Posted by: Marie | December 14, 2009

(201) Trying hard to not be rude

Post #201
[Private journal entry on Friday, July 31, 2009]

Yesterday, I got to see my cousin who is closest to me in age and personality. She lives in an adjacent state so I do manage to see her once in a while. But, it is usually in passing and in environments not conducive to intimate conversation.

She was in the area this week and I got to see her. She was spending 24 hours with her husband and kids at her husband’s mother’s house. She invited me to swing by, so I did!

Sea View by Martin Chen

I had never before met her mother-in-law or any of her husband’s family. But, they welcomed me with wide-open arms and caused me to feel like family. Her husband’s two cousins were also visiting from a couple of states over, so I got to visit with them, also.

One of the cousins had a guitar and a harmonica, his mom had a keyboard and the whole bunch loved to sing. So, we jammed for a couple of hours . . . it was a blast!

Then, his mom served up a very yummy, authentic home-cooked Mexican meal (his family is Hispanic). The meal was awesome! So, that made for a very fun day.

I sometimes hesitate to spend one-on-one time with my extended family members. Much of my extended family are devout Christians and are devoted to fervently spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m fine with that as long as I’m not cornered and feeling obligated to listen.

Inevitably, at family events, I get asked the question, “So, where do you go to church now?” I have not yet found a good way to answer that question honestly.

If I answer truthfully with “nowhere”, then I am subjected to a thorough interrogation about why I’m not going to church and on the status of my relationship with God. Quite frankly, I don’t think any of that is any of their business. But, they feel it is – and no matter what I say, they are not going to not think it is their business.

That conversation always makes me feel very awkward. I’m fine with my own process of discovering God. I believe I’m right where I’m supposed to be with it. But, I know they would not share my assessment. They believe my soul is damned unless I convert to their way of believing.

The church teaches them to be oblivious to boundaries, personal space, personal beliefs and tact. (Damn it all in the name of evangelism! Salvation is the only thing that matters!) It is the same justification my therapist, Mark, used to violate boundaries I had clearly established around the discussion of religion. It is the same justification that made it “okay” for my father to inflict emotional and physical abuse on his children — it is allowable if it is in the name of God because it might save my soul from eternal damnation.

I feel I cannot have emotionally intimate relationships with people who will not willingly honor my boundaries. I know that, with them, I will always have to be a bit on guard, ready to fight to defend my boundaries. I cannot fully relax and feel safe. So, I just keep the relationships superficial and “nice” — I don’t ever display my soft underbelly.

I imagine that, if I were to have a face-to-face conversation with Christ, I would not come away feeling guarded, disrespected and unsafe. I believe, in that conversation, there would be space for me to discuss what I was feeling and thinking, and what I believe about God. I don’t think there would be judgment and I don’t think the gospel would be evangelized so forcefully that my experience would be overwhelmed and discounted.

I believe Christ’s actions would reflect God’s love. Christ wouldn’t have to verbalize the actual message. The message communicated by his respect of my boundaries would be so much more powerful than anything he could quote from the Bible.

But, the evangelical church does not recognize this — it teaches its followers to be very forceful in spreading the gospel — the verbal message. The disregard for boundaries feels absolutely destructive to me. That is why I am no longer part of that community. And, because I don’t feel safe sharing my deepest experiences, I feel unable to deeply connect with people who are still part of that community.

I haven’t been able to share my story with the people from my childhood because it feels way too unsafe for me. I know this particular cousin experienced incest because she disclosed to me when she was eight years old and I was nine. I didn’t tell anyone because — well, because we didn’t talk about such things. I would like to talk to her about it now. But, she is so focused on spreading the gospel that the idea of talking to her about her experience (and my story) feels unsafe. I believe she would push me to experience God in her way and that she would not be able to allow my experience of God to be “okay” — I believe she would ignore my boundaries. Why would I sign up for that?

Anyway, back to the present . . .

This is my family and I’m going to be related to them, and associating with them, for the rest of my life. So, I try really hard to not be too rude by ending the conversation abruptly and aggressively. Instead, most of the time, I take the easy way out and lie, or at least stretch the truth just to keep the peace.

