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Jen Jeffrey: Human Kindness And Boundaries

Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Jen Jeffrey

After months of political commercials I am sure we all saw a few that were misleading or what we felt were just plain lies. I voted, but I didn’t gather my information from the commercials and I wish they weren’t even allowed on television. There is too much mis-information readily available as it is and people have to be smarter than to take anything at face-value. I learned this with people in general on a human-awareness level.

Being a Christian since I was a teenager, I have forgotten what it was like to hate. I had learned that I wasn’t the only one in the world who had rights or an opinion and that everyone had a story.

I could empathize with people who had experienced the same things I had. And, as I matured, I could even empathize with those who went through things that I had not experienced and I was able to see them as God did.

We are all human beings and no matter what race, gender, or tax bracket we are in, nothing changes the fact that we are equal in our humanness. Whether we are created tall, short, thin or wide, whether we are rich or poor …God knows our hearts and He doesn’t pick favorites.

For those who don’t necessarily have a faith or believe like I do – the truth of the matter is still the same.

We are all human beings and not one person is better than another. A few of us may behave better, we may give others more understanding, forgiveness or love…but we still breathe the same air and walk on the same earth and it is easier to do it together. To help each other and to encourage those who are down or who haven’t been able to find a true balance in life.

When I see people who hate and attack others or behave mean-spirited, it makes me sad. If it is me they are attacking, I am not sad for myself…but I am sad for them.

To think of what life must be like for them to always be bitter and always hate. My heart goes out to that person, not because I think that they can’t help it, but because I think they are hurting and they don’t know what to do with their pain.

I remember when one of my sisters accidentally hit a dog with her car. She is the most sensitive, caring person and it bothered her greatly. She pulled the car over and went to help the little dog and the dog barked viciously and tried to bite her. When she backed off he got up and ran away. She was a teenager and didn’t understand what happened. She thought the dog was mean while she was trying to help him and then he wasn’t even hurt and just took off. But most likely, the dog was hurt and he didn’t understand being hit. He didn’t understand that my sister was going to help him. He was in a fight mode because of his pain and when he ran off, he most likely went to die.

This is how many humans respond when others hurt them whether intentional or not. They don’t understand their pain, they don’t understand that someone could help them and they don’t trust. They just isolate themselves and lick their wounds. This is so unnecessary when God made this world full of people…loving people to help each other when we get hurt. Though we can’t save the whole world, I feel God puts certain people on our heart to pray for and to show kindness to.

As I go about my life, I want to spread joy and love for others, not selfishness and hate. When I step outside of myself and I look to see what I can do for someone else, that is when my life becomes so full. The times I have withdrawn into myself, and focused on my pain – they have left me empty.

If people judge me on the surface of what they see, they may think I live a perfect life and have never known struggle or heartache. But I know pain and I know that feeling of wanting to give up and that is why I care about people – even those who seem mean or hateful.  I wish I could express to them that someone does care.

But we who have a kind heart must also be cautious. There are those who manipulate and take advantage of kindness. I had to learn to step away from that and to say ‘no’ in order to take care of myself. I am not a pushover who thinks we should bend over backward for everyone.

As a writer, I like to find out the story behind something. I want to understand more and not just what I see or what someone else tells me. I have three sisters and we were raised by the same parents, yet we are very different. I found that people expect another person to think like they do or feel what they feel and that is not always the case.

When I was in a bad marriage, I was unequally yoked with someone very different from me. Surely, if I shared my ‘do the right thing’ heart he would see things the same. He didn’t. I learned that not everyone has the integrity to do the right thing or to care about others. There are some people out there with narcissistic behavior and it can be very tricky to detect through their manipulation or deceit.

During that divorce I saw his sheer hate for me when I had taken away his control and I got my life back, but in order to forgive him (which was necessary in healing for me) I had to realize that he did nothing wrong. He was doing what he saw as right for him even if my family and friends saw the same unjust behavior that I did.

