It took me forever to plant the mixed seeds that are supposed to grow into a hummingbird-attracting flower garden, but I finally did it. And while doing it, I reflected on a time a couple of years back when somebody who was unhappy with my husband snarled something at him about reaping what he sows. It was one of those spiteful "I hope somebody does the same thing to you someday" type of comments. Kindof the anti-Rosenberg effect. Thing is, the hub wasn't being an ass to this person, he was politely and respectfully asking them to stop being an ass to him.
One of the self-help-y things that swims in my head from time to time is that phrase about teaching other people how to teach you. Act like a doormat, get treated like a doormat, right? Sometimes you need to stand up to people and tell them directly what you would prefer. No guarantee they'll meet your request, but if you never put it out there, they might never even get close.
Christine Kane has a blog entry about the teaching-others principle that resonates with me. It's worth a read. (Ignore the year of the post - truth has no expiration date.) Toward the end of the article she makes the point that "the biggest risk involved in teaching people how to treat you is the risk that some of them might go away." Very true, and painful, and she also notes that it is still important work to do.
Some people might not like what I'm growing. Some might wish I were growing other "fruits of the spirit" (ooh, metaphor gone overboard). It is up to me to know myself and decide what I am willing to do or not do. It is up to me to communicate that gently with others when the need arises. It is up to all of us to decide when the interpersonal menu is something we are willing to eat, and when we need to excuse ourselves from the table. None of us are under any obligation to behave the way another person wants us to behave if it is harmful to ourselves.
As for what I'm sowing and teaching: it is NOT ok, ever, to behave physically, verbally, or emotionally abusively toward me. I am absolutely teaching this to others, and yes, I do think I will reap what I sow. I expect others to tell me when I'm stepping on their toes so that I can learn from them. This includes my children. If a person insists on trampling the seeds I am starting, I will ask them to stop. If they will not stop, I will excuse them from the garden so that the seedlings may grow unharmed. This is what I'm choosing to sow, and I am looking forward to the harvest.