You have maintained, for a great measure of your life, the habit of trying to please other people, to be what others want you to be, and to avoid conflict no matter what -- even when doing so helped you to feel weak, helpless, and controlled by others. That part of your thinking, of your being, must die and never be revived. You have been shown the boundaries of other people but neglected to set your own boundaries. "You give whatever people ask of you," writes Henri Nouwen, "and when they ask for more, you give more, until you find yourself exhausted, used, and manipulated." Yet, he insists, only when you are "able to set your own boundaries will you be able to acknowledge, respect, and even be grateful for the boundaries of others."1 But establishing and defending those boundaries can be difficult. You are tragically unaccustomed to setting your own boundaries.
Perhaps some people can detect this inner flaw, perceive it as a weakness, and that is why some of them sense that they can control you, manipulate you, use you. Perhaps that is why they act so surprised when you actually speak your mind -- a mind that differs significantly from theirs -- and they come quickly to the defense of their own views, as they view you now as a threat, and as "one of them" rather than "one of us." In an effort to conform you to their views, to being like "one of us," they will "try to understand" you and your views. This they will do in an effort to challenge you and your views -- not to passively understand you and your views and move on. No, manipulators intend to win their debate, and to change you and your views. Guard your peace.
Again, Henri Nouwen instructs you to "claim yourself for yourself, so that you can contain your needs within the boundaries of your self and hold them in the presence of those you love."2 Why is this so significant? Because genuine mutuality in authentic and healthy relationships "requires people who possess themselves" as themselves and know themselves "and who can give to each other while holding on to their own identities."3 In other words, you are not bound to think like others think in order to obtain self-respect, self-worth and your own unique identity.
Too many today are expending great efforts at conforming others to their way of thinking. Years ago you did not know yourself because you spent so much of your time trying to conform your views to those of others whom you respected; and then you came to realize the truth that you were not created to be and to think and to act like certain others -- that you actually possess your own identity, your own unique brand of being, of thinking and communicating. You finally understood that there is only One being in the universe to whom you must give an account. Because of this inestimable epiphany, you came to realize that, "in order to give more effectively" of yourself, "and to be more self-contained with your needs, you must learn to set boundaries to your love."4
You were not created as an earthly doormat, to be walked all over by every individual seeking not to truly understand you and to love you as you are but to change you, to morph you into "one of us." You finally learned that, in order to maintain self-respect and self-worth, some people must be cut out of your sight-line. Yes, you must confess, even some of those who were closest to you from your history must be kept at quite the distance in order for you to possess a true inner peace and well-being. Do not sense, however, that you are merely insulating yourself from those who want to challenge, critique, or warn you; for you already know those in your life who understand how to offer proper guidance. You are guarding yourself not from those who know how to challenge you properly but from those who want to conform you to their image. Guard your peace.
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 9.
3 Ibid., 9-10.
4 Ibid., 10.
This post was written by William Birch. You can find his blog here: http://www.williambirch.net