Mormon Girl Asks: What does the word “boundaries” mean to you?

Last weekend, I was spending a wet, gray Saturday morning in Boise.  The bread was hot from the breadmaker.  The home-canned lemon curd was sweet and tangy.  Herbal teas and green smoothies were flowing.  And lucky me, I was sitting around the kitchen table in the home of the legendary FMH Lisa, founder of FeministMormonHousewives.org, having breakfast with five of the finest Mormon feminists in the world: Lisa, Anne, Nikki, Sara, and Emily.

Our talk turned to the latest internet dustup, with so-and-so writing such-and-such about so-and-so.  “I haven’t read it,” I admitted.  “I try not to let that kind of stuff get in my head.”

“Well, it’s clear that someone is just looking for attention,” said Nikki.  “Why reward it?”

“It all reminds me,” Emily began, “of when I was working in this swimsuit shop.  There was a guy who always came in to try on Speedos.  It was his thing to get attention from the girls working in the shop—shock and embarrassment.  One girl thought if she were very circumspect and polite, he would stop.  But he would not.  Even if you ignored him.  He just wouldn’t stop.”

We all groaned.

“But this one time, he came in, and accidentally tried on a pair of women’s bikini bottoms.  He came out of the dressing room and asked how he looked.  He wanted that old familiar flushed reaction from us.  I started to laugh.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  I laughed and laughed at him, and he turned around, went back into the dressing room, got dressed, and hurried away.  We never saw him again!”

Something about that laugh, that powerful laugh, denied Mr. Speedo the power of the reaction he craved—the power to make someone feel ashamed, embarrassed, belittled, or afraid.

“Boundaries,” said Anne.  “The issue is really boundaries.”

All of us nodded in agreement.  We’d all seen Mormon women who’d allowed themselves to be bullied or shamed or manipulated or taken advantage of.  Women who couldn’t say no.  Women who did not know how to trust their gut.  Or that they had the right to draw a boundary.

In fact, we’d all been those women ourselves, at one time or another.

“So,” I asked, “How would you define what a boundary is?”

Emily weighed in: “A boundary demarcates your personal space, in person and on-line.  If you enter my space—by contacting me in a friendly or unfriendly way, in person, by sending me an email or instant message or text, by leaving a comment on my Facebook thread or blog entry–I am not obliged to engage or respond.”

“Everyone loves attention,” Nikki added quickly.  “It’s natural.  It can be enjoyed.”

“But when it is to be enjoyed it’s because in your gut it feels safe,” said Sara.

“Yes!  Listen to your gut.  So many women do not trust their own instincts because they have been trained to put the needs and claims of others first.”

“If we could only get it through:  Trusting your guts means trusting your inner light.”

“The Spirit!”

“Yes.”

“Don’t mistake stupor of thought for an obligation to respond to someone who has crossed your boundaries.”

 

“And no sacrifice for the community is more important than your feeling of safety, security, and autonomy.”

“So what should you do when you’re faced with someone who is encroaching on your personal space?”

“Don’t apologize, don’t explain.”

“Don’t engage.”

“And check in with a girlfriend or two if you feel like something weird is happening.”

“Then after your reality check, the three of you can have a good laugh.”

“Don’t talk yourself out of your gut feelings.”

“It is so hard to unlearn this saying yes when you want to say no.  It’s a multigenerational thing.  Children are raised, for example, to give affection whether or not they want to.”

“And then when you go to your first stake dance and the gross boy wants to dance with you. . . .”

“Politeness and codependency can feel remarkably similar.”

“The accusation that one is ‘selfish’ is a huge trigger for Mormon women.”

“There are spiritual reasons for being selfish.”

“Having a sense of self is so crucial to developing one’s spirituality and autonomy.”

“In Young Women’s, we call it ‘divine nature’ and ‘individual worth.’  If you don’t carve out the space to figure out how the Spirit talks to you, you will never learn.”

