Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. Their mother, like most mothers, wanted her kids to be happy. She taught them what she thought they needed to know. She invested time and energy in raising them. She taught them about the dangers of the Big Bad Wolf. And, when she thought her little piglets were ready, she sent them into the world with her blessing.
And we all know how the story unfolds, don’t we? One piglet builds a house of straw. Another builds a house of sticks. The last piglet – the one we’re supposed to admire – builds his house out of rock-hard mortar and bricks.
One day, while the little piglets were singing and dancing in the woods, the Big Bad Wolf came along, chased them into the homes, and tried to get them to come out. “Little pig, little pig, let me come in,” the wolf howled. And the little pigs said, “Not by the hair on my chinny, chin chin.” “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in,” said the wolf. And that’s what he did. Hurricane-force winds sent straw flying through the woods. Another “huff and puff” sent sticks in every direction. But the “huffs and puffs” of the Big Bad Wolf couldn’t destroy the brick house, could they? And, as simple as that story seems to be, we must always remember that it has a lesson to teach us about life and about healthy relationships with other people.
I’ve already told you that I’m, generally, a person who tries to find something good in people. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to look past their flaws. I believe that most people try to do their best in life and that most of us don’t try to intentionally hurt others. But we’ve all met the Big Bad Wolf, haven’t we? We’ve all met people who “huff and puff.” They might do it because they’re angry. They might “huff and puff” at us because they’re sick. They might hurt others because they’ve been hurt. But the effect is always the same. Big Bad Wolves leave a trail of wounded souls. Big Bad Wolves put negative “fingerprints” on people. Big Bad Wolves strip-away people’s dignity and beat people down without mercy. And the damage that Big Bad Wolves cause in the lives of other people can last a lifetime – and can even be passed, unknowingly, to the next generation.
I’m sure that, at some point, we’ve all heard about something called “boundaries.” A “boundary” is a line we draw in the sand. A “boundary” tells other people how they’re allowed to treat us. A “boundary” might tell people they’re not allowed to physically hurt us. Another “boundary” might clarify what kind of language people can use when they speak to us. “Boundaries” tell others how we expect to be treated when we are in a relationship with them. A “boundary” might even make it clear that, if a particular thing happens while we’re in a relationship with another person, the relationship will end.
A great lesson that we can learn from the story of the Three Little Pigs is one that teaches us that, when we find ourselves in unhealthy relationships, we need to keep our “boundaries” both strong and clear. When the Big Bad Wolf begins to howl, straw “boundaries” are blown away. The “huffs and puffs” of the Big Bad Wolf can even rip apart healthy “boundaries” that we create in life – if they are not strong enough. Unhealthy people always try to cross the lines we draw in the sand. Unhealthy people don’t respect limits. Unhealthy people don’t listen to us when we tell them that they’ve gone too far. Unhealthy people don’t respect “boundaries” we create in life – because, on the bottom line, they don’t respect us.
What are some “boundaries” you’ve created? What “healthy limits” do you place upon the behavior of others to keep them from hurting you? Are you in a relationship with a person, right now, where the “boundaries” need to be clarified – or more clearly enforced – to create the health and stability you crave? Are you in a relationship (with a Big Bad Wolf) that needs to change if it’s going to last – and, if that’s true, how could putting some clear “boundaries” in place help things to move in the right direction?