Importance of Boundaries and Kindness Together

In the Prohibitions section, the preface to one question sums up the importance of boundaries and the importance of inclusion:

Some of these issues are safety concerns for minors and other vulnerable people. It is important to set clear boundaries, and we encourage you to do so respectfully.…It is important for people to feel safe in their home and community. Some communitarians, rather than distancing themselves from anyone with behaviors that mainstream society tends to stigmatize, welcome or tolerate some degree of potentially challenging behaviors.

Boundaries Versus Inclusiveness

It’s not the job of ICmatch to draw the line where on one side is the correct amount and type of inclusiveness and on the other is the correct amount and type of boundary setting. Each person and community must decide that for themselves. What ICmatch wants to do is help you bring up the difficult discussions, because we understand these issues tear communities apart. To pretend everyone is on the same page doesn’t serve. To judge others’ positions in this area doesn’t serve. What you and everyone should get to do is decide what is workable for you and your group. ICmatch has a conviction that if you have too restrictive policies, you will miss out on a lot of valuable contributions, or you may not find anyone ever who meets all your standards. If you have no restrictive policies, no accountability, and allow in too many people who have problematic or disruptive behaviors, the history of communities tells us yours won’t last. This is the hard truth that convinces most people it’s easier to simply live alone or with only their dependents. They avoid the risk but miss out on the potential benefits of community. Boundaries can help you succeed. Speak the truth, as kindly as you can manage to, without compromising the safety of yourself and those you love.

Home Should Feel Safe

Personal safety is an easy way to see the importance of boundaries. For example, a mother with a teen daughter might want to live with another mother and teen, or in a family-oriented cohousing facility with a shared kitchen and rec room. Yet if others felt free to invite unknown men overnight without the mom and teen knowing they were present, this has the potential to be unsafe. While we don’t want to judge people based on stereotypes, we also don’t want to see people in a position where they don’t feel their own house or living area is a safe haven where they can let their guard down. Most of us interact daily with people we might not choose to invite as a house guest. It’s important for us to treat people with dignity. Treating others with respect is a different issue from having them invited into your home at night without your agreement.

Similar concerns could arise with drug use if children are in the community. The ”prohibitions” section is about safety. It is consistent with NVC principles to set clear boundaries, though we encourage people to do so respectfully. Even food can be a safety issue if you can’t trust others in the community to remember a food that you have a deadly allergy to and keep it out of a jointly used kitchen. We all have different needs. What is dangerous to some is perfectly safe for others. Read more in the Safety Precautions page.

Clear Is Kind

ICmatch has been questioned about why we are allowing people to sound judgemental in the prohibitions section. What we don’t want is to give people only the most socially acceptable statements to agree with, because then others won’t know their actual feelings, intentions, and needs about important issues. Even when there is not a safety issue about a topic, we want people to reveal how they honestly feel. If some people are judgemental about drugs and alcohol for example, then they will reveal it. Maybe they have had indoctrination or experiences that make them feel unsafe when those are present. People who feel the same judgement will match up with each other. People who dislike so many restrictions or judgements will match up with others who have a more accepting attitude.

Create Clear Rules and Accountability

Safe and functional communities are not a free-for-all. In the 60s there was a wildly free and idealistic proliferation of communes that operated on the assumption that peoples’ better natures would prevail if given a chance. The experiment did not go as hoped. For reasons you can either read about or imagine, the only intentional communities that remain from that time now have rules. One lesson learned by these and modern communities about the importance of boundaries is that a community that is too inclusive will become increasingly problematic. Then some of the hard-working contributing members will find their lives disrupted to the point they move out to regain sanity and peace. As the balance tips toward charitable inclusion of people with problematic behaviors with little to offer, and away from stable contributors, the community falls apart. This pattern is documented by Ferrara in American Community.

Workable Inclusion

We encourage inclusion. Sometimes a service-based community is the best place for inclusion of persons with challenges that are underserved and stigmatized. There they can find the camaraderie of others struggling similarly, and community members and/or staff who are trained about and aware of ways to be supportive. We provide many resources to encourage and support the creation of service-based communities. Even if you aren’t a service-based community, you can be part of the solution. If every community could hold space for at least one “problematic” person in a way that calls for tolerance but doesn’t ruin the life of others in the community, maybe a whole lot more people—maybe everyone—could find a place they belong.

Inclusion doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You and your group can decide what identities or behavior patterns you would be comfortable with in various contexts such as (a) co-creating as founding members, (b) living in close proximity (e.g., shared kitchens and bathrooms), or (c) medium proximity (e.g., shared recreation facilities and work space). You community can design space to balance both flexibility and safety for the diverse needs of members of your community.