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we taught young women and men that modesty not just as an issue of hemlines and shoulders but as a matter of personal conduct:  having proper custody of one’s faculties, maintaining and honoring personal boundaries, not getting into other people’s space in unwelcome ways?”

“What if we defined immodesty as boundary incontinence:  patrolling other people, bullying other people, violating other people’s personal space?”

“This is something we have to do and model for our children for ourselves.”

“This is something we have to keep for our own community!  So many women who feel they must give and give and have no sense of the sanctity of their boundaries.”

So, dear readers, I’m asking you:  What does “boundaries” mean to you?  Do women in Mormonism have a challenge establishing and maintaining their personal boundaries?  Where does kindness stop and where do healthy boundaries begin?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com.  Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter. And maybe read The Book of Mormon Girl.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “Mormon Girl Asks: What does the word “boundaries” mean to you?

  1. RachelJL

    I think a lack of personal boundaries and always trying to be a “yes-man” (or woman) can make it difficult to be of service during the times when otherwise, we actually could. It was actually coming down with serious health problems that finally taught me this lesson. I found that, since I couldn’t work very much, that sometimes I could help people out during the day when others couldn’t. On the flip side, I couldn’t always promise that I could be somewhere until that day, when I knew how I’d be feeling. This has forced me (most of the time) to have to try not to commit to things if I couldn’t be sure I could be there. I have to say to people, “most likely I’ll be able to help, but if I can’t, I’ll call you.” I frequently volunteer to help find others to help, too, since I usually have extra time to make phone calls. I’ve found that with others in the ward who are also not busy during the day also tend to “keep track” of each other. It’s been a huge blessing to me when I otherwise might feel sorry for myself.

    Another unfortunate side of this lesson, though, has been the reactions of people who may not have time to help, but say they can anyway. Having to ask for help from people was very, very difficult at first, and still is sometimes; particularly from people I don’t know. If someone says “yes” when they should probably say no, it becomes obvious pretty quick. They’re irritable and sometimes they may even resent you and wonder aloud if you “really need their help” because they are so busy. I would much, much rather not have their help when they could have been honest and said no!

    I have a good recently illustration of this. A few years ago I had to stop driving for a while due to doctor’s orders. My car had recently broken down anyway, and I couldn’t afford the huge bill to fix it. It wasn’t as bad a change as I had feared. I soon figured out that the new place I had moved to was a great place to catch the bus, and friends started to offer me rides to church and activities. A couple in my ward insisted on helping me pick up my kids from their dad’s house, and when they couldn’t, we figured out the bus schedule. It wasn’t long before I knew the few other people in our ward who also were without cars, and we helped each other with advice.

    Almost a year ago I moved to a new place. There aren’t as many buses here and church is a few miles away, and there’s no bus. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at people who have been willing to give me rides. There’s no way for me to make it to every activity here, and maybe I could find a way to change that, but I’m okay with it and the Lord has been good to me.

    (I’m taking forever to get to my point, sorry, LOL.) So, about a month ago I found out about a girl from another country who is here attending an English school. I was surprised when out with some friends when I told someone, “Katie”, that there was a new girl who wanted to attend our single’s ward , “Louise,” who was looking for a ride to church every week from who lives near her. Her response, with a great amount of anxiety and some sarcasm, was, “Oh, I heard about her!!” A few more questions indicated that Katie didn’t know the girl, but that she was practically terrified of “Louise” asking her for a ride. I had to reassure her that it would be okay if she said no and that Louise was prepared to attend the family ward instead if she needed to.

    My point is this: we need to be okay with saying “no” when we need to. It’s probably those people who insist on pushing and testing our boundaries all the time who can make us scared of being asked for things by more reasonable people. Or maybe even it’s just bad family experiences with family members that we love that make us think, “am I capable of saying no?” It’s okay!! We can make it through the uncomfortable process. If the other person’s need is reasonable, we can suggest someone else, if we can think of someone else. We can say, “I’m sorry, I wish I could help.” With *unreasonable* demands, or demands we’re not sure are reasonable from other ward members, we can consult with the bishop or Relief Society president and let them know. There are many ways of dealing with life when it’s overwhelming and we just can’t tell anyone yes. Then we don’t give an inch to someone who might try and take a mile, or, conversely, make someone feel bad or unworthy if we have to say no but are afraid to.

