A problem that we have in our society today in general is other people’s boundaries. Sure there are things that we all must do in order to be successful. It can look a bit different for each person. For me, for instance, I have to go to work , go to church, and deal with many different people (including difficult ones) every day. These are non-negotiable for me. However, I strive to do these things while also respecting others’ boundaries or “no” for me.
However, there are things some people (including me, sadly, sometimes) do or say that can be a violation of others’ boundaries. Here are some of the violation boundaries I’ve noticed in life situations I’ve encountered or heard, and how we all can do better in creating a culture of consent and respecting other people’s boundaries:
violation of personal space-When we touch or hug someone without their consent, we are violating their personal space. I’ve seen it happen to others and me more times than I can count. This violation is not only on an individual level but also on a societal level. For me, being violated in this way isn’t usually that big of a deal (Key word: usually), but for others it can be devastating or at the very least triggering because of past experiences of being abused or otherwise devalued. And we must respect these people, because if you were in their shoes, how would you feel? If you are a parent, you must also respect that your child (no matter how young) does not always want to be hugged or cuddled or want to show affection to another child or adult. It may be because this person has hurt them in some way, or because they just don’t like to be touched. That is OK. Even if you are NOT a parent and a child or an adult you know does not want to be touched or hugged, you must strive to love and respect the individual by respecting their wishes. I’ve heard in numerous settings where I heard a child or an adult (or everyone) must hug someone, just because X person did. No, no, no! First of all, just because X (or you) feels comfortable hugging the person, doesn’t mean everyone does or has the same type of close relationship. Secondly, a true hug cannot be forced! Thirdly, forcing someone else to hug implies to that person being forced that their feelings and their body isn’t of value, that others can do what they wish to that person or their body– a very dangerous precedent indeed!
violation of time-When we show up to someone’s abode without their consent or when we unload on someone that doesn’t want to or doesn’t have time to listen to us unload, we are violating the others’ time. When faced with the possibility of violating others’ time, I try to respect the other person instead. For instance, when I want to talk to a friend but she is busy doing something else, and she confronts me with this, I would say, “I’m sorry for bothering you. I will talk to you when you are not as busy.” I would never : a.) Throw a tantrum and say, “But whhhy can’t we talk about this NOW?!” b.) offer up suggestions on why what she’s doing now isn’t as “important” as me. c.) invalidate her boundary in any of these or other ways. Likewise, we all must respect others’ time whenever possible. We must apologize and make amends when we fail to do so, because as my pastor aptly says, “Time is life.”
Violation of privacy-When we put up pictures of someone else or give out their phone number or address without their consent for everyone to see, we are violating their privacy. Exceptions: When a phone number or address is already publicly available on multiple sites somewhere else, such as of a celebrity or other famous person, it is probably OK to post it on Facebook. Or when a picture of someone is already on Facebook, as long as the picture does not objectify or devalue that person in any way, it’s probably OK to put up too. However, as a rule, we should ASK the person/people before we post or upload anything that includes others on Facebook, Instagram, or any other site. When they say, “No” don’t throw a fit or tantrum, or demand they see things *your* way. Also, this applies when someone does NOT want to talk about something that is bothering them to you. You cannot, absolutely cannot force someone to talk and expect them to have much respect for you and your boundaries if you can’t respect theirs. Instead, we should say something like, “That’s fine, but if you ever want to talk about it, I will be here for you and support you through it all,” and then just drop it. If they want to discuss what is bothering them, with you, they will. You just have to be patient with them.