Sunday, June 18, 2017

Boundaries and Forgiveness

Many people believe that in order to forgive someone, we must be able to have a relationship with them.  Unfortunately, however, although we are ALWAYS better off to forgive a person, we are not always better off to remove healthy boundaries that we have put up with a person.

Boundaries are necessary in all relationships!  Even happy, healthy, whole relationships have a line drawn where the relationship will have dire damaging consequences if the boundary is crossed.  For example, if a friend of yours spreads a rumour about you, you won't likely maintain the friendship.  If your husband cheats on you, you might get a divorce.  If a boss harasses you, you might quit your job.

Some relationships need extra boundaries put in place, because there have been demonstrations of behaviour that warrant a need for safety.  If a verbally abusive family member persists, you may choose not to take phone calls from them.  If a roommate steals food from your cupboard, you may need to keep it protected and out of reach.  If a client doesn't pay their bill, you may choose not to work for them again.  Boundaries come after futile attempts of communicating with the other person that their behaviour is hurting your relationship and finding that person unwilling to modify their actions.  Notice that boundaries aren't expecting the other person to change, but they're only changing YOURSELF.  

So, if those boundaries are put in place, does that mean a person hasn't forgiven?  Can a person forgive someone but still keep themselves within the safe gates of boundaries? In order to understand this complex conundrum, it helps to understand a little bit about what forgiveness is NOT:

- Forgiveness is not excusing or justifying behaviour.  Instead, forgiveness says, "What was done was wrong and painful, but I will no longer hold this offence over you.  I will treat you with love and kindness, even though you don't deserve it."

- Forgiveness is not reconciliation.  Reconciliation is when BOTH sides of the offence choose to first forgive, and then find a way to make a relationship work together.  Instead, forgiveness says, "No matter what you choose to do, I will forgive you from my side.  Even if you don't forgive me, I will still choose the higher road and forgive you."  Forgiveness is a personal choice.

- Forgiveness is not welcoming more offences.  It's not saying, "Well, you did that once and I didn't like it but go ahead and do it again...and again."  Instead, forgiveness acknowledges the reality of the damage that the offence caused and doesn't live in denial that "it really wasn't that bad."

Forgiveness can happen without any interaction with the offender.  Forgiveness can happen even if the person who hurt you is dead, completely unwilling to apologize, or even if they keep re-offending.  It is a personal choice to let go of the need to make a person pay for what they did.  It's choosing freedom over revenge.

Some people mistake boundaries for revenge.  It's very important to make sure that when considering the enforcement of a new boundary, you consider your motives.  Is this boundary to keep you safe and prevent further harm?  Or is it to make a person pay for their actions?  There's a huge difference, and you must be aware of your personal attitude toward your offender in order to discern this.  Revenge doesn't free anyone from their offender; it only keeps you bound and drags you down to the same level as them.  Boundaries, when done with a forgiving heart, allow you to heal and find strength to become a better person after whatever offence occurred. 

This leads to the question, of course, "What about relationships where I can't put boundaries in place?"  There are the rare situations when we really have no power to escape the damage someone is doing to us: a child in an abusive home, a person who is the victim of severe crime, prisoners of war, etc.  Must we still forgive even in these times?  I think that we are privileged to have the stories of WWII survivors who can offer us an understanding of these extreme circumstances.  You'll find that even though many people were unable to escape the pain that was happening to them, they were able to find an inner peace and deep meaning through having forgiving hearts.  If someone in that case can forgive, then we can too!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bulimic Shopper

Hi, my name is Erika and I am a Bulimic Shopper.

I binge shop, and have done so for years, filling my cart (or sometimes two) at target in a thrilling and exciting time of compulsion.  The high I would acquire placing beautiful objects on my shelves, hanging lovely clothes in my closet, and giving generous gifts to my friends became nothing short of an addiction.  The cycle was complete with the aftermath of buyer's remorse and guilty consumer debt.

But, we always managed to pay off the credit card and get afloat.  And, I would often keep the clutter from becoming too much by cleaning, organizing, and re-organizing again.  I justified my actions by keeping everything "under control."

Little did I know that my purging was as much an addiction as my buying.

When I dropped off carloads of donations I felt lighter, free-er, and even slightly altruistic as I would be praised for my "generosity."  I have always held lightly to my things - I don't let them captivate me!  Honestly, I don't!