    Sorry so long, this is a subject I feel like I’ve had to think a lot about. We do also need to learn our own needs and wants. But that’s a subject for another day. ;)

  2. Mike R

    How we define the boundaries we set for our interactions with others defines our character. Two quotes from your column speak volumes:
    “And then when you go to your first stake dance and the gross boy wants to dance with you. . . .” and “Don’t apologize, don’t explain.” Because of her natural kindness for others my sister has a long history of attracting into her life people she might otherwise not want as friends, but she doesn’t know how to politely remove them. Often these “strange” folks impose upon her time and energy and she just doesn’t ever tell them she really isn’t interested in dealing with them so much. I truly understand the point of your article Joanna, but I also think, to use a Mormon term, in your “zeal” to liberate your comrades you are advocating an unethical position. While you are not obliged to become best friends with those you feel not worthy of your time or status, failing to “affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people” is inhumane. You were genetically privileged to be born attractive, good for you…but to refer to certain boys who were not so fortunate as “gross” and that an appropriate remedy for dismissing them is to simply ignore their presence is arrogant. There are polite ways to interact with people that you don’t believer should require a full investment of our time and efforts, but all people are worthy of at least a response…to do otherwise is just being rude.

  3. Donna Tagliaferri

    My personal community consists of women of all races, nationalities and religions. I am very uncomfortable with the paragraph that states, “We’d all seen Mormon women who’d allowed themselves to be bullied or shamed or manipulated or taken advantage of. Women who couldn’t say no. Women who did not know how to trust their gut. Or that they had the right to draw a boundary. ”
    I take deep exception with this. This is a people problem,,,people are being shamed, bullied, and manipulated. Today my husband is going to court because he was pulled over for a faulty signal. That is when he found out his license was suspended 2 years ago…he was taken to jail! The most horrendous experience. Thousands of dollars…impounded truck…my gosh! He was bullied. Horribly…
    As a Mormon woman I feel like I need to defend myself, to state that I indeed drive a car and I have attended school.
    I made personal boundaries years ago…but it was not from a Mormon man…it was from people in general. I was a black jack dealer…I dealt with strong personalities…women who wanted power and men too.
    I now work in government with an appointed position…people have tried to manipulate me…get me to vote their way…
    Talk about a stupor of thought…this question dumbfounds me…I see the world as a place to be bullied or manipulated and I see my church as a sanctuary. So there I guess that is my boundary….every once in a while I get to keep the world out.
    But not today…today I have to go to court with my husband, our attorney and the judges of the land. Heaven help us all.

  4. Laura

    I really feel this is a problem that should be addressed for everyone, not exclusively the LDS crowd. I’m a convert and I did not grow up in a house that put an emphasis on women needing to stay pure, kindly and nurturing; my parents grew up in the 70s and my mom’s very much a feminist (which I love), but it meant that she wanted me to realize that I don’t need to conform to this idea of femininity YET when I got older and I had a boss who encroached very much on my personal boundaries, I found it difficult to be “rude” and tell him to back off. I didn’t learn this “timidness” from my parents or the church we sporadically went to, I learned this through the overall culture in the American society and elsewhere that state girls are nice and never treat others in a cruel manner even if they violate these boundaries. As I got older and more involved in preventing sexual assault and harassment, I realized how this thought process is potentially very dangerous because it makes women feel wrong for being aggressive when saying no (even though I strongly believe that it is always the aggressor’s fault for not getting a firm yes to be in anyone’s personal boundaries, consent should never be implied). I very much loved your guys’ discussion and I feel it is very applicable to the LDS church, but I want to emphasize that this issue is not only in the Mormon church; it is in American culture on a whole.

  5. mystic

    True kindness inherently includes healthy boundaries. It is not kindness to allow someone to violate your boundaries, whether they know they did or not. People need to learn to voice when boundaries are threatened and/or crossed, particularly in our current era of so much social interaction and so little true communication.