Yesterday was no exception. When the question came up, I said I was attending a community church. If I had to pick a church that I would most consider as my “home church”, it would be that church. But, I haven’t attended there for almost a year. So, I guess that translates into a stretching of the truth.

Somehow I feel justified in handling it that way, for now — I guess justification of behavior can run both ways.

Someday, I need to figure out a better way to handle it because I know I’m going to be asked that question at least another 100-200 times in my life — they aren’t going to stop asking.

I can see it is becoming critical that I learn how to establish and enforce boundaries, in general. It is something I need to learn very soon.

People are not going to stop trying to encroach on my boundaries — it is something I will have to deal with the rest of my life. I might as well learn how to fight well now, rather than later.

Quotes 113


Responses

  1. My family is like this, too. Unlike you, I DO get rude. Because I’m sick and tired of their idiotic fanaticism. I know this sounds awfully mean, but it works to shut them up. They don’t DARE bother me with that crap anymore or I will be the one who just won’t stop until they are so uncomfortable that they want to run. The shoe is on the other foot now. The freaks.

    • Hi, Ethereal Highway –

      I’m so glad you have found a workable way to protect your boundaries . . . it is interesting how we each have to find our own unique way to deal with this stuff.

      Thanks for your input! It is good to hear from you!

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie,

    Boundaries is big stuff. I think anger is useful and learning to box clever is great.

    I think you can be evasive: I’m between churches at the moment. Or: At the moment I am at peace with God – how about you?

    If someone won’t honour your boundaries I don’t think you should entrust yourself to them. Just my opinion.

    Re evangelicalism: at the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has laid out how he sees things but he also asks for a decision. I think Jesus was very clear on the boundaries.

    Looking forward to seeing how you handle the boundaries.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I like your example of the Sermon on the Mount . . . I agree with most of your point.

      However, I’d take it a step further . . . my issue is not in sharing and discussing beliefs (I think that is very healthy). My issue is with one person asking another to convert to his or her beliefs.

      I don’t think it is appropriate for one person to assume he knows enough about [everything] to know that his own belief system would work for someone else.

      I think we have a responsibility to learn and study and figure [it] out for ourselves. I think we have a responsibility to share what we have learned so others can consider the possibility that some of what we have learned might work for them.

      However, I don’t think it is ever appropriate to ask someone else to take on my beliefs — that just is not my place — I don’t know what will work for him — I can’t know. I find it necessary to simply trust that another will take on my beliefs if and when he believes it is appropriate — it is not my concern whether he does or doesn’t take my beliefs on as his own — and, furthermore, they are not really “my” beliefs, they are simply the beliefs generated by the universe — I just happen to have taken them on as my own because they ring true for me.

      I don’t appreciate someone else asking me to take on his or her beliefs, even when it is done with minimal pressure.

      So, my boundary is, “Don’t ask me to take on your beliefs.” If someone cannot spend time with me without violating that boundary, I will keep the relationship superficial and the contact minimal.

      I appreciate your input, Evan — thank you for being brave enough to step into this discussion!

      – Marie

      • Hey, Evan –

        I find myself wanting to add a part “B” to my answer . . .

        Last year, when I was learning about my own controlling behavior (why I did it, how to change it), I learned that my behavior is controlling when I am attached to the outcome of an invitation I extend. In other words, a true invitation would have no expectations attached.

        However, when I extend an “invitation” to someone and I am very attached to the choice the other makes, then it is no longer a true invitation, it becomes “an offer that can’t be refused”. In that case, I require the other person to make a certain choice in order to preserve the status quo or to avoid the pain I will inflict if he chooses “wrongly”. In that case, my behavior is controlling.

        So, when I was researching how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries, I learned that setting boundaries means saying to someone, “If you do X, the consequences will be A; if you do Y, the consequences will be B.” So, I pondered, how can that be different from controlling behavior?

        What I finally uncovered is that a person using controlling behavior is very attached to one outcome over the other – to the extent that the controlling person will try to pressure the other person to choose one option over the other.

        On the other hand, setting healthy boundaries means setting consequences for each of the options, but then being unattached to which option the other person chooses – in other words, not trying to pressure the other person to choose one option over the other. In order to be this detached, I have to be okay with (and willing to enforce) the consequences I have set for both options – I can’t be bluffing with one set of consequences as a way to control the outcome.

