Boundaries, Part Whatever

Sometimes I think two of the most important things we can teach kids are that they have a right to say no, and that if someone tells them no, they have to respect that.

I know some Very Clever People will point out that there are exceptions. If I tell my five-year-old child to stop shoving his LEGO Star Wars figures into the garbage disposal while cackling and saying, “In its belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years,” he’s not going to have much luck telling me no. If my boss gives me an assignment and I tell him no, that’s probably gonna end badly for me.

(On the other hand, if that same five-year-old doesn’t want a kiss from Aunt Rose? He has the right to say no. Maybe today Aunt Rose will have to settle for a fistbump.)

But I think most of us are able to understand and discuss this without having to derail for those “whatabouts.”

You have the right to say no.

If you’re on the receiving end of that “No”? You don’t have to be happy about it. You can feel hurt or angry or whatever. But you still have to accept it.

You have the right to say no, even if you said yes in the past. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to decide that today you want to set this boundary, regardless of whether you set it yesterday or not.

You have the right to set rules and boundaries in your own space. You decide who can and can’t be in your home. You decide who can call you, text you, talk to you online, and so on. You have the right to tell someone to leave you the hell alone, and to block their ass if they can’t respect that.

If someone tells you to stop talking to them? Stop talking to them! Don’t argue. Don’t whine about how it’s unfair. Don’t keep coming back to explain yourself, or to try to get the last word. Grow the hell up and get on with your life.

To put it as simply and clearly as I can, you don’t have a right to another person. Even if you disagree with them. Even if you hate them. Even if you’re attracted to them. Even if you’re married to them.

That sense of false entitlement to another human being is at the core of so much dysfunctional societal rot. Rape and domestic violence and the epidemic of men physically hurting or killing women for telling them no…

Learn to say no, and to respect it from others. Teach kids the same. Expect the same from the people in your life. Demand the same (when it’s safe for you to do so). Support people’s right to set their own boundaries, and help push back against those who would ignore them.

This post brought to you by someone who may end up being an object lesson for a future post, depending on how things go.