I grew up being taught about land ownership. Trespassing was something that, to this day, will make my Dad see red. Leisurely crossing boundaries without permission of the landowner is not only illegal, it’s disrespectful. And I have spent my life understanding that concept and living by it.
What I wasn’t taught, growing up, and have had to figure out, is how boundary lines are often necessary in our lives, in our hearts, in our minds – as well as our physical space.
And I’m just now learning how to draw some.
I was raised in a Christian household, and the concept of “turning the other cheek” is something that I remember being impressed upon me from an early age. The concept of forgiveness, mercy, and second chances. I definitely believe in all of that. I have to. I believe that I have been shown more measures of grace than I can even begin to recount.
I also believe that when Jesus taught us to love our enemies, and pray for those who spitefully use us, he didn’t mean that we had to allow them to be closely involved with us. I think there is such a thing as loving people with a healthy measure of distance.
I don’t consider myself a weak person, I just know my own limitations. I know my own sensitivities. And I know when certain relationships aren’t worth the effort it takes to either pursue or sustain them. I am not a bottomless vessel. So I’m learning how to draw boundaries.
I draw them because my very sanity now depends on it.
Maybe it has something to do with getting older. Or wiser. Or both.
I will be the first to admit that, sometimes, my first impressions of people are incorrect. Sometimes, I end up being very close with someone that I didn’t see me having any kind of connection to.
But when my gut has been consistently telling me something for years and years, and nothing has proven true otherwise – it’s time to listen. Draw that boundary line.
Doing that isn’t as easy as just saying, “This is as far as I will let you into my life.”
Sometimes it’s about certain behaviors you will no longer tolerate.
And with any type of resolve to change these types of dynamics, there are always consequences. That’s one reason why they are so hard to implement. The inevitable fallout can result in the entire destruction of relationships that you only intended to have a more respectful and/or realistic dynamic.
Just like prosecuting someone for trespassing tends to make them a little bitter toward you, even though you are well within your rights to do so.
Power shifts within relationships either result in changed behavior, or bitterness. Sometimes there is anger, then change. But you never know what the outcome will be until you draw those boundaries and begin to enforce them.
For me, it requires a lot of expended energy to do this. But much less, in the long run, than I would spend trying to sustain or pursue relationships with people that are not bringing something valuable to my table.
There is enough pain in life that cannot be avoided. It only makes sense to avoid the pain we can.
Life changes and you have to make a decision.
You can adapt, or you can stagnate.
You can accept, and go through the stages that go along with acceptance, or you can sit down and refuse to accept the reality.
But with refusal comes bitterness. Anger. Unhealthy habits to cope.
It is very, very hard to accept what we want to change but cannot.
No one likes to admit that there is something beyond their control.
But that is the harsh truth.
And sometimes it isn’t fair, that reality that we don’t want to accept and fight like hell to ignore.
Until we can’t.
Self-awareness, self-discovery, growth, change….all of that good stuff – for me, it starts with my instincts. My gut. My intuition. The still, small voice within my soul.
That’s where it begins. And sometimes…..it stalls out.
Because my brain…..sometimes it wants to step in and play Devil’s advocate. It is the filter through which I sift whatever is pressing on me emotionally.
Sometimes the conflict is so strong and difficult to process that it makes my head hurt. It makes my heart hurt. And it freezes my intent.
I can never carry on in that way forever. It only serves to make me miserable. After wrestling with decisions and the pros and cons, I always, always, always feel better after one is made. The guesswork is gone. If there is going to be pain, at least then I know to what end and how I should prepare and deal with it.
It’s that in-between space that is so miserable. That place where nothing makes sense, but something has to happen.
It is in that limbo that I feel I’ve lived too much of my life.
Scared of making wrong choices.
Feeling responsible for the feelings of others.
Thinking I had to have some level of peace before each decision.
But the truth is, even my wrong choices have had a way of leading to good things.
And I’m not responsible for anyone’s feelings but my own.
And sometimes, most of the time, peace doesn’t come until after the decision is made.
I’ve been here many times, afraid to make the choice that I know has to be made. Weary before I even attempt to settle on a decision. It’s the anticipation. The knowing.