But, what HAS trapped me in it's lure? This cycle I now recognize as Bulimic Shopping.

My friends and I have joked about my habits for the last couple years.  When your best friend has watched you go through this enough times and jokes, "Wow, that birthday present survived a lot of purges to last this long in your house!  It must be a good one!"  then you know you have to admit it: there's a problem.

So?  How do I change?  What can a shop-a-holic like me really do to make a difference?

I don't believe I will ever be able to embrace the concept of "pure" Minimalism as I understand it.  I have been researching this concept for a number of weeks now, filling my mind with TedTalks and blog posts on the subject.  The truth is: I don't want a tiny house!  I don't want a capsule wardrobe!  And I don't want to travel all the time!  I love our home; it's perfect for entertaining AND living.  I love my walk in closet; it offers me all the choices I need with my shifting moods and expressions.  I love to be a home-body; travelling is more draining than energizing with two young children who are just as happy with a sprinkler in the back yard.

That being said, there are a number of ideas around Minimalism that I can totally get on board with:
- less debt and fighting about making ends meet
- less distraction and more clarity in my life priorities
- feeling of lightness and newness
- less time organizing, re-organizing, and looking for things

And, probably the biggest change I have started making once I realized I had this Consumer-Disorder was CHANGING THE WAY I SHOP.  I will never stop shopping.  I love it.  It's in my bones and that's not likely to change.  I enjoy getting a starbucks in hand, wandering isles of beautifully displayed eye-candy, and chatting with my mom or sister or friend while I do so.  It's a hobby, and I'm not willing to give it up, because it makes me happy.

So, I'm REDIRECTING my shopping.  A number of years ago I completely gave up shopping for lent (even though I am not a Catholic).  You can read about it here

Through that experience, I have become a VERY picky shopper.  Here's my new way of shopping:

1) think ahead of time about what I actually "need."  I do hold this term loosely, because of course I'm not talking about basic needs here.  I mean things like: new potholder mittens because the ones was have are full of holes, or a pair of sandals that are so supportive I can wear them for hours all summer, or a rain jacket that's actually waterproof.  

2) quality over quantity.  I used to be all about the bargains!  More "bang for your buck" was so enticing!  If a sweater that I liked came in three colors, I bought all three.  If I found a scrapbooking paper I liked, I bought two pieces because you never want to run out.  Those shoes are ALMOST as comfortable as the other ones that are twice the price.  You get the picture.

3) don't look at the price tag and skip the clearance racks.  This especially applies to clothing for me.  My reasoning behind is this: when an item is really expensive, I might not try it on because I can't imagine it will be worth that much money.  When an item is cheap, I no longer feel it has the same value as expensive clothes, and I therefore won't treat it with value in the future.  I literally don't look at the price of an item when I check it out on the rack...I continue to ignore the price tag as I take it to the dressing room and try it on.  Then, once I have determined that I feel like a 10 (not a 9, or 8...but TEN) in the clothing item, I set it aside and at the very end I look at the prices and determine how many of my "10" items I can afford.  Sometimes I can still only get one thing: but that one thing will be loved and worn and used for many years to come!  

4) gifts are a go!  When I find something that speaks to me, "Mom would love this!" I scoop it up and save it for her next birthday or Christmas.  I have the hardest time trying to find gifts for people under pressure...What do they want?  What do they need?  Instead, I just allow myself to collect gifts throughout the year (and yes, all of my 5 nieces' Christmas presents are already purchased and it's only May).  Then, everything is less stressful throughout the year and when I get an invitation to a party we're ready to go!

5) I don't buy my kids toys.  My kids, like everyone else's, have more toys than they could ever use.  This is something I'm working on changing.  They have always known that we do a purge before birthday season (spring) and a purge before the holidays (fall) and I invite them to get in on the action!  I don't *usually* sneak their things away without them knowing (although, when I do they NEVER miss anything or ask about anything!).  We make a fun time of filling up one bag with toys they don't use anymore.  I'll sometimes lay out duplicates of three and say, which is your favourite?  Then, they get to keep that one.  The less toys they have, the more they play!  It's amazing ;)

With these significant reformations in place, I am hoping to transform my life-long Shopping Disorder to a habit of intentional, critical, and more satisfying consumerism.  Join me?

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