    Our family has had to think about, discuss and address this issue in multiple ways. My husband, though never diagnosed, has tendencies of Aspergers syndrome (a high functioning disorder of the autism spectrum, for those who may not be familiar). One of the symptoms is a lack of a social filter so that the person will say or do things which are completely inappropriate (by almost anyone’s standard). Even they will often think it inappropriate upon reflection. This especially happens in social settings where they are completely overwhelmed by the multiple stimuli around them as their brain tries to process. Things like subtle comments, body language, and tone of voice are usually not picked up on, thus resulting in the person misinterpreting situations frequently as well. My seven year old daughter appears to have inherited these same tendencies that my husband deals with. She has a personal space of ZERO. We have had to make her ask someone if she can sit on their lap or give them a hug because she would climb up on the lap of total strangers and see nothing wrong with it. Recently we have again been addressing hugging because she insists on hugging her 1 yr old brother, even as he is pushing against her and crying to get away. These are only some of the many, many examples we have dealt with.

    I relate this because there are large numbers of people out there suffering with issues like these. Many of the people who seem odd or “gross” or most other unsocial characteristics may not know how to relate any better until someone takes the effort to tell them. I agree with Mike R above that there are ways to relate, without additional time, effort, or obligation on our part, and still be kind and polite.

    That being said, I very much recognize that women, in general, and Mormon women, in particular, have a big issue with creating boundaries and saying no. I have a friend who helps me out with babysitting occasionally. She is so bad about creating boundaries for herself that I have taken to asking what she has going on on a particular day, before I add my request and openly vetoing it if I think she is taking on too much. While I use this tactic out of concern for my friend, I acknowledge that it would be a much healthier boundary between us if she would learn to just say NO when something is too much for her. I think this is a big part of the issue that keeps Utah in the highest rates for women on anti-depressants. Interestingly, my friend has been one of those women and is able to go off her medicine when she is serving others. She then feels an internal fulfillment which she otherwise gets from the medication. Next she swings too far and fills up almost all of her time in serving her family, friends, neighbors, church, children’s school, etc. Soon enough she gets overwhelmed and reverts to depression, becomes a hermit, starts taking anti depressants again. The cycle continues because she cannot seem to find a balance in her life between serving where she can and saying no.

    I believe much of our journey in mortality is to learn to relate to others; to learn how to set the boundaries and parameters for ourselves that will guide us for eternity, and to learn how to respond when others violate our boundaries.

  6. I find my boundaries to be very much like a rubber band. I will gradually expand my boundaries, saying yes to this and that, wanting to be involved, wanting to get to know new people or allowing people I’ve kept at bay a shot at being close, trying new things outside my comfort zone. Eventually I reach the limit. There is usually some sort of trigger, an interaction with someone rude or unforeseen events, that causes my rubber band to suddenly snap back to it’s smallest size. At this point I focus on the absolute necessities – my kids health and happiness, my relationship with my husband, and my own spiritual and physical health. Everything else gets put on the shelf or shifted to someone else or dropped altogether. I’ll even get a sub for my church calling for a weekend or two. Once I feel like my core is back to being balanced, healthy, and strong I can start the cycle over and start expanding out again.

  7. Ren

    Reminds me of the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. The primary message is trust your gut. Do not be cowed into letting your boundaries be crossed lest you be perceived as impolite.

    The comment about politeness and codependency is spot on. Right along with manners, children need to be taught empowerment. That’s huge. We often defer to fears about how others will perceive us over how we feel about something ourselves. That’s fruitless.

  8. I always try to be polite when a person insists on my undivided attention for their opinion on mine or another’s behavior. I say, “Excuse me but you have mistaken me for someone who gives a sh*t.” Hmm, maybe that statement crosses a boundary.

