Sometimes I am really terrible at taking my own advice.
So much of the work I do at Queer Theology and with coaching clients and others who reach out to me is reminding people of three things: 1: You are beloved just as you are. God loves you not in spite or your queer or trans identity but because of it. 2: You have to put in the work to have a healthy life and spirituality. Sometimes that work is reading books that will stretch you and help you to rethink what youâ€™ve been taught. Sometimes that work will mean going to a therapist (one who has an actual license and is not affiliated with your church). And 3: Itâ€™s okay to set boundaries for yourself. You are allowed to determine who is in your life and who isnâ€™t. You are allowed to say what you will and will not discuss about your life and faith. And you are allowed to cut people out of your life who are toxic, unhealthy, or refuse to respect your boundaries.
I believe those things whole heartedly and I do my best to live them out. But I have to admit that that 3rd one, the one about boundaries? Thatâ€™s a tough one for me. I am getting better at it. I am getting better at telling folks who ask inappropriate questions that they are, indeed, inappropriate and that I wonâ€™t answer them. I am getting better at saying no to things I really donâ€™t want to do or that sap my energy in a negative way, even if I know that saying no will upset the person I am saying no to. I am getting better at surrounding myself with only the people who build me up, who cheer me on, and who want me to succeed. I am also getting better at calling out harmful behavior.
But I still really want to be liked. I donâ€™t want people to get mad at me. So sometimes I just ignore bad behavior. Or I try to avoid the person doing the behavior instead of confronting them about it. I let people get away with things. I donâ€™t stand up for myself.
I sometimes donâ€™t set boundaries even when the issue is really important to me. I let people slide because I care about them and want to maintain the relationship (even though the relationship is doing harm to me). I acquiesce. I avoid. I try to laugh it off. Meanwhile my soul is hurting.
Why am I so willing to sacrifice myself to keep someone else happy? Especially someone who hasnâ€™t shown me the same respect? Why am I so willing to avoid confrontation when Iâ€™m not the one behaving badly? Why am I so willing to do extra work (emotional and otherwise) instead of calling someone out on their refusal to do work?
I see these patterns in my life and work over and over again. I am trying to develop my own inner strength so that I can stand up to people and firmly (but kindly) set boundaries and follow through on consequences when those boundaries are violated. I believe that itâ€™s important work to do. I believe that I not only have the right, but the responsibility to do it so that I can live a whole and healthy life. But I still struggle. Itâ€™s hard to stand up and say what you need in clear terms. Itâ€™s even harder to say â€œIf you refuse to do this I can no longer be around you.â€ I just have to remember itâ€™s not an ultimatum for ultimatumâ€™s sake, itâ€™s setting a clear line to protect the fragility of my own soul.
These are hard lessons to learn but so, so important. Set the boundary, as hard as it is, and make the space for something new to grow.