The Non-Negotiable

                                                                                                              Photo: “Hands” by Vivian Maier

​I sometimes wonder whether impediments to being ourselves, creative self-expression and choosing happiness ensue from our forgetting to identify and defend those terms of their lives that are non-negotiable, or should be: areas against which pop psychology informs that we must have boundaries and enforce them. Take for example a child speaking abusively to her or his parent: The parent need respond something to the effect: “Enough!! I love you!, and you will never speak to me in this manner again! Ever! Do you understand me? Never!

Saying these things are most effective when the parent is strong, and her or his voice and body language match the volume and intensity of the child’s speech, without the parent, her- or himself, being angry. Yet saying these things is a must. She or he need then enforce future breaches by imposing sanctions that are meaningful to the child. We need be loving, yet firm and fair in our resolve to honor ourselves and be treated properly. This is about self-love!

It is our own individual responsibility to monitor how others treat us. Each of us are autonomous and sovereign beings whether we appreciate this or not–whether our cultural mores reflect this. In the absence of us defending what we deem as non-negotiable, the defending of our dignity, and ensuring that we are treated respectfully, we are, in effect, endorsing, underwriting and normalizing the untenable diminishment of ourselves and our lives. We are then complicit in undermining our integrity and dashing the promise of being ourselves. In this we lower the probabilities of fulfilling the promise of our creative self-expression. We prevent ourselves from having a good life.

I’m a proponent of human decency—of being gracious, compassionate, kind and generous. Expressing these things gives rise to more ease and effectiveness in navigating life’s currents: they reflect our essential ennobling spiritual natures. We need be genuine in this—honest, aligned, congruent—or we are indecent—doing unnecessary harm to ourselves and others.

Pretense is trite and cheap. Graciousness, compassion, kindness, and being generous are not forms of politenesses. Rather, they are expressions of love. Politeness itself is an affront. An obscene one—sullying everyone. We see through such ruses though we pretend otherwise. Politeness never masks indifference, upset or other agendas.

I invite you to deplore and eschew rudeness too. Yet standing up for ourselves is never rude! Standing up for ourselves is imperative—without it no self remains. Standing up for ourselves by honoring what is non-negotiable for us—this is essential to our wholeness, our wellness. Attending to the stature of our dignity is our responsibility alone.

Of course be gracious to the fullest extent possible yet never at the expense of our own self-respect and personal dignity. There are times when the most decent and respectful thing we can do is clearly and powerfully interrupt and stop another when their speech or actions diminish, denigrate or demean us. Some circumstances warrant an unambiguous emphatic “Fuck you!” punctuated by walking away! And staying away if necessary. A “Fuck you” can be literally or metaphorically delivered depending on need. Yet avoid unnecessary harm at all costs.

Proviso: Our intent needs to be clear within ourselves: we are saying these strong things to disrupt and stop another’s unwanted and untoward behavior; it is neither our place nor role to diminish another person. We are to stop their behavior toward us! Nothing more. Nothing less. If our intent is aligned the other can hear and receive our message. If our intent is to indict, punish and diminish the person we only worsen our circumstance and their’s. We must clearly know our intent as it is the difference that makes the difference.

Wisdom holds “If you step on my tail, I will bite you.” Our job is to be powerful, strong and loving in our autonomous sovereignty as we relate well with others.

Caveat: It’s bad form to say “Fuck you” to a spouse or lover, close friend or colleague unless we require an inordinate amount of leverage to get ourselves to leave the relationship. Never harm unnecessarily.

More on this topic in my next post.

What are your non-negotiables?