And then he tried to kiss me…
I was at a party a few months ago when a man I had just met was friendly and attentive. I noticed how he was tracking me, but didn’t think too much of it. I shared a couple of short conversations with him and his wife during the evening. Then when it was time to go he came outside to move his car.
As I hugged him goodbye he moved in to kiss me on the lips. I moved away instinctually. “Um, no, dude,” I thought. After he tried to kiss me again he said “You are dangerous.”
At the time I just wanted to get out of there and get home. I hopped into the car with my friends and said, “Weird, that guy just tried to kiss me.”
Turns out said man had, not too surprisingly, been inappropriate with my friend at a previous party.
I woke up in the middle of the night furious, a delayed reaction from the unwanted kiss. What was racing through my mind: “How many men have excused their bad behavior by making it the woman’s fault?” That he tried to kiss me was one thing; that he blamed his inappropriate action on me by saying “You are dangerous,” was infuriating. I thought about all the people, women and men, who have had their boundaries crossed, their bodies violated, or their spirits squashed by force or manipulation of words.
The rage vibrated through my body like electricity and I watched how it burned brightly, white lava hot. I knew I could use this energy to fuel blame or judgment or fear, or go into story. Or I could use this energy to purify and clarify. I took a few breaths and turned towards clear action.
Some of the most common questions I hear when I talk about unconditional love is: But how do I make boundaries? What do I do if someone crosses my boundaries? How do I share hard things? How do I protect myself?
Being a love revolutionary, or someone who is a warrior of the heart, does not mean you passively accept everyone’s actions, or that you simply love the other without consequences. Being unconditional means staying open, present, and connected to your heart and your truth.
It’s not easy, but I’ve found it does get easier as you practice. As I breathed into my anger and then opened my heart, I knew what my next action was.
I committed to myself that the next time I saw this human (I had just met him, but we live in the same small community) that I would sit down with him and share why his action and his words were inappropriate.
Once I had my clarity of action, I was able to let go of the experience and step into feeling empowered rather than violated. I also committed to continue to educate myself and others about consent, boundaries, and bravery.
Here are some thoughts around these three important aspects of being human:
Consent: The simple act of asking permission before you take an action involving someone else’s body. “May I hug you?” “Are you okay if we hold hands?” “Are you interested in being sexual with me?” Instead of assuming something is a yes or a no, ask. It might feel awkward at first, but consent comes with clarity and connection from the heart.
Boundaries: You have a right to decide what your boundaries are. You don’t have to say yes to anything, and you can say no at any time. This is simple being a human 101, but many of us have old, unhelpful agreements such as that making a boundary is bad or rude or if we want people to like us we should always say yes.
Bravery: Setting boundaries or asking consent takes courage. You have to be brave to speak up, to say no, and to ask questions. Setting a boundary or asking for consent can feel vulnerable because you don’t know if the other person will judge, reject, or not respect your boundary / request. Do it anyway.
When you first learn to make boundaries it is often awkward, especially if you have no practice.
What often happens is we don’t make a boundary, get more and more angry or frustrated or resentful, and then when we make the boundary it comes out like a bomb rather than a boundary. All of the pent up emotion slams out of us and we create walls and armor rather than a clean, open-hearted, clear boundary. Or we tentatively set a boundary (sometimes only in our head and then get mad that the other person didn’t honor it!) and the moment there is any pushback we backpedal and negate our own boundary. It takes practice to stay present and open when we set a boundary, and practice to hold our truth and desire in the face of perceived or real opposition or confusion or disappointment.
As a warrior of the heart, learning to set boundaries with love is our mission. It’s not an easy one, but with willingness, and good guidance, you’ll find your way.
To learn more about the ins and outs of boundaries, bravery, consent, and clarity join my friend Sarah and me for Heartistry, a three-day workshop on fully living from your heart. We’ll explore many ways to shed armoring and fear and open to new possibilities and insights. All this nestled in the gorgeous redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains, April 3rd – 5th. Click here to learn more about this important and practical workshop of love.