When is a boundary not a boundary? When you have more to gain by crossing it than by protecting it.
It can look like ‘being a martyr’, but there can be more to it than that. It is sometimes in taking the hits, in pushing through the pain, that we can grow. Of course, you have to resist the urge to lay the passive-aggressive lens over it!
We have boundaries and expectations in order to protect ourselves, but perhaps it is only in being open to letting down those defences that we can find new ground.
A hit to the ego hurts. Being forced into places (physically or metaphorically) where you feel unhappy is something it seems pretty natural to resist. For me, I am learning to feel angry in these circumstances. I’ve had to learn it, in ways that other people perhaps have not, because I somehow grew up in a bubble where I looked at the world from the other side: I had no sense of personal boundaries at all. And important though this lesson must presumably be to my self-development, I wish I could let go of it. I wish I could be my old self, who felt no need to protect myself, because I had an innate sense of…I’m not sure what. Of invincibility, perhaps. But I’d be more inclined to term it ‘a sense of connection’ – connection with God, connection with community, connection with earth, connection to bigger things than I. It may even, interestingly, be that it is born in a sense of smallness – when ego is irrelevant, when we know (with joyful submission) the deep heart-truth of our own tiny place in the Big Picture, what is there to protect? In floating free, we are safe. When I have nothing to hold on to, I need have no fear.
Of course, I’m human, so perhaps the fear then is fear of not fitting in, of being different and alone and excluded on a human, face-to-face level. When you don’t look at things the same way as most people, your journey must surely be a lonely one. I’m learning, though, that with maturity and deepening of self and awareness, comes further isolation – that to be alone in oneself is an essential part of the path to self, and to place, and to community. My faith can only be my faith, my ideas can only be my ideas, and the more alone I become in those things, the more I have to offer those around me, both in terms of content (the things I am thinking or doing) and of form (the me I am being).
“Confidence” is a strange concept – to be confident of something is not always to be bold, or to be fearless, or to be strong; to be confident of something can leave one a gibbering wreck, as it’s no longer possible to escape that which is truth-to-self in order to make space for that which is truth-to-others. Moreover, one can display confidence precisely out of an absence of security – it isn’t necessary to fear when one has no particular expectations to meet (or fail to meet).
So – I’m having to face being in a situation that hurts me, that kicks me in the ego, that makes me feel small and alone and exiled. And I have choices (of course I do): I can choose to object, to be my small self, to do the ‘normal’ thing of complaining and trying to change things; or I can do the other thing, the thing that feels terrifying until it’s begun – I can let go of my self, and feel the hurt, and expose myself to abuse and to a possible future of loneliness and hopelessness and emptiness…and see where it takes me. I will, I think, learn. I hope I will learn to fear this situation less. I hope I will learn a little more about how to be that me I used to be, the confident me. I also hope that my being Big like this may expose those who are small, those who might abuse power over me or others, those to whom I am making myself vulnerable. In my submission, perhaps they will learn no longer to project themselves on to others. Perhaps they will learn a little about difference, and about themselves. Probably they won’t (that’s another lesson I’m learning as I grow), but if I don’t take the risk, if I don’t humble myself and allow them to hit me if that’s what they need, then sooner or later (and probably sooner – probably already) I am become them. I am projecting my fears onto the world. It is only in letting go of hope, of defence, of self, that I can hope to find and defend myself.
Argh! I don’t want that to be true! It’s really, really hard. But the more I object to it, the more I see it everywhere. It seems to me it was certainly what Jesus was trying to say. And others. In washing the disciples’ feet; in submitting to the corruptions of the law that led to crucifixion; in living as God-made-flesh; and in pretty much all the words Gospels report, it seems to me that the message of the Messiah is this: that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, and it is in dying we are liberated to live. Blessed are the meek. Not because they will come to some great prize in the end, but because in being meek they are blessed – blessed with freedom from ego, from pride, from status, and from holding on.