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Boundaries: The Power of No

Boundaries: The Power of No

Every June when I was growing up, my sisters and I would pack our bags and kiss our daddy goodbye to go stay with our mom for the three months of summer vacation. Growing up in a two-household family meant our lives were not only split geographically but also influentially. We lived under two different parenting styles, experiences, and decision- making philosophies. Both sets had their own benefits and dysfunctions, and both were extremes.

At our dad’s we were parented in structure and had a very sheltered day-to-day experience. We didn’t even own a television set until our late teens because my dad valued the nurturing of our minds. He believed watching television hindered our ability to think for ourselves, so the TVs stayed out and the rules stayed in.

With Mom we had access in excess to any and every pleasure we desired and were essentially able to do what- ever we wanted as long as we weren’t harming ourselves or others. Mom’s work schedule took over her days, so we were often left to our own devices from dawn to dusk without any parental oversight. All we did was find ways to occupy our time until she got back home.

Early on, we got acquainted with our neighbors. They had a daughter around the same age as our nephew, whom my mom took in to raise when the responsibility of parent- hood became too much for my older brother to bear. Mom’s neighbors had a trampoline and a backyard pool, which beat the television we watched for hours as if we were catching up on the nine months we were without a TV at my dad’s house.

Our neighbors became like family; we were often told we didn’t have to knock before going inside and were welcome in their home whenever we wanted. The dad always paid special attention to us girls and invoked weird feelings I had never felt before. He told me often that I was pretty and funny. He laughed at my jokes, asked me how my day was, and always made me feel seen.

  • I had no boundaries or supervision.

What I did have was a narrative in my young mind that repeatedly told me I was unlovable. It was the perfect storm for a tornado of inappropriate affection, unwanted attention, and unmerited shame. I was an easy target. Our neighbor picked up on it and preyed on me.

By age twelve I had been groomed unknowingly by this man for over three years, and I was at his mercy. That was the year he convinced me that I wanted to give him my innocence. He manipulated me to such a degree that I actually believed it was my choice and desire to give up my virginity to a married man more than twice my age. The shame that ensued from what was done and the mental torment of thinking it was something I welcomed and wanted drove me to a dark place that I vowed I would never let anyone take me to again.

It was a big promise for such a little girl.

My lack of parental boundaries became a lack of physical, mental, and emotional boundaries until I found myself burdened by the weight of shame that was never mine to carry.

I was a child, and I had no reason to feel shame for the actions of the adults in my life, but I still carried it well into adulthood.

By that point I had learned I could carry it a little easier thanks to the help of drugs and denial. If no one had set boundaries for me as a child to keep me safe, why did I need them as an adult?

Many years later, I went back to visit my mom and found myself at one of her famous house parties. We had a back- yard full of people when, suddenly, my abuser’s wife started aggressively shaming one of my family members. Profane words and accusations were spewing out of her mouth as she publicly shamed her in front of everyone — calling her a home-wrecker and worse. She waved a love letter that had been hidden among her husband’s possessions in which my family member professed her love for him and her eagerness for the day they could be together.

It was a scene to be seen.

Come to find out, the husband had been visiting the young woman at her college campus on weekends and had her convinced she was in love with him. As with me, he had groomed her and robbed her of her innocence, but she was the one being shamed for all the world to see. The craziest part was that this young girl just sat there, condemned and full of shame, taking all the venom coming from this pedophile’s wife’s mouth, completely unaware that she was a victim.

At that moment something came over me and I shouted, “She is not the names you’re calling her! She is a victim! He did it to me too! He did it to me too! When I was only twelve!” The secret I’d thought I would take to my grave was exposed when the pain of seeing someone else bound was greater than my own shame. Chaos immediately turned to silence as the wife was confronted with the truth that she was married to a child molester and a monster — not a faithful, innocent husband.

When I broke my silence about what had happened, the truth liberated more than just me.

It exposed that the man had brought about the same horrific trauma on other young girls, one of whom was his own daughter, who he abused when she was just eight years old. Incredulously, she had the courage to break her own silence when my voice put words to the story she had been too scared to speak.

  • My voice spoke for her when hers had been taken and prompted her to keep speaking after I spoke.

In 2 Corinthians the Bible paints a beautiful picture that when you are in Christ, the old places of shame are gone, and behold, you have been made new!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Shame will make you hold on to things from the past as though they determine your value in the present, but you’re beyond that lie. Shame will make you hide parts of your testimony out of fear that you will be judged, but

God wants to use all of your testimony to help set other people free. God will use everything you’ve been through if you allow Him to.

You may think your identity without shame only brings freedom to you, but that’s not true.

Don’t you realize that your story is tied to someone else’s liberation?

Maybe you’re like I was, and you think you’re going to take your shame story to the grave. But your story is not just yours to own; it’s yours to share.

And the freer you get, the more you help others find their voices, their identities, and their freedom too.

Excerpted with permission from She Speaks Fire by Mariela Rosario, copyright Mariela Rosario.

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Your Turn

What is your story? What have you hidden away determined not to tell anyone? The Lord can redeem that circumstance and use it for good if you’re willing to share it and help others with it! I’ve seen it happen in my own life. Will you give it to Him? ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full