After ten years, I am finally no longer the lone in-law in my wife’s family. Ten years of navigating boundaries around the holidays as the sole outlier has taught me a lot. My wife and I have come a long way from my annual explanation of why waking up at her parent’s house (ten minutes away) on Christmas morning is not “waking up at home on Christmas.”
There are tons of articles and good resources that describe ways to set boundaries during the holidays with family and friends, and they’re very helpful. What I don’t find are articles or blogs talking about boundaries with ourselves over the holidays.
If I’m honest, I usually am the one who needs the most stability during the holidays, especially after trying (and failing) to find it at the bottom of those three-flavor popcorn tins. “Peace” banners hang from light poles, but this time is crazy, isn’t it? Most of us have time off work, but that doesn’t make for serenity; it makes for more errands to run. And the parties…how many are we supposed to go to? Boundaries with others during the holidays may be hard, but internal boundaries are even harder.
Boundaries with self are those lines, promises, structures, and internal limits we have agreed upon (with ourselves) that reflect or promote who we want to be. They are internal commitments, the rules we live by, the ways we ensure we become the people we ought to be, regardless of whether or not we share them externally.
Breaking our Boundaries
Here are some common expressions of our own boundaries getting out of control during the holidays:
- Eating. We know how easy it is to blur the line between enjoyment and over-indulgence.
- Exercise. Just look at all the New Year’s resolutions about getting back in shape. I’ve been there, and typically it’s because I break internal standard to “not be a couch potato.”
- Time. We know it was a terrible idea to go to the mall at 3 pm two days before Christmas, but we did it anyway.
The list goes on. When we break our own boundaries, it reveals a lot about us, mainly that we are our own worst enemy.
Yes, it is difficult to navigate all the external busyness of the season, but in a moment of humility, we know the problem is not only outside of us. That’s the worst part. When we are setting boundaries with others, we are only half of the equation. But when we are that “other person” with whom we have broken boundaries, all the blame (and often shame) lands on us. Ouch.
Establishing Boundaries with Ourselves
So, what can we do? Try harder? More willpower, more standards, more rules? My guess is you’ve tried that before. Time and time again our willpower runs out. From the smallest breach of boundaries to the most consequential decisions of our lives, our willpower is in short supply and makes a terrible savior, especially during the holidays.
Jesus came to free us from the illusion that we could fix everything by sheer power of will. So, when we find ourselves in this cycle of boundaries breaking down all around us, we can realize that we’re searching for something that Jesus has already provided. He came to bear the burden that was too heavy for us to bear, to provide us with the grace and mercy we can’t give ourselves, to give us His yoke which is easy, and His burden which is light. Christmas is the ultimate time to walk in confidence in our personal boundaries because the Prince of Peace broke down the boundaries that would keep us from His love and joy and peace.
If you find yourself feeling hopeless or lonely this holiday season, let these scriptures and promises from God lift you up as you remember the gift of His son! Know that you are never alone and that you are loved by your Heavenly Father!
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