A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

Empowerment vs. Other People’s Feelings, Chapter Three Million

From a painting by Baroque-era Italian painter Luca Giordano [Public domain ], via Wikimedia Commons

From a painting by Baroque-era Italian painter Luca Giordano [Public domain ], via Wikimedia Commons

Here is another 99-word flash fiction for the Carrot Ranch weekly challenge; this week‘s topic is “What good is power?” After a recent conversation with a friend about our lifelong struggles with warding off intrusive attention from geeky, desperate boys for whom we feel sorry (hence the flash, below), I started thinking about my never-ending inner war between standing up for what I need—a.k.a. empowerment—and worrying about other people’s feelings.

This basic conflict lies at the heart of a thousand different unpleasant social situations throughout my life, from relatively simple situations like this one to deeper issues like claiming my right to my own opinions as a woman, a writer, a reader, a family member, a citizen. I never want to be unkind to anyone, but sometimes that is almost what is required—or at least it feels that way—in order to protect my emotional boundaries. I often cling to this quote:

“But so may you give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-reliance”

Ultimately, I must always choose to honor my needs and practice mature assertiveness and self-care rather than giving into fear of other people. The more I practice this, the easier it gets, but it’s never actually easy.

Empowerment vs. Other People’s Feelings, Chapter Three Million

“Hey, Becky!” David hurried toward her with his usual lopsided gait.

Becky sighed. David followed her everywhere now, ever since she had helped him up when he’d fallen on the campus sidewalk last month. When she’d tried explaining that she wasn’t interested in him romantically, he’d protested that they were just friends—yet he kept paying her more-than-friendly attentions. Lately she’d even started hiding from him.

She took a deep breath. She couldn’t bear to be unkind to him; that wasn’t who she was. But living in fear wasn’t either. “David, I’m really sorry, but I need some space.”


8 comments on “Empowerment vs. Other People’s Feelings, Chapter Three Million

  1. katespencer17
    February 9, 2016

    Well said! I agree, sometimes it feels like we’re being unkind when we protect our own emotional or physical boundaries. But we need to be kind to ourselves first, or we can’t be kind to others. I enjoyed your flash.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      February 9, 2016

      Thank you! Exactly—the only way to be truly kind to other people in our lives is to first be kind to ourselves. When we don’t take care of ourselves first, we operate from a place of fear, neediness, and general unrest. That’s not good for anyone and only adds more distress to the world. But if we fill ourselves up first, we can overflow genuine love to others in a healthy way.

      Sorry, I could talk about this forever, because it’s such a huge theme in my life!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Charli Mills
    February 10, 2016

    It’s the airplane oxygen mask analogy — fit your mask on first or you will be unable to help others with theirs. I think the hardest boundaries to set are ones ignored. Like in your flash, she sets a boundary, but he responds as if he doesn’t see it. Sometimes we need to have fences for boundaries; and sometimes they need to be electric fences! A good theme to work out in fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      February 11, 2016

      Absolutely! Boundaries and self-care are both huge (and intertwined) themes in my life. I have learned the hard way and am still learning that boundaries are crucial but also subtle and tricky. I love what you said about the hardest boundaries to set are the ones that people ignore or push against. Those are the areas where we most need to enforce our boundaries…or yes, electric fences! I love that! Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. I need as much validation in this area of life as I can get! 🙂


  3. Pingback: What Good is Power? « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Norah
    February 11, 2016

    I understand entirely. It is unpleasant, being what we consider of ourselves, unkind; but if we don’t stand up for ourselves we end doing everyone else bidding. It’s not a good place to be. I think there was a song that went something like “you have to be cruel to be kind”, but perhaps I wouldn’t go as far as cruel; honest perhaps. It is not cruel to correct someone’s misunderstanding, as occurred in your flash. It would be more cruel to perpetuate false promises. Well done.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      February 11, 2016

      Thanks for your thoughts, Norah. I agree completely that it’s kinder to everyone involved when we speak our truth and protect our boundaries (and if we can do it with love in our hearts, even better) than when we allow misunderstandings to accrue because we are afraid of hurting people’s feelings. In situations like those of my flash, it’s better to just get the truth out fast and rip off the Band-aid rather than let the situation drag on and on while feelings build up to a severe point of vulnerability. But I still find this easier said than done sometimes…but with practice it does get a little easier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah
        February 11, 2016

        Oh yeah, ripping that Band-aid off can be excruciating! Ouch! Take care. 🙂


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This entry was posted on February 8, 2016 by in Creative Writings and tagged , , , , , , , .
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