Unfortunately we find these folks in our families, churches, workplaces, merchants, retirement homes, schools....just about anyplace people are because there is so much manipulating going on. The result is we all have to deal with unhappy people who either expect to demand we agree with them or who seem to be utterly unable to stand up to folks who treat them badly. And too often folks are convinced that they are not bullies, just people who are working to get things done right; and other people think they must accept being treated badly because it is the "Christian" thing or the "nice" thing to do. Then they wander off wondering why folks "get testy" with them and distance themselves from them. Watching bullying behavior, especially with no authority to intercede, makes everyone in the area uncomfortable!
But this is not the way God created us to live. Getting rid of some words and using other one's with awareness and attention can help everyone have less anxiety.
I think we can get rid of "should", "ought", "must", "never", "always" and similar words that are so commonly used to beat both ourselves and others of God's children over the head like a club. We can own our own feelings and express our needs calmly and clearly and we can use lot's more "I" as in "I feel", "I need", "I want" rather than "You make me feel", "You need to", "You must" -- but be careful not to slide into the "I need you to" etc.
A very wise women recently shared a phrase that works well for her when dealing with demands, expectations and challenges: "I don't have that to give you now." Time, money, emotional support, attention are all things that people tend to request and even demand without noticing the appropriateness of the request and this has been quite successful in politely declining to play.
When we have good boundaries, we don't need to get angry when people crowd us or demand from us what we are unwilling or unable to give. This is the responsibility of adults: to think seriously about our personal values, priorities and resources and defend our prayerfully and thoughtfully developed goals and plans. In truth, this allows us to be more generous because we are investing our time and treasure wisely so we can give more over the long-run and to causes that truly warm our heart and are consistent with our purpose and values.
So if your words are causing pain, work on that. If other people's words are causing pain, please believe that it is not your job to help them behave like a bully. It is rather like a particularly menacing dance where either partner can change the steps, and there will be some stumbling and anxiety, but in the end things only get more out of kilter until someone finds the courage to make a change.
Tomorrow: Is it selfish or unkind to protect our boundaries?
Musings upon reading: Boundaries: When to Say YES and When to Say NO To Take Control of Your Life (See BOOKS tab above.)