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When a Wall Is Good

Early morning sun reflected off the Great Wall of China. This is the last tower in the restored section as you travel east from Jinshanling. Near Jinshanling, China, September 2005

Walls Divide Us

There’s a lot of talk these days about walls and bridges. Walls to keep out our Mexican neighbors, bridges to heal racial and social divides. But a wall is good when it sets a boundary. When it says, nope… don’t go any farther than this. Setting a boundary, telling someone, “I won’t tolerate being treated this way,” is hard. Well, it’s hard for me. As soon as I say it, I feel guilty. My ‘nice girl’ indoctrination kicks in and I feel like crap. Is this normal? Maybe. Is it normal for women of a certain age (yeah old like me), maybe. I haven’t discussed this with many people. I only know that when I set a boundary about 50% of the time I feel ok, 25% of the time I feel awful, 25% of  the time, I don’t think about it. I am just reacting from pure emotion. I don’t like this ‘out of control’ feeling but, I accept that I’m human.

Generosity Can’t Exist Without Boundaries

In the article, “10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries,” the wonderful Brene Brown  describes that in her research, (the surprising conclusion that) the most compassionate people also have the firmest boundaries. This seems counter intuitive. If you think about Mother Teresa, it would seem, as an outsider, that she just gave and gave without a thought for herself. “Generosity can’t exist without boundaries,” Brown tells us. This idea is just blowing my mind. “Boundaries are the key to self love, ” she says. Oh boy, my head is spinning just a little.

Selfish or Compassionate?

So for today, I hope you will think a little about what is acceptable to you and what isn’t and if you are comfortable setting boundaries. If you are, hurray for you. Are you also as generous and compassionate as you would like?  Sometimes, if it’s easy to set boundaries, it’s because we are selfish, not in a good way.

For myself, I am thinking about, “do I accept certain behaviors from some people (people I love for instance?) but would never accept from people who I don’t love?” How can I get better at setting boundaries? Ugh. The whole thing sounds like a lot of work. I’m going to start by reading Brown’s books, watching more videos and seeing if this old dog can learn something new. I dread it, I welcome it, I embrace it, I feel sick… here I go.

Photo credit: Image _1033  Brian Jeffrey Beggerly

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