But then I draw the line. Set the boundary. It is then, and only then, I can finally breathe again.
I think I’m destined to be one type of old woman or another.
Either I will say whatever I want without regard for consequence, or I will be quietly amused by others, and only silently reflect upon how much the next generation has to learn.
The jury is still out on which way this is gonna go for me.
I will say that, in many ways, I have learned to control my temper and my emotions better than I ever have before. But everyone has a breaking point. Everyone has baggage. And everyone loses their temper sometimes.
I did. Last night. Big time.
For over 20 years, I’ve stood in the shadows of some pain that, despite the moving forward of time, has not completely dissipated. In fact, some of it still feels very, very fresh. Maybe because the attitudes of some who were part of that pain, even only by association, are still so hateful. Unapologetic.
Maybe it’s because those who have had a change of heart have not issued apologies.
Maybe it’s because I know there won’t be any. That those who could admit they were wrong, won’t. That those who don’t think they were wrong, still don’t, and never will.
I have a hard time forgiving. That’s a terrible way to be, but it’s true. It takes me a long time sometimes. And it’s especially hard to forgive people who aren’t, and never will be, sorry.
It’s not just any one grudge. It’s many. It’s different people. It’s different offenses.
All of this originated from comments on a post about the gender wage gap. Someone posted an article about why they think the gap is a “myth”. The comments that ensued were the trigger that launched my spiral into utter and complete bitchiness. I’m not proud of it. But it happened.
After the last 9 months of political b.s. After the hateful, ridiculous comments I’ve seen people make about the #metoo movement. After the hateful, ridiculous comments I’ve seen people make about the Women’s March this year. After the bitter divides of politics, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation….after ALL of it…I was just ready to spit back some venom.
Because I get tired of being told I’m “playing a victim” when I’ve BEEN a victim of certain things. I’m not playing. At all. This isn’t a social media debate for me. Or many others. This is real life.
I get tired of being told life isn’t fair, or that I shouldn’t “whine” when all I hear from those same people is complaints about the world not being what they want it to be, except it isn’t whining when they do it.
I get tired of being told that I need to let things go, or that I’m the hateful one, when I turned the other cheek for years upon years upon years.
These types of attitudes are the hallmark of abusers. They will twist everything you say into being something else and then make it look like you hurt them.
And so while I don’t know what kind of old woman I’ll be, I do know this: those kind of people will not hold power over me. I’m a grown woman now. And while I didn’t act like it last night, I am an adult. And I don’t have to choose to associate with some of these people. Even on a distant basis. I’ve felt for years and years that I was obligated to try, even if it was only on a surface level.
But no more. I will no longer make the effort with those who have not made the effort with me. I don’t know what type of old woman I’ll be, but I do know that she won’t have time for one-sided, phony relationships. Because I don’t have time for them now. And they stop. Today.
It’s going to require that I do some really deep digging, though. For grace. For forgiveness. Not only for them, but for myself. I’ll kick myself for a long time for the loss of control I experienced this week. I’ll have to make these decisions with a steady heart. And it takes some time to steady my heart when it’s been rocked with 2 decades of suppressed emotion.
I am so very flawed. I know this. Hell. That’s actually my point here. I know I’m flawed. With a bad temper. With a sharp tongue. With resistance to forgive people.
I’m also human. And I know life isn’t fair. I am acutely aware of that fact.
Somebody asked me, “So this happened to you. What do you want to be done about it? Who should make that call?”
I think for me, and for anyone else who has ever been discriminated against, or harassed, or sexually assaulted, or treated shitty – I think a good first step would be for other people to not shame us. To not rush forward with their condescending stories of how, if they can rise above, so can everyone else.
I think another step would be to try and have some empathy. To try and understand how it feels to be treated “less than”. And if you have been treated that way, if you do understand, then try and understand that not everyone deals with that just like you do.
Another step might be to not be an effing hypocrite. Like belittling someone in one breath, yet calling on everyone to be more loving in the next. I see “Christians” do it all the time. Yeah. I see you. Stop it. You make us all look like idiots.
