A couple of days ago, I was chewed out by a coworker. I made a mistake, admitted fault, and was belittled in front of others for it. It wasn’t my boss or a person of authority, but a friend. I was embarrassed and it hurt. I cried big ugly tears in front of folks who have never seen me cry. This wasn’t the first time, but third.

The same day, my pastor posted something to Facebook that stuck with me and confirmed what was already on my heart.

You’re not responsible for other people’s feelings. Quit carrying around other people’s baggage just because they demand it.

As my coworker was laying into me, I kept thinking, “You deserve this because you messed up.”  I told myself I deserved to be belittled because of my mistake. Later I realized how low my self-esteem is to tell myself this kind of treatment is okay. After talking it through with God, myself, and friends, I made the decision that this is not okay and any one who makes me feel like I’m worth this kind of treatment doesn’t deserve attention.  The most important lesson I’m walking away with after this incident is if I screw up and admit fault, and the other person reacts angrily and unprofessionally, it’s not my responsibility. That’s not my load to carry, it’s theirs. We cannot own each other’s feelings, only our own. We aren’t responsible for any one else’s behavior or reactions, only our own. Future interactions with this person will change and a bridge was burned.  Not out of resentment or malice, but because of boundaries.

Good fences make good neighbors.

I’ve noticed a pattern with the people in my life, particularly with men. It’s one thing to talk about boundaries, it’s another to actually establish and utilize them. This incident at work needed to happen for a few reasons. Another man in my life needed to hurt me to wake me.  To be fair, I’ve been the person on the other end of this. I’ve been that person, the one who reacted angrily. I’m not bitter or angry towards them, but I am aware.

An awareness of where we stand with the people in our life helps us to set boundaries. We all have limits. I’m doing better with identifying what mine are. I don’t put a big emphasis on my feelings any more and when my feelings start to cloud my judgement, I take a step back. This incident at work wasn’t about feelings, but this person crossing over my fence. They crossed a line.

A person with a healthy view of self, sets healthy boundaries. I will be this person moving forward.

This year has taught me how to deepen existing relationships, not to live an offended life with past relationships, and to establish boundaries with both. When people cross over our fence (boundary line) repeatedly and we don’t stop it, we’re enabling the behavior to continue. Any person with a healthy view of self wouldn’t allow themselves to be mistreated whether they love or care about the person doing the mistreating. Thankfully, I have friends who affirm and God to confirm this.

If you struggle with boundaries, you’re not alone. It’s my prayer and hope we will all learn to love ourselves and build fences (not walls) with the people in our life. Fences are healthy. They don’t keep people out entirely, they’re not meant to, but are essential for healthy relationships.

Good fences make good neighbors.  Repeat this until it becomes a way of life.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

photo credit: petrOlly Lost heart via photopin (license)