My Spiritual Smack-down, Bigger Boundaries & Higher Standards

We all know what it’s like to be disappointed by someone. You know the kind. Your mother-in-law discusses your husband’s old girlfriends with your kids. A colleague takes credit for your idea and sells it on-line. Your friend doesn’t listen to your repeated “no” and insists you go out with her. Your sister-in-law tells family members she hopes you don’t intend to have more children because you don’t seem to enjoy the ones you have.

At first when these things happen, I make it my business to assume “positive intention,” that is, to assume the individual did not set out to hurt or offend. She just may not have thought about how it feels to be on the receiving end of her behavior.

In these cases, I find it in my heart to let the person know “that doesn’t work for me,” forgive, and move on. But I don’t stop there. I take it a step further.

I make sure to look at what hidden opportunity or “backdoor gift” I could receive from the experience. In other words, how the unpleasant experience could support me in my personal growth.

For example, am I being beckoned to confront conflict versus running? To speak my true voice versus holding back? Or be willing to disappoint another so as not to disappoint myself?

Once I identify the real opportunity arising from the uncomfortable situation, I take the obvious prescriptive action.

There are two reasons I consider this an important step. First, I don’t want to be a victim. I am in charge of my life. I never want to claim another is making me feel anything. I have a choice and want to exercise it. Second, I want to “get it,” that is, the backdoor gift, so I don’t unwittingly attract a pattern of this kind of behavior.  In other words, I need to get the lesson so I’m not slapped upside the head with a larger dead fish at another time.

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But what happens when someone steps over your boundaries again and again? It’s a question I’m asked often.

Is there a time to let go of a relationship because it no longer serves your highest good and what you’re committed to? Does being spiritual mean you have to not only forgive, but stay in an unhealthy and draining relationship until you can make peace? Is it a test?

These were the questions I asked myself recently during a challenging situation where I was disappointed by a family member.

I know I’m good with boundaries. When I say “no,” I mean “no.” It’s taken me years to choose a couple minutes of discomfort over long-term anger or resentment, but I do it now. So holding my boundaries wasn’t my lesson this time.

My lesson went a step further; could I give myself permission to leave the relationship before I “fixed” it? Uggh. This was it.

As a coach, I never try to “fix” my clients. None of them are broken or in need of being fixed.  I guide them to their best.  But I noticed, when it became personal and family, my ego became inflamed with itself, saying I should fix everything.

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Oriah Mountain Dreamer in her poem, The Invitation, asks the question, “Are you willing to disappoint another so as not to disappoint yourself?  Are you willing to bear the accusation of betrayal so as not to betray your own soul?”  

My head was challenged by this question, but my heart said, “Yes.”  I knew that letting go was true for me because it felt like freedom and empowerment.

Oprah recently reiterated that the biggest lesson she learned from Maya Angelou was this:  “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”  

I realized I’d been hoping for the relationship to change, even when I had thirteen years of evidence that the person was exactly who she was showing up to be.  It was my opportunity to stop suffering and fighting reality, and choose me.

I got my lesson, and my answer was to let the relationship go.  Instead, I am sending love and light and best wishes and healing for all. Knowing we’re all connected, I trust that when I do what’s right for me, it’s also best for another.

There is nothing spiritual about staying in situations or relationships that are toxic or affront you. In fact it is spiritual to say “no more.”

It’s Your Turn. What are you accepting or hanging onto that, when you let go or eliminate it, will free you from negativity? Do you have a relationship where you need to establish a boundary or let go of it altogether? 

Challenge yourself this week to raise your standards and expand your boundaries by choosing to spend less time with those who drain you or don’t feed your soul. You have all the permission you need to “let go.”

 

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