But the biggest problem that I have with anybody in any setting is this: pretense.
Pretending like things don’t exist or never happened because it makes them uncomfortable.
Parents, be careful about not letting your children feel what they need to feel. Yes, they need to learn to be in control of their emotions, but they also need to be able to express them in a safe place, without being told they are wrong for it or that they need to quash those feelings. I’m here to tell you, that shit doesn’t go away. And it will come bubbling to the surface at some point if it’s not dealt with in a healthy way when the event happens.
Want to talk about life not being fair? That’s part of it. Sometimes we have to sit in our discomfort. Most people don’t like it. I don’t like it either. But it’s the only way to growth and maturity.
I’m sitting in a pool of it this morning. Still feeling residual anger. Still sorry about my emotions getting the better of me. Still hurt by people who, after over 20 damn years, still don’t see just how deep the wounds go or understand why.
I want so badly to rise above this. And I will. By God, one day I will. Because I have risen above a lot in my 35 years. It might not look like it to the outside world, you might not get that impression from reading this, but I know. I know what I’ve overcome. In this world, and within myself.
So maybe there’s hope for me yet. That I’ll be the old lady, listening to the drama, smiling to myself, sipping her coffee, thinking, “These young people have so much to learn.”
I’m still learning, but the jury is still out.
We all do it. We create a bubble of sorts. Something familiar. Something comfortable. Something that looks like us. And we live in it.
We don’t go outside that bubble unless we have to. And we have strong reactions when someone tries to break through our fragile layer of familiarity.
I think we see evidence of this on the daily from people who so vehemently reject others and their opinions without truly trying to understand their intentions or their background.
It’s so much easier to just skim what we want to believe about others off the surface and never delve deeper into what actually matters, like their humanity.
It takes some practice, and some patience, and some willingness to step outside that carefully designed bubble, if we are ever to grow as human beings. But that’s the problem. A lot of people don’t want to grow. They just want to eliminate any need for discomfort in their thinking.
People can be brought together by a common enemy, or a common good. The key word, there, is common. Mutual. Similar. Shared.
We do not have to agree on all things. We do not even have to agree on many things. But, if (1) the people in the bubbles would look for those commonalities instead of their differences, and (2) resist exhausting their energy pointing out why the other is supposedly wrong, when worlds collided, it would make for beautiful results.
There is nothing more moving than a heart that has been changed. And, despite all the negativity around us, and the vitriol that consumes the interwebs, and the mistaken concept that people never change – people can. And do.
Our hearts are pliable, our minds flexible, capable of shifting and acceptance and understanding. The potential is there. But most people only embrace that if they have to.
I do not pretend to not have my own bubble. My own prejudices. My own wishes for people to conform to my ideas of right. Sometimes my “right” is wrong. And sometimes my “right” is right – but it takes some significant event for others to understand it and come around.
When that happens, sometimes the impulse is very selfish, and strong, within me to say, “Oh NOW you care? Where were you when my heart was broken over this?” My human, vindictive nature kicks in and I want people to feel the hurt that I felt. I want to, as Sally Field said in Steel Magnolias:
I just want to hit something. I want to hit it hard! I want to hit something until it feels as bad as I do.
But if we’ve grown, if we’ve let any of our experiences actually shape us for the better, we’ll acknowledge those desires for what they are – human, but petty – and we’ll get in with the business of making strides in the right direction.
Some people will never give you an apology. And, while that would be nice, it’s not necessary. It’s often said that the best apology is changed behavior. And it’s true.
Patience with others unlike ourselves is never easy. But living in a bubble isn’t really living. You’d be surprised at the beauty around you if you’d step outside that place of familiarity. It might be painful at times, but growth usually requires some pain. It’s called “dying to self”. And that is, in my opinion, the only way to really live.
Men (and women) fall from grace every day. Every hour. Every minute. The flesh is weak.
Ask anyone I know and they’ll tell you that I don’t give a hoot about college football. SEC or any other conference. There is MSU memorabilia scattered throughout my house, but it’s my husband’s, not mine.
