mistake gave me an awesome conversation with a friend and with myself. I respect my messiness just as I respect others. My responsibility is my own self. In therapy I am allowed to talk about what bothers me or who drove me nuts, but at the end of the session, I always have to come back to myself. I can only change ME. I can only control MY reactions. Therapy is for me to take responsibility for myself, to learn to implement boundaries because others may not take responsibility for themselves, but to also respect that my boundaries are an extension of me and my self love while trying to love others. They may not take it that way, but it is how I must survive optimally. I can only be responsible for MY lens. If what I say is making them uncomfortable or unsure they also need to discover that within themselves before they take it up with me.  I am allowed to tuck my lens away if it is in a place where it can get broken. I am allowed to murk it up and see through mud if I wish. I am also allowed to clean it till it sparkles and have my friends look in it. They still may not see what I see but the sharing, respecting and consideration is what matters.


CalledtoQuestion said...

I agree.:) Great thoughts and I am proud of you for all your wisdom and insight. Can't wait to discuss it more with you.

CalledtoQuestion said...

If this is the persons concern than what right do they have to say, "What right does that person have to determine who is screwed up based on their world view?" Their statement would thus be accountable to what they then say, "Those statements don’t belong together.". "I wonder where grace comes into the picture." a judgement call as well, making an assumption that grace should enter the picture. I ask "Why grace?". Oh so many deep thoughts I could share but can not "grace" you with them now.:)

Kmarie said...

@calledtoQ : Thank:) I can't wait to discuss it with you too. I do see what you mean about the dichotomy of the statement. Sometimes we are blind to our own paradoxes. IF we are aware of them it makes life a little easier...and I think we end up having less judgement because we are aware of the confusing bits of people...the yin and the yang that make up so much... there is so much grey but also clear lines to cross at times too. Just watching the Man in the mirror video and I feel the advocates, the people who speak for others, perhaps do not worry about if they are coming across too strong, passionate or contrary to culture- they simply live it out. In fairness so do the people who are on the side of war and injustice...the images of Hitler ect...you can see the passion, the belief in what they think is "right" so where are the lines?

How can we see and understand the motivations but not allow the behaviour. How do we push back without violence in the cases of need and injustice? We look to the peacemakers like John Lennon who inspired controversy but LIVED with boundaries while pushing them as well. I think its a mix and its not cut and dry. Too many factors to discuss here...and if you notice...the peacemakers or people who think counter culturally are often hated, shot and die young...hmmmmmm....Ostracized because they don't conform or are different. We see their hero ship [perhaps a century later in some cases)

In the end maybe we can only ask our questions and live the gifts we LIVE??? the beauty in explosive people like Martin Luther King, the button pushing and phenomenal talent/mind of John lennon or the gorgeous quiet servitude of mother teresa...in our own ways, we each have a part to play and it starts with our context, awareness, understanding and the implementation of boundaries to make that change. Maybe? Perhaps its a start to healing and within our little gifts, personalities and parts of life we become the beauty?

Full Spectrum Mama said...

I am just FLOORED by the depth of your wise response to this quote and VERY surprised what ensued when you shared it...
I struggled myself with the opening language of the quote, which did not come with the asterisk...But I would say this quote was one of the most impactful ones in my entire life because of MY context which involved severe abuse, followed initially by a decade long period of what I believed to be forgiveness, which I thought mean absolutely letting go of any memory or sadness or anger about said abuse. After this period, another period of abuse ensued, which was a million times more debilitating because I felt like an idiot for what i had seen as GRACE. this taught me that - as you write - forgiveness (grace, or part of grace) does not mean forgetting or allowing behavior to continue.
So, in my context, this quote shines for me (and if you read its source in her book of DEAR SUGAR letters it will blow your mind even more - Kmarie, DO GET THIS BOOK!!!) because it taught me that we can love and forgive people and bear them no ill will and yet simultaneously say, no, you may not treat me that way...
I find that so many sensitive people end up or go through periods of being terribly hurt because they don't set boundaries. I want my compassion and loving nature (and passion!) to SHINE - and they can't if I am curled up in a ball of misery (I take out my pain on myself, not the perpetrators of pain). Even more, I need to be my healthiest self to mother my children. In fact I learned ALL of this through parenting...
Thanks again for this beautiful and spiritually-inspiring post.

Ashe said...

Ouch... I'm guilty of that social blunder more often than I'd like. Which, oddly, fully contradicts the quote since I'm ignoring the very boundaries I put up with certain people to keep things running smoothly. Er, it does still count as a personal boundary when it's a wall you put up based on another's wants/needs, right?

I see the quote primarily as defensive simply from the wording. Summed up as "would you get over yourself and stop nagging me all the time because I'm not exactly like you!?" And because usually the people who end up saying some variation of it are trying to get some uptight people to relax and accept the fact we aren't going to be carbon copies of each other, and the world won't end if we are different. Order, structure, and a certain level of similarity are needed, yes, but if it's too rigid and limiting it will become too fragile and shatter. Last week I was working on a zealot post over at my place that revolved a bit around the same thought.

I can kinda see the right vs. wrong thing your buddies brought up, but I'm having trouble with it. The only thing I can figure is that most people focus on the first sentence and ignore the rest of the paragraph. (I've heard sermons preached on half a verse before. Makes no sense to me.) "Behaviors that you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors" is kind of the basis of every judicial and moral system ever made. Unless you're a depraved anarchist that revels in chaos like some of the more zany cartoon villains and cultists (in my opinion, "the fucked up people" ^_~), there's nothing really offensive about it. Minus the obvious language choice.

Kmarie said...

