So, there are three kinds of business in the universe: yours, mine, and God’s. Last week we talked about how most of us humans have trouble knowing where our own boundaries trail off and where others’ begin. Sure, we mean well, but the hard truth is that many of us are exhausted and frustrated by our compulsion to “help” and guide the people and situations in our lives. Perhaps we feel intensely driven to change people’s minds regarding the environment, politics, big business, or civil rights. And then there are the cases where, for whatever reason, we just feel compelled to control and manipulate what other people think, do, and feel.
But how are we to know where our energy is best spent, and what our ideal role actually is? For instance, as parents, it’s our job to feed, clothe, provide shelter, and generally protect our children from harm. But how far does that responsibility go? How far should it go? And at what point do you actually stifle the child’s natural development (and foster rebellion) by trying to influence them to make the same choices you would have them make?
If you think about it, it’s fairly arrogant to think that we know what’s best for anyone besides ourselves, and yet I know I’m constantly giving lip service to what other people should and shouldn’t do. What are my sage opinions based on? Do I really know what persons A, B, C, and D came here to learn or experience? Do I think that everyone should do it my way? And is my way really all that universally correct? Probably not.
Having respect for (and good boundaries with) the people in our lives means letting them be who they are even when we don’t like it. It means picking our battles and not always having to have things our way. It means believing that others are intelligent enough to make reasonable decisions, even if those decisions don’t always prove "successful." And it means taking responsibility for our own control issues.
It’s not always easy to back off and pull our hooks out of people, but if you do, you might find a wonderful (and perhaps unexpected) sense of relief in discovering that it’s not all on you. You don’t have to run other people’s lives, and, in fact, it’s undermining to their autonomy when you do.
So, how are your boundaries, and how good are you at minding your own business? What does this topic bring up for you? (Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.)