There are many lessons that I could impart that I’ve learned in life over the last mumble-mumble years. Most of these lessons are not obvious, and they’re all very hard learned.
But I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned relates to boundaries. How important they are, and how few people actually understand how important they are.
What is a boundary? Well, we could go by the definition in any dictionary, but it’s not really helpful for my purposes. I think I’d define a boundary as “A line, set by a person, that other people are not allowed to cross without the setter’s permission.”
I am writing about boundaries, because I want to explain exactly why I posted what I did previously, and why I think it’s so important that I do so.
What you witnessed was a process that you generally will not see play out in real time.
In the first post about discussing theology with atheists, I set a very clear boundary, stating clearly what I would and would not do, and I explained why. I am a little on the fence about whether the way I did it was healthy, but I believe that doing it, in itself, was healthy. I said, to quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “The line must be drawn heah! Heah, and no further!” While the fact that I set the boundary was far more important than the reason, I explained the reason anyway, because I think it’s important that when you set a boundary, to give as much of a reason for doing so as you’re comfortable with.
So, essentially (tl;dr) I set a boundary.
Someone then came into my comment section and tried to violate the boundary. These particular boundaries are somewhat offensive to certain types of people, because to respect someone’s boundaries is to cede control to them. This particular boundary – stating the conditions under which I would discuss a particular topic – was claiming a kind of control which I’m not allowed to have. So I was essentially (lightly) abused for daring to set that boundary.
For weak people that attempt would have worked. Typically, someone will defend themselves after being called such a name, maybe saying “I’m not a coward!”, or some other defense, and by engaging that kind of conversation, you’re allowing the boundary you set to be violated. It’s not a clear or obvious violation, because the discussion isn’t quite about the boundary you set, but it’s an inroad. Once you’re on the defensive, it’s a simple matter to turn the conversation where you want to go, and then your boundary has been violated. And maybe you don’t even realize it.
This is how many controlling people, particularly leftists, attempt to violate your boundaries and control conversations, by the way. They’ll use terms like “racist” and “nazi”, and the minute you try to defend yourself, they’ve won, because your boundaries have been violated, and they’ve taken control of the conversation by abusing you.
So, young grasshoppers, examine what I did.
I did not even entertain what I was called. I didn’t care that I was called a “coward”, and instead, I just shut the conversation down, and brutally. I responded to the commenter with a mocking comment, I blocked the commenter, and then I posted (I didn’t have to do this, and it would probably be better if I didn’t, but I get to have a little fun if I want) that no, I set these boundaries, they are important to me, and you do not get to violate them without my permission. There was no discussion about whether I was a coward (I don’t think I am, but I could very well shrug and say, “yeah, so?”), there was no discussion about the merits, or lack thereof, of the commenter. I enforced my boundaries ruthlessly.
At this point, the abuser (and I consider the commenter that) has only a couple of choices. They can forcibly try to destroy those boundaries (this is what bullies do) or they can slink away with their tail between their legs. They really can’t do anything else. I haven’t given them that option.
People right now don’t understand what boundaries are, and the don’t understand how important they are. You see this all the time in so many contexts. Women have their boundaries systematically destroyed by men around them, until they are not only used to, but welcome, having their hearts and bodies systematically violated. Those that understand the need for boundaries but don’t have any experience with them might, instead, lash out, and create unhealthy boundaries (accusing people of doing things that they didn’t do, for example). It take a long time to understand how to build healthy boundaries, and too many people right now don’t have that understanding – or even the concept that boundaries are even a thing, much less healthy.
My boundaries are very close to inviolable, and I have no interest in allowing anyone to ever penetrate them without my consent. This is why the criticisms of “people of color” just roll right of me – I have decided that I am not interested in submitting to their view of me, so they have only either the choice of trying to forcibly destroy my boundaries, shutting me up, or slinking away. I haven’t given them any other choices, and that’s by design.
It’s a very powerful thing! Somewhat risky, but powerful. It’s risky because violation of boundaries and attempts to control are very much interrelated – one leads to the other. If you don’t allow yourself to be controlled, some people will attempt to force that control. And they may even be able to succeed – with your body. No other part of you will ever be broken without your permission.
Setting boundaries, and enforcing them, is the most powerful thing you can possibly do. Set healthy boundaries, recognize when someone is trying to violate them, and don’t ever let them.