@fullspectrummamma thanks:) Language can upset people...it does not bother me unless it is used as a direct abuse at another- even if someone says "ditz" or stupid" instead of "fucked up" or "bitch"- i think its the same essence- calling a person down to make them feel less directly- then it bothers me. I wouldn't have used her language in that situation because its still a bit of a call down and doesn't make the point as effective but since it is a generalization it is easier for me to get over...so I get that.

I am sorry for the abuse in your past. You are right- sensitive folk and those of us who have been abused in some way have had to learn boundaries because we are too used to being "nice" or some form of "grace" to allow people to trample and do all sorts of awful.

I love your point on parenting - SO TRUE! and Boundaries are the very definition of love...they go hand in hand so if someone is not acting out of love or firm acceptance it is not a boundary- its a wall. Whenever I put up a boundary I have to ask myself if it is a wall to keep people out completely or if it is a retaining wall to make my space safer but is still able to have a gate and a place that may be flexible to opening again if need be or remaining firmly closed while still opening to others...its a difficult balance to strike but completely reasonable and more people should be implementing necessary endings...

should check out that book! Thank you for adding your beautiful voice to the conversation and for taking the time!

Kmarie said...

@ Ashe:

Hmmm what social blunder? Crossing boundaries? I think that when most people think of boundaries they are thinking personal space or certain words in "appropriate" circumstances which is not boundaries....they are social rules constructed by the majority and if we are speaking of those then I blunder those all the time too but I don't think they are boundaries in the true essence of the word and I do think that they should be crossed in that matter.

I could see what you mean about being defensive or taking it as an uptight person wanting someone easygoing to relax...at the same time, usually for me it's the uptight people trying to get me to get my act together...I guess it depends on the circumstance. I also do not think that is a boundary either. A boundary is a gentle pushing back when someone has crossed our value or not given us our autonomy as a human being. An example would be if someone is constantly calling us down and one day we gently push back by saying, "if this behaviour doenst stop towards me because it hurts me than I will be taking the next step which will be no further interaction with you then what is necessary." if the behaviour stops then we can try new relationship patterns but if they disregard that our new boundary will be that the next time the person calls us down we say, "I warned you about what will happen if this behaviour continues. I will no longer be acknowledging you when you treat me this way." A book that is better at explaining boundaries and how they work is Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud or Boundaries by Henry Cloud.

I completely agree with you...I am a very easygoing person and I do not believe order and structure are as necessary to our society as we think. My boundaries ironically are usually pushing back at order and structure and expected rules...ironic eh?:) I actually think the most structured people have the least amount of boundaries. They have rules which are different...but they have strong black and white thinking that does not allow the grey and you need to be able to deal with some grey in order to implement boundaries as they are different with each person and each situation...it can not be one size fits all for boundaries:)

Also, I didn't know you were still posting as nothing has showed up in my feed that I subscribed to your blog with!:( Hmmmmm...I will have to check it out.

I liked your last point...it is the judicial system in general ( which also has its issues but it IS what most of society is based on so to have a problem with it is completely ironic if one believes in that system!)

thank you for adding your lovely voice and quirky sense of humour to this conversation! its always appreciated!

nyssa said...

You're so wise. I personally loved the quote. In writing, I love strong words. In life, out of someone's mouth, sometimes they hurt my ears depending on tone and on intent but in writing, they hit the mark and they are truly satisfying to me.

I loved this whole post and how you explain things. You always enlighten me and I'm grateful for that.

Kmarie said...

Nyssa: ME TOOO!!!! I feel exactly the same with strong words!

Thank you- that means a lot to me and is very humbling to me. You always make me feel less alone and more inspired. Your closeness to my personality is so rare and its such a wonderful gift to be understood in complexity in the moments when I am often misunderstood. xo

Full Spectrum Mama said...

No joke, a LIFESAVER, plus good for some really effective, cleansing laughing sobfests if you know what i mean...and I think you do <3

Kmarie said...

FSM: Yes I Do! Love it! so fun. thanks for the link!

Unknown said...

The term "Christian" means "little Christ". Of course no one can be like Christ in every way, but trying to be a little Christ is a way of expressing gratitude for Jesus's sacrifice. It's saying "Thank you" for all He has done. As for Satan's case, he did not try to be like God. He tried to be God. There is a difference. That difference lies in perspective. We Christians view ourselves as patients in God's hospital for sinners, not as physicians.

Kmarie said...

@flutist pride: I know:) You are preaching to the choir...I went to a private christian school from K- 12 plus some bible college. I have studied philosophy and theology. But my particular exposure was mostly evangelical christianity...I had bible every morning, weekend bible studies, sunday school, youth group and part of one of the largest christian youth rallies. I get where you are going with this and have heard it all before. In fact I am guilty of many similar statements...Basically the documentary Jesus Camp was my life...:) I do not believe I am a little christ which I why I no longer call myself a christian. I may have a form of belief but its very different from what I grew up with:)

That is why I can disagree... I grew up with way too many christians who tried to be God or like God which can also be a huge travesty. Judging and doling out commandments. Not all christians do this and I love most of my devout christian friends...( and yes I do have some very strong christian friends still even if my journey has had me assessing some of what I once believed) I have found that the most fundamentalist are those who don't realize they are Judging and pressing their version not as salvation but as the ONLY way to live a life or from a place of fear sadly. But I also know there are many who do not do this. I don't think the difference lies in perspective so much as the variances in belief. But yes, perspective is huge. I can have perspective for this stance because I was in this stance for most of my life...I can also have perspective for those outside of it too and I still maintain that constant grace in its literal definition is not a relevant life goal. However it can be part of the picture. Boundaries are crucial to loving relationships.