You Can Set Holiday Boundaries

Bill GaultiereBy Bill Gaultiere4 Minutes

We love being with family for the holidays — or maybe not! It can be stressful! And in some family relationships, it’s awkward or uncomfortable. Personalities don’t mesh, or there’s distance or unresolved conflicts.

Jesus experienced this. He had conflict in his family too! In my book Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke we look at how Jesus deals with a great variety of stressful situations in life and ministry, including family problems.

For instance, how would Jesus respond to a guilt trip if he was you?

Recall the family trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. Mary lost track of where Jesus was and after a few days, she understandably became quite worried and upset. When she finally found Jesus in the temple she blurted out: “Young man! Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been worried sick looking all over Jerusalem trying to find you!” (Luke 2:48, paraphrase).

Jesus responded: “Why were you so anxious and searching for me? You should have known that I’d be in my Father’s house doing his work” (Luke 2:49, paraphrase).

Notice that Jesus does not take responsibility for his mother being upset with him — he doesn’t feel bad or guilty. Nor does he react with anger at her apparent guilt trip. In fact, we read: “Then Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

Or recall when Jesus was an adult he was ministering in a house that was jam-packed and overflowing with people and his boundaries were again tested. His mother and brothers heard about the situation and “they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

Perhaps they wanted to take Jesus back to Nazareth to their family home and carpenter’s shop? But again Jesus did not let Mary’s (or his siblings’) desires define or control him. He spoke the truth in love and said no; he insisted that he was going to stay in the house and continue teaching the people and healing those who were sick. In fact, they should join him in doing God’s will! (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35)

How did Jesus remain a non-anxious presence? How did he stay strong and secure when his family was upset at him and tried to manipulate him?

He was in a two-person easy yoke with his Father. They pulled the plow together. He was continually encouraged and empowered by Abba’s love and this helped him know his identity and purpose and be his true self.

Boundaries are like a muscle so you can strengthen your ability to set limits.

In our “Easy Yoke book” I teach four ways to join with Christ in setting healthy boundaries for a non-anxious and fruitful life:

Don’t deny your emotions. Internalizing stress and repressed emotion creates anxiety.
Don’t depend on unsafe people. Bring your personal needs to people you trust and respect.
Don’t be the hero! You can’t be super-responsible all the time.
Don’t be sucked dry. Sometimes you need to say no to people with needs.

Listen to more Soul Talks episodes about family dynamics in episodes 123-129.