  9. Craig French

    Boundaries are SOOOO important. Not just to women, but to everyone. I am an outpatient mental health therapist. I think that about 30% to 40% of my clients get the boundary discussion due to things they are doing or not doing to keep themselves or others safe. I also have a discussion about Trust that happens even more than the boundary discussion. Each discussion takes about a session, but I think it spares the individual several sessions in the process. Your discussion with your friends was fantastic. I wish you could have them in my office 15 times a week to share their self-esteem, intellect, and insight with so many of my clients who are taught somehow that it is not OK to keep others’ boundaries or to set them for themselves.

  10. angi ray

    It seems to me, that when someone insists, consciously or not, upon a denial of their own history, and emotions, and WILL, and strengths, and demons, and the relentless indoctrinations of female guilt and dependency, and maybe most importantly, the existence of a meaningful spiritual life–like to actually look at these things with teeth–it makes it nearly impossible for them (&them spirits) to establish boundaries, because boundaries are hard to see. So, when coming across a person who gets off on the suffering of others, like my own mother, in twisted, denial-istic ways, it can literally make the appointee of someone else’s abuse meaningful in a way that’s hard to escape. Because of your head telling you stories about the way things are. I was told once, by someone I trust, to listen to the lyrics in my head, listen to what they’re saying.
    press stop every once in a while and ask: whose truth is this?
    Even if your own mother tells you it’s true, it doesn’t mean IT IS.

    I wish my friends had conversations like these more often. ;)

  11. Donna Tagliaferri

    This is from a dear friend of mine…..

    i did not comment on the blog– i would have to create an account to do that and i didn’t.
    i don’t even know what a Mormon feminist is. maybe I’m clueless, I’m not trying to be contrary, but, as i recall, it was Mormon women on the front lines of equality for women and instrumental in the suffrage movement. leading the way in organizing women of different faiths and backgrounds into the precursor of the national organization of women.
    i agree wholeheartedly that the problem of women being bullied, manipulated, or taken advantage of is a societal problem, not a ‘Mormon’ problem. it is so easy to collapse the worlds ills and drop them at the feet of Mormonism. Mormons have a patriarchal order, Mormons follow the counsel of a living prophet, Mormons must therefore, be unable to think and act for themselves.
    the boundary breaching that i experienced as a teenager came at the hands of a family member– and not an lds one. i think it was shock and fear of reprisal that brought about my inaction, not what i had been taught in my lds home. i have always felt secure in my role as an lds woman.
    i was also in agreement with the comments by the lone male voice about the ‘gross boys’ that ask girls to dance– and saying no to them is in some way empowering a young lds girl? I’m confused. meanness or insensitivity is a good thing? first, what makes them gross? second, i pretty much danced with every boy that asked me, no matter what his ‘status’. it was okay. i wanted to have fun and i knew it wasn’t a commitment to anything other than a dance. i didn’t have to agree to a date, or to marriage. it was just a dance. i have taught my girls the same thing. if a teenage boy works up the courage to ask you to dance, then you do the kind thing and say yes.
    i am positive, that in working with the yw each week, i am continually reminding them to set boundaries, not ignore them. boundaries on what they post on social networking sites, boundaries on what they text and photograph, and wear and say and do. the spirit will be our constant companion as we keep the commandments.
    that’s all i have for now.

  12. Jason

    I feel like I represent the flip-side to the boundary discussion.

    I was a very sensitive and observant young man. It was hammered into me that I should respect women and never do anything to defile or sully them. I internalized (perhaps far too much) the lessons of respecting boundaries of women. I witnessed the creepy guys at dances making unwanted advances on young women.

    I did not want to be a creepy guy.

    So instead I waited on the periphery. Meekly interacting with my female peers in as non-threatening manner as possible. Waiting for a sure signal from any woman that it was okay to “make a move.” Waiting for a signal that never came.

