Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning Into My Mother, or Building Fences

They say that children live what they learn, and they learn from what they see. My mother, arguably the nicest woman on the planet, has always been very very kind. Kind to a fault, really. Kind to the point of self-sacrifice and bending over backwards for strangers. And this is what I saw growing up. My mom, to her own detriment at times, has always been unfailingly nice and accommodating and helpful and patient with everyone; she has consistently excused and forgiven all sorts of evils that people have heaped on her, including very serious accusations and insults leveled at her personally, at my dad, or at her children. You might say she's a professional selfless servant, but that might be understating it.

Anyway, this is what I witnessed growing up, and from this I learned. I learned to do the opposite. I learned that it is not good to be a door mat and a servant to everyone, because you get taken advantage of by wicked people with selfish intentions or greedy hearts. I learned that it's important to stick up for yourself, and to defend your loved ones, because they matter more than the acquaintance down the street who badmouths everyone behind their backs. I learned that I deserve to be treated with respect, and must assert myself when this respect is not given.

Or so I thought. Apparently, I am not as different from my mother as I had once imagined, much to my chagrin. Sure, the stories abound about my notoriously aggressive and arguably cruel treatment of incompetent service-providers, but even those have become fewer and farther between as I've mellowed with age (and with Hubbs' restraining holds). Unfortunately, I have discovered that I do make a lot of excuses for people, I do bend over backwards and neglect my Hubbs in favour of doing something spectacular that will bless others, and I am far too forgiving when I am insulted or mistreated, rationalizing away poor behaviour towards myself, Hubbs, or others whom I care for.

I suppose that the argument exists that my mother's approach is the better one; after all, she is a sweetheart and everyone loves her, and she is "bearing her cross" daily. I'm sure Jesus will give her a big beautiful mansion in heaven while I'm stuck in my little one-room shanty, and I know she sleeps well at night in spite of the horrendous ways in which she has been treated, both by "friends" and by family (her own flesh and blood included).

However, I cannot help but wonder where the boundaries must be drawn, both out of love for others and out of self-preservation. I am rereading Cloud & Townsend's book Boundaries and it seems to me that there is a Biblical reason to lay down boundaries, and to refuse to tolerate mistreatment or people who seek to take advantage of your generosity and kindness. Hubbs' parents have pretty solid boundaries and I see how issue-free Hubbs is as an adult; he has no emo baggage that drags him down or weird unspoken obligation or guilt that compels him to have to act in certain ways with certain people. Hubbs lives in freedom, whereas I - not so much.

I think about my future children, and the lessons I want them to learn from observing Hubbs & I. Will I want them to say that they want to be the opposite of what we are when they grow up? No! Would I infinitely prefer for them to see us model Christ-centered, disciplined living within healthy boundaries, and wish to emulate that as they grow up? Of course! In my behaviour, do I want my Hubbs and kids to feel like second-class citizens relative to complete strangers? No! Would I rather that they know they are loved, they are my first priority, and I would lay down my life for them above all else? Without a doubt. Do I want my children to put up with being beat up, insulted, disrespected, and abused? Hell no! Would I want them to be assertive, confident individuals who respectfully stand up for themselves and know how to protect themselves from mistreatment? Absolutely.

And so, my lines must be drawn in the sand once more. No more excuses for others, no more saying yes when I want to say no, and no more putting up with the consequences of other peoples' poor boundaries or inappropriate behaviour. I might not have children yet, but the life I start living today needs to be consistent with the one I plan to live when they do arrive.



vien said...

Wow, so true, your mom is a very very kind woman but I think my mom is a bit like your mom too!

and i think your post helped me to observe that I might be in the same boat as you too Mrs L, rationalizing away some other people's behaviors, etc and in the end, carrying some emo baggage.

i want to be issue free and not be compelled by guilt or unspoken obligation. Good thing you have your hubby to learn from.

read the Boundaries book years ago in Oz, i think i'm good at not carrying others' baggage but need to work on that other stuff.

thanks Mrs L.

Linda said...

Your mom is one of the nicest people I know! Although I think she would still defend her family if it really came down to it. Although I've never seen her mad *and never want to*, I'm sure she would stand up for herself when it counted :)

This blog entry was super well written and extremely thought invoking. Thank you :)

Mrs. Loquacious said...

@Vien - I think I need to reread Boundaries every couple of years. Maybe you would benefit from it too? I am a few chapters in and feeling convicted. ;)

@Linda - Thanks! I agree - Mom is beyond nice. As for defending her family, not so much; I know it cuz I've lived it and she likes to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt. She rarely gets super mad, but usually gets upset and hurt, and then she cries. And forgives.

Yep, she's a saint. ;)

Hubbs said...

My wife rules! She is the best.

~Rain``` said...

I have heard really good things about that book and would benefit from its message. I should pick it up.