Recent events have me, once more, thinking about respect. Whether it’s clear or not, respect is earned. There’s a huge difference between treating someone with respect and giving them your respect. As a rule, I make every effort to treat people respectfully, (and in fact, go out of my way to do so when it’s someone I don’t respect or like), but, like trust, the number to whom I give my respect is a great deal smaller.
But respect doesn’t begin with everyone else out there. It begins with you. I believe that, like love, if you don’t respect yourself, you won’t really respect others. In order to respect yourself, you have to, consciously or no, set boundaries. Many of these boundaries involve how you will allow others to treat you. I have known a number of people who were “pleasers”. They put their own wants and needs behind everyone else’s. The result? They became doormats. Doormats are not people we respect. They are people, depending upon our own nature, who we either use ourselves or watch others using and wonder why they don’t stand up for themselves.
To some, setting boundaries just doesn’t make sense to them. They think it’s being hard to get along with or mean. But let me give you an example. Awhile back, a friend of mine was getting very frustrated with the behavior of her mother-in-law. She took the behavior for a long time in what she felt was the interests of keeping peace. But ultimately, she had enough (note, this friend is anything but a doormat as a rule!), and set a boundary for her mother-in-law. The result? Life got much better, and, at least from where I sat, it seemed that her mother-in-law respected her more for taking a stand. The truth is, we don’t outgrow our need for boundaries.
Children push the envelope all the time, until you let them know where those boundaries end. They respect that, and more. they feel loved that we would make the effort to establish and maintain boundaries for them. It also teaches them, not only that they can bend without breaking, but that, as they grow older, they must set their own boundaries too.
But the other side of setting those boundaries is in maintaining them. The truth is, just because you set it, doesn’t mean people will respect it, unless you stick to your guns. Recent experience has taught me that there are those individuals who are so oblivious, self-involved or unable to respect others (much less, themselves) that they will ignore, and even plow through someone else’s boundaries, no matter how firmly set. When I experienced this a few months ago, it required setting firmer and firmer boundaries until, as a last resort, the final boundary was simply a closed door. I am completely convinced that people who cannot or will not respect my boundaries do not belong in my life. And I would probably not be happy about it, but if I continually failed to respect someone else’s boundaries, I would respect their right to close me out as well.
Setting boundaries seems to be an ongoing process in life, or so I’m discovering. We continue to encounter “opportunities” to set new boundaries, and often have to use trial and error to find what works for a particular situation.
Recent events have taught me that the boundary I set for a group of people might well be respected by some and not by others. The gracious and respectful person might say “I am not really happy about this, but I understand and will respect your wishes.” This person will probably see my boundaries lessened as time goes on, because they, themselves have both shown me respect and earned mine as well.
Others, I have found, might react in a different fashion. Perhaps they think “Oh, she doesn’t really mean it! Let me see how much I can get away with first!” Or worse, “That couldn’t possibly apply to me! Besides, she’s just a silly girl! She can hardly be expected to know what she wants!”
These folks will likely see my walls go up, and if they persist in their efforts to ignore my boundaries, will eventually see the closed door I referred to earlier. But lest I sound cold hearted and unforgiving, I must add that I pity those who can’t respect the boundaries of others. They are living in a world where they believe they are the center of the universe and that only they deserve to be respected. Frankly, I’d find the place where they dwell to be lonely and cold. They’ll never understand that the setting and respecting of boundaries is the highest form of love. And they certainly won’t earn the respect of others. Sure, they’ll assume they have, but we all know about “assume”!
Love. Respect. Trust. Small words which, at least for me, carry huge meanings, and huge responsibilities. Not everyone can or even wishes to take them on, but for those of us who do, the rewards are infinite!
My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for friends who treat my boundaries with respect and understanding rather than as a personal slap in the face.
2. I am grateful for lessons which teach me to be respectful of my own boundaries.
3. I am grateful the abundance in my life, and the many ways in which it is unfolding.
4. I am grateful for reminders that, in spite of outside events, my inside thoughts and beliefs can still remain positive. (OK, so I’m using a lot of that imaginary heart shaped confetti these days, but whatever works!)
5. I am grateful for quiet, lazy Sundays with just my cats and a cool breeze blowing through the tree outside my office window.
Love and light (and Respect!)