  13. Dani Lofland

    “…boundary incontinence”, love that.
    I used to think of boundaries as drawing a personal line between yourself and people who would harm or take advantage, but these last few years I have realized that it is something way more extensive than just the negatives.
    We need boundaries for the people we love and trust too. Learning how to keep our lines flexible and porous so that we can let in the love and support that people offer and yet keeping it strong enough to say, “That is enough, stop, no thanks, I’m not comfortable with this…”. When we can do this, we can take off our armour and put down our weapons of defense and handle the people and situations around us with a calm wisdom. It makes it so much easier to love people who might other wise be off our list.

    • Good discussion. I love what Dani L. says. And I can see why some responses are quite lengthy. This isn’t a simple thing. Defining boundaries is highly subjective and personal. For the purpose of keeping it short, I’ll limit my response. Two things come to mind when defining and maintaining boundaries for myself.

      First: For me, in addition to fear, anger at a person or situation is a sure sign that a boundary has been crossed. I’ve learned to honor anger and to see it as a God-given gift, just like every other emotion, which is part of our spiritual/mortal framework. Anger is good. (blah, blah, blah and all those familiar qualifiers and disclaimers that people will want to insert here.) Anger is good.

      Second: From the 1980s child safety program, “The Safety Kids” — It’s better to be safe than polite.

  14. BK

    In regards to the “gross boy” phrasing, let me add my two cents. Recently my daughter came home from school and reported that her teacher had attempted to prepare the girls for an upcoming school dance. Presumably with good intent, the teacher had instructed the girls to accept the invitation of any boy who asked her to dance. As my daughter rephrased it, “Mrs. _____ says we HAVE to say yes.”

    Sure, I know what Mrs. _______ was going for. She was trying to create a safe place for these adolescent, pimply, awkward boys to muster up enough courage to walk across the gymnasium and ask a girl to dance without enduring the humiliation of being rejected, laughed at or mocked by a girl, or worse, a group of girls. Granted. If I were the mother of such a boy (I only have girls), I’d be praying that the girls would treat him with kindness and not exploit such social vulnerability. I also recognize that most boys attending a dance would fit into the kind-and-decent-yet-insecure-and-painfully shy category, not the creepy-scary category.

    But as a mother of girls, I’m really worried about the message “Girls have to say yes.” There are times when that adolescent boy might not just be awkward and pimply; rather, he might be dangerous, unkind, abusive, manipulative. And sometimes girls can’t quite discern what it is about such a boy that makes them nervous or unsettled– but they can feel it. Therefore, girls may use words like “gross” when what they really mean is frightening, untrustworthy or dangerous.

    I told my daughter to listen to those feelings. If the boy is a nice, kind boy who has gotten the courage up to ask her, then being kind and accepting of his offer seems reasonable. But, if she ever feels unsettles about a “gross” boy, she needs to say no.

  15. annegb5298

    Well, I wasn’t really looking for attention. I’d just somehow set something on my phone that kept updating FMH’s stuff and I got all these emails about Carol Lynn’s book and finally I just got irritated. But I do think if one is going to proclaim themself a feminist, they should learn alley fighting and cultivate a thick skin. Although, many think I’m a feminist (the teacher in Relief Society tailored her recent lesson on the priesthood specifically to me, thinking I wanting the priesthood; I thought, get a grip, who’d want that?). Being onery is convenient for those who need to set boundaries, although perhaps the two shouldn’t be confused. Oh, Melodie Beattie (not sure about spelling) said a cool thing “you cannot simultaneously set a boundary and take care of the other person’s feelings.”

  16. Steve

    Interesting discussion, especially in the context of callings (which hasn’t been discussed here). How many women will say “yes” to a calling they know deep down isn’t right, or isn’t the right timing? We’ve been conditioned to accept callings no matter what, and as such I’ve come to resent some of the callings my wife gets. When my wife finally got the courage to tell her mom that she voluntarily asked to be released as RS President, there was no support, only disappointment. It’s an aspect of our culture that I loathe.

    • RachelJL

      Steve, that’s too bad. I once had a wise Bishop tell me that if my calling made my health problems worse, he wouldn’t know unless I told him. I feel like I’m constantly telling people, “Did you tell the Bishop that? He needs to know.” It’s hard for leaders to feel inspiration on everyone in the ward and every calling if they don’t get communication from people. Specifically, communication from the source (you) is often the best place for it to come from. Sure, many callings will be difficult, but sometimes they really are too much. I think I may get heard more easily, though, because they already know that I have long-term health issues.

