Wednesday, April 20, 2016

          “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
                                Isaac Newton



     As far back as the 17th century, wise men knew that bridges connect, walls divide. That might have been profound and relevant hundreds of years ago, but the words certainly resonate today. It doesn’t seem so long ago that the world celebrated the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and yet, look at how many walls have been erected since then. Walls say, “Keep out!” Bridges say, “Let’s talk.”

     I suggest that walls are like the boundaries that we set up between ourselves and those with whom we either don’t want to communicate or with those of whom we are afraid. Boundaries are very important, and I contend that parents need to instill them and explain them, and schools need to reenforce the dangers they create, but the protection they provide.

     Do you have personal boundaries? What happens when someone tries to cross them? How do you react? Do your friends and relatives know what your boundaries are? How do they know? If you have ever heard yourself say, “I can’t believe I let her talk to me that way,” or “Why didn’t I just stop him before he started?” then you have allowed someone to cross your boundaries. There is a finesse, an assertive, but polite way to let people know your boundaries. Quite frankly, I never learned it, so I find myself occasionally saying, “Why on earth did I allow that to happen?” 

     If we think about the major issues in the world, isn’t it boundaries that cause the problems? People who fight over religious convictions, people who fight over what they consider to be their God-given rights, people who have to have everything their way—all of these at some level are boundary issues. 

     Who has crossed your boundaries recently? Are you avoiding a confrontation because you aren’t sure how to communicate them? What would it take to stand tall, lean in and confront the issue while spelling out in a kind, appropriate way exactly what your boundaries are? I believe this takes courage. If we are afraid to stand up for our boundaries, what does that fear tell us? For me, it tells me I am afraid of losing something. It may be a relationship, a connection to a group, an admission of some kind, a loss of popularity or respect. 

     My very favorite therapist whom I have never met in person is Brené Brown. If you are interested in a terrific researcher who speaks clearly and practically about many issues, in this case, boundaries, check out her U-tube video entitled, “Boundaries, Empathy and Compassion.”

The boundary part only lasts three minutes, but it’s huge!