I've been thinking and reading up on boundaries again and this is what I found:
"Boundaries are guidelines that we establish to define reasonable, safe and acceptable limits concerning the actions of others... We resolve that we should be treated with love, dignity and respect. We have the courage to say "no" to demands by our addicted loved ones [or just our friends and family] that are not in our own or their best interest. We have a right to protect ourselves and choose to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us. 'We are seeking to allow less pain, chaos... and negative engery in our lives.'" (Healing Through Christ 12-Step manual)
Allowing my little sister to yell at me and say cruel things was not only harmful to me, it was harmful to her. My responsibility was not only to protect myself from her hurtful words, but to give her an opportunity to stop treating me in a way that was not in her best interest either.
So what should I have done? I think it might be unreasonable to expect a 15 year old to have the maturity to handle it this way, but ideally I would have said to her
"I will not listen to you speak to me that way." And walk away.
The tricky part about all this for me is that, like Chantel, I want to correct people. I can't just walk away because I feel compelled to offer a lengthy explanation of the faults in their behavior and the reasoning behind mine. But my #1 rule for boundaries is that I can't set boundaries for other people, I can only set them for myself.
So when it comes to Pete, I have to be okay with the boundaries I set, even if he never agrees with them. As long as I am confident that they are in my best interest, and that I'm right with God, I can cease with the desperate attempts at persuading him that they are in HIS best interest too.
For example, I can say to Pete
"I can not be part of your chaos. When you are agitated or irritable, I have to detach."
Again from the manual,
"Detachment... means that we don't deplete our inner resources by struggling with something that is beyond our power to accomplish."
Pete's mood is beyond my power to change. This doesn't mean that I won't talk to him or interact with him, just that I won't do anything to try to change him or his behavior. I won't manipulate. Nor will I allow him to turn to me to try to make things better for him. When things ARE better for him, when he has found it within himself to restore his peace, then I can feel safe being emotionally invested in him again.
When I shared my 4th Step Inventory with my sponsor we talked for awhile about my family and my resentments toward them. She said to me
"Let them be who they are."
I struggle so much with wishing Pete would "let me be where I am." The least I can do is offer him the same courtesy. It is in the best interest of my peace and serenity to surrender all the manipulators in my life over to God. It is between Him and them to sort out their issues.
And because I'm still a little hung up on justifying my detachment, a quote from Alicia who sums it up well for me.
"The truth is: It's hard for me to invest fully in something when I know it isn't solid. I can't blindfold myself to uncertainty and carelessly throw my cash in the pile. I'm going to get hurt again. My heart is going to get broken again. I'm going to grapple with the harness of betrayal again. I'm only doing today what I feel is right to do today."