For perhaps understandable reasons, I am someone who is well-practiced at drawing lines in the sand and vigilantly and ferociously defending my boundaries against intruders. It is an easy thing for us to be so focused on defending ourselves, our dignity and honor, to fail to show the proper respect and honor to other people. Politics and geopolitics are often, sadly, merely our own personal or societal psychologies writ large with massive stakes and often immensely tragic results. Today, though, while recognizing the larger scheme, I would like to begin on a more modest personal scope, on a level that is personal to me.
This morning, at the end of a deep conversation, I made a request of a young lady to let me know if I was crossing any lines and making her feel uncomfortable at all. She seemed rather happy to hear the request actually, which puzzled me a little bit. As I mentioned earlier, most people are far more sensitive to the people who cross their lines than they are to crossing over the boundaries of others, which are less well-defined in their mind’s eye. My hope is that my strong interest in avoiding offense, clearly expressed, will allow me to gain some important feedback about her lines. Being a person of honor means treating others with respect as well.
Setting appropriate boundaries and developing appropriate enforcement mechanisms is a very important part of life. After all, as beings we are torn between two extremes that can sabotage our good relationships, selfishness that leads us to consider our boundaries as extending far into the territory and lives of others, or a tendency to see ourselves as having no worth or honor to defend, no space that belongs to us. Either of these problems will make it impossible for us to have appropriate relationships with other people. Without a respect for the boundaries of other people, we cannot help but be tyrants and bullies and abusers. Without a respect for our own boundaries, we cannot be competent people able to stand up for ourselves. As in life in general, we must avoid the unhealthy extremes of life to find the healthy medium.
I cannot tell how things will progress with the young lady whose boundary-watching assistance I have requested. That story remains to be written. Nevertheless, as uncomfortable and unfamiliar as this territory is for me, I hope that the experience will be profitable and enjoyable in helping me to develop practice at being able to avoid the extremes of silence and violence that have marked so much of my own interaction with others throughout the course of my difficult life. Finding that happy medium, and developing a sense of comfort and competence within it will certainly do me good, and I hope the same is true for my dear friend and colleague. We could all stand to be better when it comes both to respecting others and respecting ourselves. I welcome comments in the comments section below from other readers of this blog who would like to share their own experiences or thoughts on the matter.