      The Bishop who told me that was my leader when I was a Stake Missionary. I had a baby and my health got worse, so I told him, and the Ward Mission Leader made a small fuss because he thought maybe I could do it…like that if he was just my cheerleader, I could magically accomplish it. I was so grateful for that Bishop and for a Mission President who disagreed and said that the Ward Mission Leader was out of line.

    • Brenda

      I said no to a calling several years ago. As fairly new newlyweds, and both of us with children from our previous marriages, my husband and I were asked to be ward missionaries. We looked at each other, looked at the poor stake high councilman who was posing the question, and said No. No way. Too much time away from our new, trying-to-meld family.
      It’s sad that in Steve’s wife’s case, she received no support, especially when she probably needed it most–she needed validation that it’s okay to set a boundary and say No.

  17. Francesca

    Boundary confusion and codependency are obviously not just Mormon problems, they are societal problems. If you think about it, codependency is almost always characterized by a lack of boundaries — they kind of go hand in hand. For me, the key was to find out what I enjoyed being in a codependent relationship with so much to have let go of my healthy boundaries. Having boundaries isn’t about being insensitive and unkind, its about being true to yourself. It is about taking responsibility and accountability for your life and following what your gut or your heart tells you even when others judge you for it. And if that means saying “no” when that guy asks you to dance because of that icky feeling in your gut, then say “NO!”

  18. annegb5298

    Here in southern Utah, Mormon problems are societal problems, Francesca. Steve, I’m with you. A lot of score keeping and rating others (and ourselves) based on our callings. I call it “being officially cool.” Which, after serving in a couple of presidencies, I now know is totally over-rated. I hate myself a lot of the time, but after reading this, I love myself because I have no trouble saying “no.” Even, “hell, no.”

    It’s a sign of spiritual maturity when one gets to the point where the tasks of life, the accomplishments, or the callings are a matter between the individual and their God. We so often don’t realize that callings don’t equal spirituality or righteousness, especially in southern Utah. I have a testimony, but I think often what people think is a testimony is some kind of spiritual haze in which they totally give up their common sense and personal freedom.

    On a side note, I’ve probably been guilty of pushing people too hard, thinking I was loving them.

    Here, I’m reminded of two of my favorite quotes: “I’ve made many mistakes for which I will surely have to pay, but they were made in anguish while I was trying to do the right thing.” (From Marian D. Hanks’ Bridge Upon the Waters) and….”there is power in conforming to the norms and mores of the society in which we live.” (a college professor whose name I forgot twenty years ago)

    Mormons are too task oriented. It’s one of the reasons my most hated scripture (“after all you can do”) is quoted so often, to the detriment of millions.

  19. EM

    I want to just pick up on something that you said that is so very crucial for keeping our children (who become young men & women) safe – insisting that children give physical affection even when they don’t want to.
    In my experiences as a foster and adoptive parent and from knowing plenty of people who were sexually abused as children by a family member, I have learnt that we need to give our children the message that their body is their own and affection is theirs to give or receive as they want. By empowering them in this way, we can add to their confidence to say NO and help to protect them against manipulative individuals who would take advantage of them.
    In my opinion, even just a simple, ‘Grandma wants a kiss, give her one!” is not ok.
    Disappointment is a fact of life and children and young adults need to get used to it. It’s a risk we all need to take now and then, including the risk of disappointing someone else!
    As for the ‘gross’ boy at the dance, thank you for remembering how teenagers really think – as much as it may appall us grown ups! My kids will be taught to answer, “thank you for asking me, but my answer is no”. And like you said, no further need to explain.
    After that, if they can’t take no for an answer then they are fair game for a less polite response!
    Let’s teach our children to respect the desires and wishes of others – and that respect does not mean automatically surrendering our own wishes and desires.

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