I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries lately, as I’ve had to step outside my comfort zone to establish them and as I’ve had them minorly violated more often than usual in these past couple weeks. The switch to freelance work is a lesson in boundaries in itself (when DOES the work end if you don’t leave the office?), but I’ve also learned a lot about boundaries since my car accident a few weeks ago. Because of that, I’ve unexpectedly extended my holiday stay at my parents’ place for two weeks (which always requires careful boundary setting), and I’ve had everyone from emergency room staff to cars salesmen to bankers feeling entitled to my personal business. Earlier this week, I said no twice to demands that I felt inappropriately crossed boundaries; both times, I felt a bit guilty for saying no, even though I knew it was justifed (and that a yes would have inflicted more stress and damage in the long run).
Being both Catholic and a woman, I think I grew up with a double whammy when it comes to guilt, especially guilt about saying no. As a woman, I’ve been socialized to be “nice” and to accomodate, and as a Catholic, I’ve taken to heart the call to serve. So at what point does a “no” become a denial of that call to serve? Under the call to serve, is a “no” to a request for help or for more of your time ever an appropriate answer?
Personally, I believe that if we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we must love ourselves enough to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of. But what about Jesus, who we purport to follow? Did He ever feel as though He ought to stop serving because He didn’t want people to take advantage of Him? Did His disciples ever coach him to learn to say no?
Unfortunately, my familiarity with pop culture is deeper in many places than my familiarity with Scripture, although I do read my Bible. But what comes to mind when I think of this topic isn’t a passage from the Bible, but a scene in Jesus Christ Superstar, when the wounded are demanding Jesus’ healing touch, and he commands them to, “heal themselves!” In this particular portrayal, it certainly seems as though Jesus is frustrated by having his boundaries violated one too many times. And yet, when it came to the ultimate violation of being publicly persecuted and crucified for His ministry, Jesus didn’t simply say no. He didn’t fight back — at least, not the way we would recognize as a “fight back.” Not the way I’m trying to learn to fight back regarding personal violations in my own life.
I honestly don’t believe Jesus would want us to say “Yes,” when everything inside us is screaming “No.” But I also honestly do struggle with my own journey to be more assertive with my own boundaries and my desire to live the way Jesus lived. I’d love to hear other thoughts on this.