Monday, October 22, 2012

Have I Done All I Can?

In recent days I've had some challenging yet insightful conversations with good friends (old and new).  In relationships with people, we often get involved in each other's lives as a result of living in community, and wind up knowing each other's dirt.  As a person of faith, I used to consider this a good thing, until I realized how much I was overstepping boundaries in many areas.  I would smother people with what I thought was positive attention until the relationship blew up and some people actually cut me out of their life for this.  I'm not crying about it--it was a consequence of my unchecked behavior.

Several years ago, after a particularly painful incident (resulting in said "cut out"), I found myself in therapy (AGAIN) and crying and whining that no one understood me, my marriage was failing, why didn't anyone love me back, etc, etc.  Truth be told, it was a bunch of whining.  My therapist at the time invited me to read Cloud & Townsend's Boundaries.  I did, and my eyes were opened to the fact that I wasn't a completely co-dependent and boundaryless person, I was more of the person that ignored other's boundaries.  I was the antagonist, pushing on those around me that I loved to show their love the way I wanted them to, or just plain forcing myself on them.

After I finished the book, there was a period of growth--a somewhat peaceful time of self-reflection and conscious action on my part--to be aware of other people in a different way, and to release the control I tried so desperately to keep.  Through various methods of recovery I have felt relieved of many of those compulsive and obsessive behaviors.  Though there is one area with which I'm still challenged.  Boundaries.  I think I've taken the boundaries approach to the opposite extreme, and refused to get involved with people much beyond level 1 or 2 (save for the people in my food group or other people in recovery.  Wait.  That sounds like I eat people.).  In my case, isolation leads to feeding my addictions.  This is not good.  This is not okay.  In addition to feeding my addictions, I've let my compassionate side take a back seat to not interfering, and not spoken up to friends that need a shoulder.  I haven't offered the very love and compassion I so desired.

So the question remains, "How much is too much?"  How involved should I get?  The obvious factors are: a) how well do I know the person, b) am I in some sort of community with them, and c) what are the needs?  One friend stated that it is not about how much you "know" the situation.  Sometimes we aren't called to understand specifics of a problem--we are simply to love and encourage and keep in touch.  I agree with this.  Another friend said that because relationships have been developed, we have a responsibility to do all that we can when we see a friend in trouble or drowning.  I'm not saying the two ways of relating my friends mentioned are the only ways to deal.  I'm simply wishing I had a black or white answer to give them.  That's me--do it right or don't do it at all...

The bottom line is that in these times, people are afraid to share.  We don't want our conversations and defects broadcast to the multitude of social media outlets (see Drew Barrymore in "He's Just Not That Into You").  A confidant doesn't want their mess to show up on a Facebook status or repeated back to them from another person in whom they haven't shared.  We can make grand statements about how we are "an open book" and "you can know who I am all the time!"  but it just isn't so.  And so we let people see what we want them to see and it all becomes a vicious cycle, resulting in coping mechanisms that eventually lead to isolation.

And what is this all about, you ask?  I wonder if I have done all that I can for my friends who are hurting.  Have I been a big old chicken because I didn't want to cross boundaries?  Have I used boundaries as an excuse not to get involved because it was too messy?  Answer:  Yes.


Eric said...

YES! That was a great "DUMPING" of the brain...I understand holding back and not engaging, for fear of alienating people you care about..All I ever ask is that folks be honest with me! Speak the truth to me and understand that many times we may have to agree to disagree and that is still okay! I'll love you more for your honesty and care!

K Cummings Pipes said...

Beth, wonderful to hear words from your heart... I don't ever want to lose you so push any of my boundaries you wish... I tend to build high walls and barbed wire fences. Love you. KCP

Chelsie Sargent said...

So many things are relatable for me in the post. I too tend to build high walls- much of which has been from hurt in my life. Thanks for sharing your heart in this post. It was good for my heart and brain today.