There was much pain caused in that toxic relationship, but in his mind, he didn’t see those things as hurtful and he didn’t see it as doing harm. He justified his actions.  His perceptions were very different than mine and we had no business ever marrying. My outlook was the ‘do unto others’ rule where his was ‘get them before they get you’. I felt sorry for him. What an unhappy way to live.

I lived with a victim mentality until I learned that I had power inside I could draw from. I stopped blaming what was done ‘to me’ and I looked deeper into the ‘why’. Why did my life take that turn? I was a good person, but these bad things were happening to me …didn’t God care? It was when I realized that God cared so much that in order for me to take action and to be all He created me to be, I had to know why I got to those painful places in my life. What was my part?

I didn’t think much of myself.  I didn’t have respect for myself (even though I claimed to) and I allowed disrespect from others.  I was easy prey and I attracted strong personalities who wanted to ‘help me’ yet they were very controlling and dominating in my life.

After the first year of my divorce as I started growing, one of my first lessons happened with a new church friend. Her life was so chaotic and busy. I had just come out of chaos and into God’s peace and things were still pretty raw, but God was helping me to stand on my shaky legs.

When this person asked me at the last minute to do something that had nothing to do with me and would be hard for me to try to help with, I knew God was giving me practice in saying ‘no’.

I wasn’t unkind, but God allowed me to see beyond that ‘one favor’ and how this person would continuously put their chaos onto me and any other person who allowed her to. Even though she was a well-meaning woman who was trying to do good, I saw that her personality was toxic for me and I had to set proper boundaries. After telling her nicely that I wasn’t available to help her, she didn’t ask me again and …she also wasn’t my friend anymore. Did the world end? No.

God weeds those toxic people out of our lives – if we are listening to Him. It took many years for me to listen to that small, quiet voice telling me what I knew was right. When I stopped arguing with the “what ifs” or taking on unnecessary worry, I trusted that small voice and my life was at peace.

It took practice, but I learned to trust that inner voice. I respected myself as a human being who had just as much right as any other human, but I also didn’t swing the pendulum and become hateful or selfish. I practiced not letting others have control in my life, but I also kept my giving heart.

I didn’t stop serving and caring for others, but I learned that I had a voice to say what I could or couldn’t do. Saying that I couldn’t do something was not a sign of failure or weakness – it was a sign of strength.

I was assertive to tell someone no and I didn’t feel guilty for it. I was cautious around those with negative behavior and I didn’t allow their chaos in my life.

Wanting to help others doesn’t mean we are to be the savior of the world or take on everything we are asked. We each have our own gifts and it is up to us to share them, but to also tell others when something is not our gift or cause. I have heard people say that God puts something in your path for a reason, but we need to consider that God may have allowed it to cross your path …to teach you to say no.

I have seen worn-out Christians trying to keep up with everything they are asked to do and those dear souls are usually so busy they don’t even have time to hear God telling them what HE wants and, sometimes it is just to ‘be still’.

We each have purpose and we each are important on this earth. In a world full of diversity, understanding and tolerance is needed – but not stupidity. It is okay to say no. It is okay for a person to not be happy with us and perhaps walk out of our lives. Seasons change and there is a time for everything under the sun.

When others have hated me or attacked me in some way, I really do pray for them (and that is not just Pollyanna-talk) I really do. My heart goes out to them because I see behind their hate. I know they have pain in their lives that they don’t know what to do with. They are looking inward and at their feelings only.

If we expect forgiveness, shouldn’t we forgive? If we expect trust, shouldn’t we trust? If we expect people to care for our feelings, shouldn’t we care about others feelings? We should already ‘be’ what we want to attract.

I don’t hate people. I may not like how they behave sometimes and, if they bring toxicity in my life I may choose not to be around that, but I don’t hate them or wish harm to come to them. My hope for those hurting is to stop being a victim even if you feel victimized. You have a strength inside that is waiting for you draw on it in a positive way.

Look outward and think of another person’s perspective. Use understanding and then do what is positive and healthy for your own life without causing strife for another. Telling someone no is not causing them strife – chances are they already had strife before they asked. Telling someone no when you feel you need to, gives another person an opportunity to help – and it just might be that they learn to help themselves.

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