Living in Safety: Honor and Respect

We try to keep the rules pretty simple around here.  Kindness.  Honor.  Respect.  If only things could stay that simple.  In reality, things can get pretty messy.  Relationships are difficult.  We need to give each other the grace to grow through them, to make mistakes, and to learn to be healthy.

A concept like respect or honor can be very abstract.  I believe it must be modeled and taught, but sometimes we lack finding healthy people to learn it from.

We have posted on our refrigerator some basics of how respect manifests itself.  (This is taken from Peter Scazzero.)  Respect is giving both myself and others the right to:

space and privacy

to be different

to disagree

to be heard

to be taken seriously

to be given the benefit of the doubt

to be told the truth

to be consulted

to be imperfect and make mistakes

to courteous and honorable treatment

The book goes into more detail to help explain it further, but even just this list is very helpful to me.  Not only does it model for me how I want to treat other people, but it also speaks to what relationships are healthy and safe.  That is how we are training up our children — to have a home that is nurturing and safe.

We’ve used this list to sort through sibling difficulties.  Often when someone is mistreated or disrespected, it is difficult to work through the concern to a place of health.  Having these guidelines helps us pinpoint where the boundaries were crossed, and how the relationship can be repaired.

We decided to have some fun with these lessons on boundaries with our kids.  We love to watch football together, so now we have terms that help them understand some relational dynamics.

One sibling offends or upsets the other, and within moments, there is a growing dispute. We take it as a teaching moment and intervene.  First there’s a penalty…

We explain the offense, or boundary failure, in terms of personal foul or encroachment.

It lightens the mood as we compare our emotions and relationships to the football field.  They understand encroachment is when you’ve gotten into someone else’s space.  You’ve gone too far.  You’ve crossed the line.  Boundary failure.  5 yard penalty means give them some space.  And as we work through it together, there can be amends and repair.

Our kids are learning to see their own responsibility in having healthy emotions and how to navigate in relationships.  These are lessons that are lived out in our daily interactions.  And it is for more than just kids to learn.  Adults need to continually be reminded of health and safety too.

Healing Together

A woman sat next to me in a crumbled heap, broken and sobbing.  Her husband’s addiction devastated her and the consequences of his actions bore heavily on her soul.

I felt her pain.  Her breathing heaved, with the weight of life and death crushing on her.  She had been completely devastated and wondered how she could live again.

It was all she could put to words at the time, but her heart went to a much deeper place.  Perhaps she wondered, “will the pain ever stop?”  And “how will I ever survive this?” 

An addict doesn’t realize the hell or havoc they cause their loved ones.  When they are lost in the world of their addiction, they are blind to the consequences and checked out of relationship.  And when it goes too far, they unleash earthquake consequences on the ones they love.  That’s the nature of addiction. It destroys.

As a codependent who learns to live enmeshed, we lose a sense of who we are.  Life becomes more of how to stay connected, how to pray hard enough, how to please or help or serve or care take.  Whatever we can frantically “do” to come out of crisis.

The step back into serenity comes through boundaries.  Realizing the mess of an entangled relationship needs better definition of who I am and who you are.  What is my responsibility that I need to own and act on, and what do I need to release and step away from?

I have fond memories of healing and growth in Lexington, Kentucky. God allowed Wilmore, specifically, to be a place of sacred retreat and refuge for me.  I find incredible beauty in the rolling hills and horse farms. They stir my soul with life and vitality that is hard to explain.  I’m just drawn to them.

I soaked this picture into my heart as I drove through the rolling hills of Lexington.  It filled me with great warmth and serenity.  And then I realized, those fences give me a picture of the buffer I need between my relationships that have become enmeshed.

These are healthy boundaries.  There can be a gate, where we are open and relate and have connections.  But there are times that I need to just be responsible for what is inside my own fence.

I believe that is the essence of what is healing my heart and my marriage.  Where I can step back from the entangled mess of addiction and find myself again.  I can nurture my own soul.  I can heal and find serenity.  

It doesn’t come in isolation or cutting myself off, although that is what a battered soul is tempted to do, to hide and run for cover.  Healing comes in stepping out to trust safe relationships.  Surrounding myself in a variety of support so that I can rebuild.  Reaching out, risking being known, and finding that I can live again.

I have had the privilege to hear the stories of many broken hearts.  I am honored that they would trust me enough to count me as part of their safe support.  The pain runs so raw and so deep, but it also connects us with profound compassion for the hurting.

I can enter in because I have been there and experienced it to the core of me.  And I have great hope for how a heart can heal.  I know the journey and exasperating work of healing.  And I know the joy beyond description of working it through.

It is extremely costly and it can take everything you have.  But if you are in a place of profound desperation, what other choice do you have?

I see the anguish of this woman’s pain and I want to tell her there is great hope.  There is great healing.  When we learn to surround ourselves with healthy people, we can walk it together.

Honest Humanity

I have had incredible joy in the past few days.  So much so, that it just bubbled over in me as I arrived at my support group on Thursday night.  I was so elated, it was overflowing.  One of the women asked me to share my story of what brought me such joy.

I didn’t even realize it at first.  In fact, I was caught off guard and speechless.  How could I even pin point it?  It wasn’t until I started sharing that it became so clear.  Something in this day was different.

A very familiar situation had happened earlier that day.  An invitation to test if I was going to respond the same old way.  Enter onto the scene a marked step of growth:  a firm boundary set.  A completely different outcome.  Not in the situation, but in me.

I am being made new.

It’s a one step at a time kind of progress.  Perhaps slow at times, but I’m realizing slow isn’t a bad thing.  It is the time you give to something of quality.  Something that matters.  Something deep.  And how you get there is just one moment, or one day, at a time…  and then the next.

My friend said she hoped I bring the joy back next week.  I laughed and said “no promises, but I can give you this:  I will be honest.”

This morning I saw a precious friend in church who was glad for my writing.  She said it was honest.  Then she said, “People don’t like honest.  Keep doing it.”  I smiled.  So true that honesty can make people uncomfortable.  But we need more of it.  And I have the most respect for people who speak the hard truth.

Anyone who hasn’t faced their own honest humanity will always be uncomfortable when they are confronted by it.

So let me set a boundary and say this.  I promise to be honest.  Being uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing.  It is an opportunity to explore growth.  In fact, if something stirs us up inside, it is worth exploring.

I have been stirred up, trying to sort through and untangle some difficult things.  I felt tripped up.  Stuck. And then suddenly, it shifts.

I have been utterly amazed at how it unfolds like an epiphany.  Sudden freedom.  Relief.  Growth.

Seeing the power of boundaries was like that.  Hard work paying off.  Progress.  The pieces of my puzzle coming together, solidifying what I’m learning, and taking me to a better place.