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Does Being Spiritual Make You a Doormat?

BY: Natasha Dern

How does one walk the path of love, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, etc. without becoming a doormat? This is a fundamental question, and one that’s rarely addressed, if ever. When sweeping generalizations are made about love and compassion without sufficient directives they leave many vulnerable and at the mercy of others who take liberties without reciprocating. Sometimes others might mistake kindness for willingness — even an acceptance — to mistreat and disrespect or lie, cheat and swindle.

It is a very New Age tendency to forfeit common sense in favor of passivity. For many, the path is often misunderstood as a practice of passivity. It is not — its being fully engaged in one’s life, the world and relationships. If people are constantly expecting you to give in, let go, forgive bad behavior, and accuse you of not being spiritual when healthy boundaries are established, then they are treating you like a doormat.

Practicing love, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and so on does not mean that we leave ourselves wide open for other people’s abuse. For starters, we should strive to extend the same goodwill and compassion to ourselves that we to extend to others. The Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” So putting ourselves in a position of being violated by another is not demonstration of love and affection in action, but of powerlessness.

Remember the rule: we teach others in how to treat us. When we have allowed someone to be less than respectful or to mistreat us for a long period of time, it becomes a habit. Then, they resist when we decide to set a boundary that forbids their behavior.

Boundaries are such an essential part of life. A boundary is a container that is necessary for spiritual unfolding, a vessel in which Divine purpose can be revealed. And if you don’t have boundaries, your spirituality is going to pose real problems for yourself and for others. The purpose of setting boundaries is to take care of yourself, to protect yourself.

Those invested in mistreating you may not want to see you grow and expand. They see your progression as a threat and begin to shame you for your decisions and choices. When you become more conscious and begin setting boundaries, the majority will not like the new terms. But if the relationship dynamic is about you always giving, and never receiving in return, it’s time for a change.

As we progress on the path, the need to act when faced with the questionable intentions of others will arise, but now our action comes from a different motivation. It’s no longer “retaliation” in the usual sense, which comes from aggression and fear, but rather from a place of truth. We are strong enough to tell others that their behavior is inappropriate, not appreciated, nor tolerated. This may cause them some confusion, but do not despair and hold on to your boundaries no matter how others react. If the wise way fails, wish them well. Let go. Move on.

Other times, it may require retreating from the situation and giving it space, sitting down and having a frank conversation, protesting, calling the police and pressing charges, walking away entirely, and never looking back. Boundaries should be clear, specific, reasonable, and enforceable.

No, being on the spiritual path and leading your life with love and kindness is not an invitation or permission for others to take advantage or loot the kingdom. Unless of course, you allow it.

Your purpose is to love and appreciate yourself fully, including setting healthy boundaries for mutually appreciative and respectful relationships. Meet each situation that arises with fresh awareness and an open heart, and respond in whatever way is most beneficial and effective. Turning yourself into a doormat for the sake of your spirituality rarely leads to empowerment.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Gandhi