Imposing Figures

There are people in our lives that are imposing- sometimes by their very stature, sometimes by status, and sometimes by their will. It’s that last group that are the hardest to deal with. I mean, you can get to know someone who is physically imposing, and then you know whether or not that physical advantage they have is something that ought to intimidate you. Negotiating relationships as influenced by status is part of etiquette and politics. In other words, that’s just part of life.

What we chafe against, though is when people use stature, status and other means to push us. We see it in parent-child relationships, particularly as children mature through the various stages of development. Parents continue to set boundaries, and children continue to push outward. The battle of the wills takes place on those edges. I’m coming to see that the way we handle those edges with our children has significant impact on the way they deal with other authority figures throughout their lives.

Not that this is anything new. I’m sure that if I had bothered to read anything after “What to Expect from your Toddler,” I could quote some clever axiom about this. Instead, I’m one of those people who learns better directly than vicariously (or loses the instructions and has to figure it out the hard way).

The lesson that we have to learn in order to live as healthy, functional members of society is what battles to fight and when to fight them. There will always be people who have control over different aspects of our lives. Teachers telling us what to study, how to organize our notebooks and what we must be able to reflect back. Bosses setting out the hours we will be at our desks, how we are to do our work, and what we can wear to do it. Babysitters, parents or siblings who are “in charge.” Spouses who set expectations.

And the others- the ones who make up those societal “they’s” that raise up as groups once in a while to lay out their expectations. Sometimes, they are screaming lies about people we love. Sometimes, they are doing physical harm. Always, they seem to be pushing for everyone to be with them on the “correct” side of the issue. Sometimes, they need to be confronted. Sometimes, it’s better not to draw any extra attention to them. It’s really hard to know which is the right response, since they are usually not the only variable.

Other “they’s” will be watching. The people you know, who know you and would understand your motives, goals and desires. The people you don’t know, but who know of you. They may have your best interests at heart… but they might not. And they don’t necessarily let you know that they have any interest in you at all. And sadly, there are people who will be watching with no stake in the matter other than to work out their own frustrations by tearing people down.

This is all so very vague. I think because I don’t have just one role in this. I am a parent, imposing my will on a very strong-willed child. I am a wife, a daughter, an employee, a student, and an inquirer – with a husband, mother, boss, teachers and committee members who have their say in my life’s path. And I am a strong-willed child of God, who has trouble bending my will to God’s will. Even though my head and my heart know and long for the communions that comes with being a faithful follower. Even though I know that if I listened and followed, all those questions about when, where, and who to battle would be answered.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.


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