Role Enforcers

If you find yourself feeling the need to explain your actions, you are probably confronting a role enforcer. A role enforcer is a person, or group of people, who intend to keep you stuck in their version of what is acceptable. Role enforcement has been a necessary component in human development by keeping us safely organized within a social structure. Parents are natural role enforcers. It’s the parent’s job to shape their child into their idea of healthy maturity by keeping the child safe within the bounds of a shared identity.

Friendship also acts as a role enforcing infrastructure. Friendship begins with shared interests, perspectives and behaviors which support one another’s idea of what’s OK. If you step outside of the shared state of normal then you run the chance of being teased, nagged and manipulated back into the flow of what is acceptable. Remain at odds with your friend’s relational infrastructure and you’ll soon be looking for new friends.

So what is role enforcement’s place in an intimate relationship? In truth it has no place because a healthy relationship is deep and open. There are no shared states of normal. Instead there is flexibility, compassion and understanding of the changes and shifts which slowly transform an individual throughout a lifetime. We are born seeing the world through our parent’s perspective, we are raised and shaped by the qualities of our friends but as adults we may choose to break the mold, rise up and become the person we were born to be.

In my book, “The Only Home I’ve Known,” I introduce Gidra, a World War II survivor raised in the sex trade. She lives a life born of desperation; driven by a will to survive the worst situations. When the war ends her mother Sophia (an abusive role enforcer) maintains the survival role. Gidra is objectified, sold, paraded out and bartered for jewels, clothing and money. She meets Parker, whose unconditional love shatters her perspective; freeing her from the role which crushed her. With Parker’s love she dares to seek a life of possibility and hope.

Always beware of role enforcers. Identify the people who make you feel as though you must explain your actions. Notice when your authenticity is challenged. Watch for little comments and innuendos that imply you are not acting in accordance with role expectations. Role enforcement is a natural state in herd mentality but it has no place in an open aware relationship. Desiderata by Max Ehrmann states, “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all people.” Love the role enforcer for the well-intention gifts they tried to saddle you with but never surrender your sense of self or let anyone box you into a false identity. Take comfort in the knowledge that you are unique to this world. There never was or ever will be another you.

4 thoughts on “Role Enforcers

  1. El
    I think authentic intimate relationships are organic and flexible, but if they are truly loving relationships then they have to be given the power to confront us when we are doing something harmful, or making choices that violate the role of friendship. If our actions are left unchecked, then we run the risk of believing our own disceptions and ultimately doing harm to the very ones who are trying to love us in the first place. As a friend of mine likes to say; If your living in deception, then how do you know if your decieved? An authentic friend will enforce their friendship by loving you enough to tell you that you are.


  2. I agree that communication is a very important part of friendship. But certain groups or clicks can act as a cage which entraps people into one perception of living. A quality friendship will always communicate concerns without confining the individual to a set standard of expectation. Communication is the groundwork of a quality friendship. Another thought is, who has the right to decide what is delusion and what is reality? As writers we know that our family and most of our friends think we’re delusional but we have created our own reality, one that says publishing and success are possible. We could ignore our dreams or we could do what we have done which is to find support for our delusions (our writers group) and reinforce our belief that there is a future in what we do. Thanks for your comment my friend.


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