When I first started learning about boundaries, one of the things I read was that boundaries start with a negative focus. It’s all about what a person doesn’t like, doesn’t find acceptable. Then, as we grow and mature in our boundaries, we shift to focus more on the positive. This is what I do like, this is what is acceptable. It’s two sides to the same coin. Nearly every “unacceptable” is balanced by an “acceptable.”
We see this message in articles about positive parenting. Hearing someone say “try not to say ‘no’ so much” can be really frustrating sometimes, because a lot of parenting is teaching our kids what is unsafe or unacceptable behavior. Ironically, maybe if the parenting gurus would use their own advice on the parents, it would be a little easier to swallow. It’s not so much that we shouldn’t be telling our kids that they aren’t supposed to be doing stuff, it’s that we should focus more often on telling them what they can or should be doing instead.
I’ve done some challenging spiritual and mental work to become a more positive person - to overcome my own tendency to be negative, critical, angry, defensive, etc. It’s currently overwhelming to be in a season of having to relearn these lessons with a more global application. To feel angry and critical feels like a failure in light of the previous work I had done. However, I’m coming around to understanding two things:
Ignoring what’s pissing me off is unacceptable.
It’s privilege - the fact that I can choose to ignore it simply means that it’s not impacting me as deeply as it does those who live it every day.
Ignoring it doesn’t solve it or impact it in any way.
Once I process through the anger, get a good handle on the problem, then I can start looking at potential solutions and flip to the positive script. I can’t be part of the solution if I never face the problem head on.
Ultimately, I think the lesson is that our anger, criticism, negativity and defensiveness aren’t inherently bad. Getting stuck in them is bad. These emotions are our warnings. They’re designed to get our attention allowing us to get curious about them, then use them to mature and create a positive change.