        So, now I’m getting to my main point . . .

        I understand that extending an invitation to someone in and of itself is not typically a boundary violation.

        If I set out a bowl of mints on my counter for my customers, I might invite them to enjoy one — I would be very unattached to the outcome of that invitation — I couldn’t care less if they took one or not.

        However, any time I have ever received an invitation to accept Jesus as my personal savior in a one-on-one conversation, is has never been presented as a true invitation. When I show resistance or avoidance, the conversation has always become a one-sided, pin-me-down-in-a-corner verbal assault. At that point in time, I’m not allowed to “share” my thoughts and experiences – they have no validity in that space. The presenter is always VERY attached to the outcome – after all, they are on a mission to save my soul.

        So, I believe that someone who is asking me to convert to his beliefs is being very arrogant in believing he knows what is best for me. I’m not interested in stopping that person from being arrogant; I’m only interested in not allowing him to control me by extending an “offer I can’t refuse”.

        Because I have never seen an “invitation” to convert to another set of religious beliefs in a one-on-one setting be presented as a true invitation, I assume it will always be in the form of controlling behavior. So, I have set the boundary that the people with whom I associate cannot ask me to convert to their beliefs – my bases are covered.

        Okay . . . I’ll get off my soapbox now . . .

        – Marie

  3. yikes, that gets my hackles up. may i play with a few possibilities?

    “where do you go to church now?”
    “i’m not going to church right now.”
    “but … ?! how can you … ?! don’t you know … ?! [etc etc]”
    “johnny, i really enjoy talking with you but it looks like we can’t see eye to eye on this right now. maybe we need to change topics. i’ve been wondering how your daughter has been doing at school …”

    or

    “where are you going to church right now?”
    “the church of saint ephraim of the nottinghams [or another invented name]”
    “oh really? what kind of church is that?”
    “they’re very much into [complicated topic], [complicated topic] and [complicated topic]. and you, are you still going to … ?”

    or

    “where are you going to church right now?”
    “the last one i’ve been to was …. and you? what is happening at your church?”

    or

    “where are you going to church right now?”
    “i’ve decided that for now i’m not going to church. it is because … and because … and because …. and because … ” [why not tell them all the reasons? fill their ears with as many of your ideas as they’ve spent the last decades filling yours]

    or

    “where are you going to church right now?”
    “[mumble] oh, i don’t know. how about you? where are you doing?”

    ***

    thanks! that was fun!

    • Hi, Isabella –

      Thank you for validating my anger around this!

      I love all these options! I really like the first and third ones — they feel authentic and healthy to me.

      It is very important to me that I speak truthfully, that I maintain my dignity and boundaries — and that I am respectful towards the other person and his or her beliefs while doing so.

      If I belittle or am overbearing towards the other, I’m doing the very behavior I abhore in others. I cannot bring myself to insult the other person or attempt to invalidate his beliefs — he is only doing what he believes is best — he has my best interests at heart, even if his method is inappropriate. I get that. He doesn’t have to agree with me, I don’t have to agree with him, I only have to set and enforce my own boundaries.

      So . . . anyway, I really appreciate your input! Thank you for thinking outside the box!

      – Marie

  4. Hello, i just discovered your blog.Wow I a really touched by evrything you have talked about….I hope you will have many safe/healthy people around you as your make your journey in this life… I came out of a very dysfuntional family backround and its taken me a long time to set a line for people and also speak up esp if they are intimidating folks. Some in my family that I have left behind because they were too toxic. I am a beleiver but not into “churchianity”- I am learning to walk in the Spirit. I left the Catholic Church years ago. I am saddened that you have come across many harsh legalistic type believers-that showed no mercy and did not really take the time to care or listen. I have met some of the same. I keep in touch only with the ones who have love and compassion- then i feel I can sort of trust them more. I hope you will find healing ,hope a
    new voice to sing with and joy in life….. All the best… Your BLog is great!!! Sarai

    • Hi, Sarai –

      Wow . . . what a neat comment to receive . . . thank you for all your kind words!

      I hope that you also find your healing journey to be as gentle and joyful as possible . . . I’m so glad you stopped by!

      – Marie


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