We all put them up. We all hide behind them. We all think they will save us from harm and pain.
My 23-year-old son is brilliant. I love discussing any topic with him because he has researched so much, read so much, considered and digested so much information, philosophy, religion, politics, and ideology, more than I will ever be able to consider in my lifetime. He has just that kind of mind: sharp, open, and dogged. We were discussing something or other yesterday and I brought up how walls keep us from loving fully. He immediately came back with how necessary they are to human survival. And, of course, he is correct. Emotional walls protect us from being trampled. They help keep us safe while we heal from being trampled. They are a defense mechanism that all humans use at one time or another. Then we discussed when it is appropriate to erect emotional walls, when it is safe to take them down, and then today I thought about the possibility that walls can have differing thicknesses and heights, and should have gates that open. And that is it! My son is right that we all need walls. And I believe the key to handling walls is to put in gates, allow some walls to erode a bit, put up half walls in other cases, and that it is okay for humans to erect, maintain, and control their own walls. But at some point we must install gates to allow others in or we will end up isolated and not able to give and receive love.
Walls are empowering. I am learning that it is okay to want to direct my own life, to have a say in my destiny. It is also okay to set boundaries and erect walls that convey limits on those in my life. It is not okay for you to attack me, criticize me when I am down, assume you know better than I, or be abusive and controlling towards me. It is okay for me to say, “Enough!” It is not okay for me to do the same towards others in my life.
What hurts is when my kids use this same tactic towards me, when they feel that I have crossed the line. I am proud of my kids for knowing when enough is enough. I have modeled that lesson well. What I have been unable to master is the art of putting in gates, so that I can open up to others again. So I have failed to model that aspect of emotional walls.
I have several dear friends who have suffered horrible traumas, and have subsequently erected walls that hinder entry in different ways. They all love and want to be loved. But the walls, the ones without gates, hinder that love. I am seeing this in my own life.
What is so amazing about this life, and about the human spirit, is that we can learn a new lesson, open ourselves up to growing and maturing, and then work on that lesson, incorporating the necessary changes into our very beings. It is not an easy road, nor is it painless. It will not necessarily result in the outcomes that we desire. But it is important to go ahead and start working on those gates.
The revelation I came away with today is that I don’t need to tear down my walls. My son was correct. What a revelation. But I should begin working on those gates, on a way to open up to those that I want to love and whom I want to love me. Here’s to building gates.