I claim no allegiance. To a school. To a coach. To a player. I’m just an observer of the entire scene that surrounds college athletics and its superfans.
And here’s what I observe:
The coaches and players of the SEC take on an almost rock star status among those that love the conference and their team with passion and fervor. And I might be about to commit southern heresy here, but I’m going to say it anyway:
It’s just a game. They’re just men. All of them. Coaches. Players. They are all fallible human beings with struggles and corruptable hearts. Just like you. Just like me. Just like everyone else on planet Earth.
I’ve seen good men (and women) fall. It’s not pretty. If we’ve built them up in our minds at all, it can be an uncomfortable, painful thing to witness.
First, we think about how much they’ve disappointed us. Hurt other people. We call them selfish, hypocrites. We cast our stones either publicly or privately, in the recesses of our own hearts and minds.
I hurt for Coach Freeze’s family. Their pain and humiliation is on a public stage that isn’t fair for them to have to navigate. But I’ll tell you someone else that I hurt for: the man himself.
I have experienced my own shame. Disappointed others that I love more than life. Rejected all that I knew and believed about a God that I tried to serve for something that satisfied my own selfish desires. And there is no excuse for it. But the flesh is weak.
I don’t hurt for the legions of Ole Miss fans. Not because I wish them ill, but because the world of football is so ridiculously minute compared to what is happening to this man and his family.
I’ve seen people talk about how much this coach was paid. All of his accomplishments during his time with the University. And it’s true. The man seemingly had everything going for him. He spoke publicly and willingly about his Christian faith. And I’m going to choose to believe that he was sincere about it. Not because of his words, but because from what I know about his actions outside the public eye. He does his best to live his faith. But the flesh is weak.
Truthfully, it’s on those mountaintops of life when we might actually be more susceptible to falling from grace. Because it seems, there, that nothing can touch us.
I wonder, as I often do, what was going on with the man and his family, behind the scenes. What drove him to his deceit. There is much that we will never know. And rightly so, because it’s none of our business.
Granted, I’m sure I’d probably have stronger feelings if he was coaching my son. But these are not children. These are young men. Impressionable still? Of course. But better for them to see that even our heroes make mistakes than for them to spend a lifetime pursuing perfection that doesn’t exist. In any of us. For any of us. There might be a better lesson in this whole situation that could teach these players more than anything their coach could have taught them on the field.
The pain we inflict upon ourselves and others with the choices we make leaves a mark, yes. Scars will be left on Coach Freeze’s heart and the hearts of his wife and children forever. He failed them. He failed himself. And I cannot help but feel deep compassion for them all.
But if he is willing, if his family is willing, redemption can be found.
Maybe not in the public eye, but if that’s all they care about, then it will never come anyway.
Personal redemption is what I speak of. A chance for pain and grieving to be turned into something strong and beautiful.
Nothing about it will be easy. It will require consistent and steady applications of grace, forgiveness, and the understanding that, yes, no matter who you are, the flesh is weak.
I have no envy of the road the Freeze family is walking. Its curves and potholes and detours are familiar to me.
I don’t know the man or his family. But I know pain. One of the great equalizers in this life. And love Ole Miss or hate Ole Miss, college allegiance doesn’t matter.
What matters in the response. The response of the Coach, owning and accepting his mistakes. The response of his family, letting it mold and perfect their faith in one way or another. And our response, it matters too. Maybe not to this family, but our response to others when they fall matters infinitely, to their hearts and our own.
If you call yourself a Christian, our first duty is that of love. Whether it’s a public figure you admire and respect or someone in your personal life. The response should be the same. Love.
People disappoint us every day. Can we extend grace? The flesh, after all, is weak. Isn’t it much easier to cast our stones?
Good men (and women) fall from grace every day. It’s our job, our responsibility as Christians, to help them back up. Remind them of the endless grace that is free and abundant to all.
True, it’s easier said than done. I know this. But our own integrity as Christians who claim to believe in Love, grace, forgiveness, and the power of redemption demands it of us. Even when, especially when, it’s hard.
After all, you never know when you might need these things too. And my guess is, you, as I, need them every day.