Last updated on February 17, 2021
It’s a tough topic, and one that not many people seem to understand.
It is one of the main principles of proper human behavior along with compassion, honesty and communication. However, it falls roughly into the same category as trust because it is an element that requires you to make a choice and sometimes to make a leap of faith. (Trust is, as has been discussed otherwise, the decision that you make to expect acceptable behavior from a person. ”Distrust” is essentially expecting unacceptable behavior from a person.)
It works something like this: You meet a person, and you begin with a basic level of respect. That respect involves recognizing the boundaries of behavior that are appropriate for each of you. If you know someone primarily from a mosh pit, then getting hit by them or hitting them back is not going to be a “deal-breaker” – it’s just part of the environment and marginally considered acceptable. Outside of that environment, the rules are different.
When you meet someone in a social setting, sometimes the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not is only established through conversation or happenstance. A topic comes up that you are uncomfortable with, and you say, “I’m not at liberty to discuss that,” or maybe, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.” Or maybe you feel it is necessary to explain in more detail that such things are not on your list of acceptable topics. You mention what your availability is for that relationship, you talk about what your favored topics are, and you go from there.
Sometimes, two people come from such wildly different environments that the boundaries of communication have to be negotiated more directly. If you like to tell stupid, offensive jokes, but this person is not comfortable with that, don’t tell those jokes around that person. If they have issues with addiction or anger or impulse control, and you don’t have those problems yourself, you make a point to not aggravate that sensitivity around that person. It’s just common human decency.
But, when you have an experience with a person, and then you hear something – not directly experiencing yourself, you just hear about it – then the tenets of respect demand that you investigate that rumor with the person in question. You don’t run with it and assume the worst and then “punish” them for something that may or may not have happened. And moreover, you don’t punish them for something that you won’t even discuss with them. That just says that you know you’re wrong on some level.
Why, yes, this DOES have to do with a specific situation! (I don’t do that “veiled statement” thing very well.)
Here’s my personal statement: my boundaries involve full disclosure and clear communication. These are necessary for me to entertain a relationship with someone on any level. I am fully capable of declaring a topic “off limits” in a given moment, and I exercise that right, just as I respect that right in other people, but when I do, I will explain as much as I can why it is off-limits. If I have said, “Please call me when you’re ready for XYZ,” and you do not call me, I assume that you do not feel you need my assistance with XYZ anymore. If a period of time has passed, and I still haven’t heard from you, I will call and investigate. Usually, that “period of time” is dictated by the other schedules of my life – two jobs, school, homeschooling, raising kids – but I figure that most conscious humans will grasp what that kind of schedule is like and will be at least partially lenient. I make a full effort to take care of these other schedules completely so that when I do have the chance to sit down with you, there is nothing else being brought to the table but your needs.
What absolutely is consistently and always unacceptable is to rumor-monger, lie, or make aspersions against my character without a clear intention to verify information. I am not a perfect person, but I strive for a high level of “decency of humanity” on a constant basis. It is simply not in my nature to deliberately injure, mislead, or otherwise disrespect others. Mistakes happen, sure, but I expect that others would have the same level of respect and non-judgment for me that I practice with them. When a mistake is made, we analyze it, learn from it, apologize for it, and move on.
Perhaps this, too, is a mistake, this expecting others to behave like reasonable human beings.
Perhaps I have made a poor assessment by assuming that when I say that I am open and consistent across my areas of communication, people should take that seriously. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect others to trust my words and actions above the words of someone else who is not me, even if that is the standard that I practice with others. Whatever the case, I cannot in my heart believe that my behavior is inappropriate, and if others are not going to respect that, then there is not a lot of room for those “others”.
It is outside of the realm of reasonable to believe that primary sobriety with an occasional beer or glass of wine is a poor lifestyle choice, nor do I believe that working two jobs (one of which I get to do from home) or striving for the best environment for my kids is somehow the wrong thing to do. Given that my vocation is in the healing realm, I also cannot wrap my brain around the idea that being clear and honest and communicative – showing by example – is grounds for punishment or should ever make me the recipient of such blatantly disrespectful behavior. I hold myself to a higher standard, and while I don’t universally expect others to maintain the same standard, I do expect them to respect that this is my standard for myself.
For the people involved, my statement is clear: Get the story from the horse’s mouth before you decide you know what’s going on. It is glaringly obvious that there is a deeper illness at work here, and either you can accept my assistance in resolving that or you can stay out of my life entirely. I have the right to defend my boundaries, and one of those “common sense” boundaries is to not allow toxicity or venom to have a place at my table. My heart’s desire is to find out that these things are not toxic or venomous, but I’m not getting a lot of evidence about that right now.
If you have broken bread with a person and received the benefit of their kindness and profession, it seems terribly self-defeating to turn around and bite them and spit on them. Such a person will not be destroyed by your actions, but a sadness will linger that you will not longer be allowed to break bread.