I’ve been really busy this summer even after quitting my job – most of my time has been spent keeping up with homework and studying for my thesis. It’s really easy to just stay inside trying to get all that done – heck it’s so fun when studying for me is playing video games, but I also try to treasure the time I do get to spend with my friends. I miss my friends who are away for the summer, though that just means I can get to know other friends better!
In my spare time, I’ve been reading a book called Boundaries. It’s about how to maintain healthy relationships, not just romantic ones, but with every individual in your life. I started the book more than a month ago but I’m only halfway through because the content is so intense, since almost all of it is new to me. Because what I’m reading makes so much sense, I’ve been learning so much about what it means to be a free individual.
A boundary is a border that separates one thing from another. The concept is very simple. We see boundaries all the time, everywhere. I wanna use this beautiful photo of the Namib Desert to illustrate how visible borders are. Look at how beautifully this desert separates from the Atlantic Ocean!
However, when it comes to people we can completely lose sight of the borders we have between us. Our bodies may separate us from other people, but our souls can very easily push into the soul of another person because we are meant to seek relationship. During this process, it is really really really easy to hurt another person’s boundaries because we are not aware that we have these borders between us too. Even in the individualistic culture of Western society (compared to collectivistic ones everywhere else) we can confuse what separates one person from another if we don’t develop healthy boundaries at a young age.
The book explains that we are each responsible for our own lives, our own actions, and our own feelings because they were given to us and belong only to us. Making other people responsible for these things is terrible because other people are responsible for their lives, their actions, and their feelings. In turn, we are also responsible TO other people. If we hurt them or turn them towards something that can damage them, we are responsible to evaluate that as our action. Often times being responsible for and responsible to are confused, so we are not even aware if we are being made responsible for someone else’s irresponsibility, or vice versa. It shatters healthy relationships.
These are things I’ve learned and how they apply to the three type of relationships in my life:
Parents often think they are responsible for their children, when they should be responsible to.
Parents are the first relationships a person develops. They start off responsible for, for teaching their children proper boundaries in childhood. But every child is separate from his/her parents and must develop his/her own life in adulthood. Parents then are responsible to guiding adult children. Forcing a child to pursue a career path he/she has no interest in is planning a child’s life for him/her. It takes away his/her responsibility for something that does not belong to the parents. Parents who don’t have this separation from their children are also likely to clean up after their children. I’m rather grateful that my mom never forced me to pursue a career I have no interest in, but even after I graduated from college my dad was holding out hopes for me to go to medical or law school. There’s a saying that if you follow someone else’s plan for your life, you will end up disappointed because they don’t have much planned for you.
Friends need to build each other up responsibly with love.
A friend is the next step of relationships people will experience. We need multiple friends who can give us love and support so that we can give the same kind of love and support back. If we only have one or two friends, what happens when they are not available to help us when we are in need? A friendship that drains either side is not a nurturing one. A friendship that feels like an obligation is not a loving one. When we disagree or make mistakes, it’s important to communicate to build each other up. If we can’t even communicate, then how can we have a trusting friendship? And if we can’t have trusting friendships, how can we go onto the next step of relationships (dating)? I’ve definitely struggled with friendships where our work or a lifestyle routine was the only thing holding it together, rather than enjoying each other’s presence by merely spending time together.
Boyfriends and girlfriends are not responsible for each other’s healing.
Dating is for adults to search for compatibility for marriage sooner or later. A marriage is is the deepest relationship we can have with another person. Because that security and bond is so attractive to us, we can hope that finally receiving it from a person who loves us for our flaws will heal us from pain. That puts way too much responsibility on a person we are not committed to. In the past, I’ve sought approval from boy after boy until I learned that they were the ones causing me to disprove of myself. I thought that love will make everything okay, but how can you see someone else’s love in you if you can’t see it in yourself first? Someday when I date again, I want to be able to love the other person right, by being able to love him first without needing him to satisfy a part of me he is not responsible for.
I haven’t finished Boundaries yet – there’s more about spouses, children, coworkers, and even yourself! But I already feel my life changing as I am now able to take the step to be more confident about my relationships.