I’ve had a number of negative interactions with people surrounding politics this year. I’m sure many people have. Every one of these interactions had one thing in common: unhealthy political boundaries.
The majority of the political interactions we see among people today are unhealthy. We wonder why there is so much division, and yet we consider it normal to see people treat each other poorly over politics.
People routinely violate each others’ political boundaries, and therefore feel disrespected. We as a society are living in a perpetual state of feeling disrespected. We could move so far ahead if we would simply respect each others’ boundaries.
Unhealthy Political Boundaries Cause Division. Healthy Boundaries Unify.
We will naturally disagree with people. We will passionately disagree with some people. Having conversations with people who have different political views than us is healthy and a good thing. But there is a line between healthy political interactions and unhealthy political interactions.
The root reason most people disrespect others’ political boundaries? Pride. We view ourselves as the “moral authority” for other people, and refuse to accept that other people are their own moral authorities, however much we may disagree. The root of that is pride, thinking that we are absolutely right and the other is absolutely wrong, with no room for margin. We of course are welcome to think that we are absolutely right, but we are wrong to violate others’ boundaries in the name of convincing them that we are right.
Let’s strive for healthy political boundaries. Let’s #normalizerespectfulpolitics. Let’s make it not-normal to see people being mean and disrespectful to each other.
Healthy Political Boundaries Look Like:
- Respectful discussions
- Ending a conversation if one party wants
- “I simply disagree”
- “Thanks for considering my viewpoint!”
- Respecting when someone sees data and comes to a different conclusion
- Not bringing up a subject someone has said they don’t want to talk about
- Humble- I am not someone’s moral authority
- “I think that is wrong”
- Respecting when someone believes differently
- Conversations continue as long as each party is comfortable
- “I’m so sorry if you felt disrespected by what I said!”
We aren’t responsible for the other person’s boundaries. If someone doesn’t communicate their discomfort, that isn’t our responsibility. But we can do our best to treat other people with respect and expect that they will express if they are uncomfortable or feel disrespected.
Unhealthy Political Boundaries Look Like:
- Refusing to stop talking about a topic, even after requested to
- Cursing at someone for their beliefs
- Refusing to disagree
- Judging someone for their beliefs
- Continuing to bring up a subject after requests not to
- Insulting someone for their beliefs
- Unwanted comments or opinions
- “I won’t agree to disagree”
- “That’s wrong and that you are dumb for believing that”
- Telling others what they should believe- you can believe what you want but you’re 1. wrong 2. I won’t stop talking to you until you believe that I am right
- Arrogant- I am someone’s moral authority
- Mocking- public or private
These pretty much sum up social media interactions, right? We can’t control when other people do that, but we can set standards for other people treat us and encourage other people to have healthy political boundaries.
How to Manage a Boundary Violation
We can expect that we will sometimes have to set boundaries with people surrounding politics. That is normal, even for people who try and be respectful. Sometimes we just make mistakes.
These kinds following of statements probably won’t work or be appropriate for comment sections on social media, but rather directly with a single person that you know or are speaking with privately. These boundaries aren’t needed publicly on social media because it’s best to just quit the conversation in that type of setting.
Here are some things you can say to someone that you feel has violated a boundary:
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
“Please don’t talk to me about ______ again.”
“I respect that we disagree and don’t want to discuss this further.”
“Please talk with me respectfully.”
“Please respect that I disagree and don’t want to continue this conversation.”
If boundaries are still crossed…
If someone is still crossing boundaries with you after you talk to them, you can either cut communication with that person or have another conversation with them again. If the relationship is important to you, I recommend communicating again what your boundaries are and how you would like them to be respected.
Sometimes, this is done multiple times and the person still refuses to respect your boundaries. In this instance, it’s your choice on how to move forward. You can choose to deal with the disrespect, or you can decide to end the relationship, either telling them directly or not. I have had to do this before, and it is always sad when someone chooses being “right” over their relationship with you.
You can also…
See them only with others around
Choose not to see/talk to them anymore unless boundaries are acknowledged and respected
As Christians, we often think that we have to “put up” with however people treat us in order to make sure we can “love them” like Christ. But we don’t have to be treated negatively. I highly recommend reading Gary Thomas’ book, When to Walk Away. It goes into way more depth than I can do here, of course, and talks about the many instances in the Bible of when Jesus himself walked away. It becomes a point of pride in us, like those crossing boundaries, if we think that we are the only ones who can minister to that person, instead of trusting Christ to do it. If Jesus walked away from people, then it is healthy for us, too, to sometimes walk away.