For some folks it was a glorious, magical, amazing day that was full of laughter and joyful memories with family. For others … it was a hot mess.
I mean, sure … you posted photos of dinner and selfies with family in the background with big smiles. You may have even posted something on social media thanking God for another year with your loved ones and referencing how much fun you had together. But now you’re sitting at home, browsing the internet, feeling empty and broken and trying to fill the void.
Am I a mind reader? Nope. I’ve just been there myself and I know it’s the little hidden part of holidays and family gatherings that ‘normal’ people don’t talk about. Let me set you at ease … I ain’t normal!
You show up to dinner, you’re laughing and going through the motions of having a good time. You’re trying to make the best out of everything because this is family and blood is thicker than water and you do owe it to them to play nice and sit there while they beat you over the head.
Some of them gang up on you, making fun of how you tried to dress all ‘hipsterish’ all of a sudden. They bust out the, “Who are you trying to be!?!?!?” fun. You laugh along hoping the subject will change but then they go into asking you when you’re gonna get married, or when you’re gonna have a baby, or why you’re gaining weight, or belittling your job, or judging how you spend your money, etc.
You share your dreams with them and they laugh or immediately discourage you. You share a private piece of your heart with your sister or cousin (or whoever) and they don’t get it. At all. You feel stupid. Now you’re mad at yourself for telling them so you try to play it off like you were just kidding and change the subject quickly.
Honey. You’ve got all kinds of boundaries being overstepped. It’s hurting you. It’s causing resentment and it ain’t doing anyone any good.
I’ve been there! Gosh, have I been there! Year after year after year. Complete disappointment. Complete heartbreak. One day it settled in my soul that if I kept doing what I had always done, I would always get what I had always gotten. It was time for a change and my people weren’t going to make that change on their own, so it was up to me.
I love spending time with my family now-a-days. I see them as the gifts they are and they respect and value me. We are in healthy relationships and time together is truly a blessing and not a burden.
Are you ready to experience a fun, healthy time with the people in your life? Below are a few handy tips that should get you on your way to setting healthy boundaries that everyone will benefit from:
Recognize The Need For Boundaries
So how did the last family gathering work out for you? Like I said, you’re the one who will have to bring upon the change. No one is going to do it for you. A lot of folks are not living in the freedom that Jesus has already paid the price for simply because their family (or close friends) have them held in captivity.
Proverbs 4:23 says Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
For many years I wore my heart on my sleeve. I would share the intimate details of my heart with people who were supposed to love me and they would trample on my treasure. It wasn’t always because they were malicious people. Often we can share our hearts with people that we’re not meant to share our hearts with. They don’t get it. Maybe due to lack of maturity or in my case, it’s because I was growing in Christ and sharing my heart with folks who don’t follow Jesus. We were unequally yoked and it was causing me lots of pain. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk with unbelievers but sharing the deep details of your heart with someone who isn’t growing in Christ is unwise.
If you’re tired of feeling depressed after leaving a family function you need to avoid blaming them and you need to take responsibility for yourself. Ugh. It sucks … and it’s stretching … but you’ve gotta. You can’t control them. You can only control you and it’s your responsibility to put a fence around your heart and you get to CHOOSE when you open that fence.
You Don’t Have To Be Mean
Listen, your peeps are not gonna like you setting boundaries with them. It will most likely piss them off. But you don’t have to be mean about it. How they interpret your boundaries is up to them – that has nothing to do with you. So don’t get pulled into any drama around you setting boundaries.
If someone tries to tell you that mama and ‘nem are saying you’re all sidity now, you tell that ‘someone’ that mama and ‘nem will be okay. You love them and that’s that. Change the subject. This does not have to be dramatic. You let them sit in their drama by themselves. How do you starve something? Stop feeding it. How do you put a fire out? Stop pouring fuel on it and suffocate it. Don’t give in to petty games.
Where is your heart in this? Ask yourself that question often and continuously surrender to God. Ask Him to give you courage and peace that passes all understanding. He will.
Guilt Is A Lie
The thing that kept me locked up for years is GUILT! What if I set these boundaries and something happens to my family member? What if I make someone cry? I was a victim of manipulation for a very long time so I would always feel guilty and get extremely confused. Confusion is not from God. Confusion is from the devil. Guilt is from the devil. If you feel guilt, shame, or confusion – run to Jesus! The enemy tried to toy with Jesus’ mind too. Jesus stood against Satan with Truth. Get in the Word and stay there. Talk to trusted friends who can coach you and encourage you with Truth.
The devil wants you in bondage. The devil loves to keep family drama fueled. He loves it! Guilt is not from God but it is apart of the process of setting boundaries. Know the Truth.
Spend your time elsewhere. It’s gonna be hard especially if you’re used to spending time at your folk’s house to pass time or chill out. Take a break from that and stay home or find other places to go.
I remember years ago I stopped by my parent’s house unexpectedly because I wanted to see them and chat. I was always stopping by. I literally talked to the back of my mom’s head for 20 minutes while she stared at her computer screen. Eventually I got the hint and left.
They need to miss you and you need to miss them. You’re not punishing them – you’re guarding your heart and setting healthy boundaries. Find positive places to go. Spend your time doing positive, uplifting things. Attend a Bible Study or small group where you can fellowship and be around a positive message. Have a schedule, even if it’s just scheduled alone time. Don’t leave that gaping hole wide open – fill it with something and preferably with something regarding Truth.
Now when I visit my parents I have their full attention. They enjoy time with me and I enjoy time with them. Setting boundaries made our relationship so much healthier and I am blessed every time I see them.
Be Okay With Saying ‘No’
It’s going to make your stomach hurt. You’re gonna want to make up a lie so you don’t make them mad or hurt their feelings. You may want to give in but you’ve got to learn to say no. If you’ve never said no before … *Gulp* don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Pray for courage and remember – you’re not being mean and you don’t have to feel guilty. We’re conditioned to feel bad about saying ‘no’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people not respond to an invitation because they’re afraid to say no. Look! I just need to know how much food to get!!! Respond already!!! It’s actually more irritating to not respond at all than it would be if you just say NO. lol! In healthy relationships ‘no’ is allowed. ‘No’ is not a bad word. Start practicing.
Remember Why You’re Setting Boundaries
It’s not to be mean. It’s not to prove a point. It’s not to hurt anyone. Check your heart throughout the process and make sure none of the above are setting in. You are simply setting boundaries to guard your own heart and to protect the relationship. You’re doing this because you respect yourself and you love your family and it can’t continue the way it has been.
People May Walk Away
The truth is some folks won’t like your boundaries. They only ‘love’ you because they’re allowed to walk all over you. It’s twisted, I know. It’s not love at all and it’s the most painful reality of guarding your heart. Some people will not respect you. They are toxic and they are poisoning you … and whether they mean to or not … they won’t change. They would rather walk away from you than have healthy boundaries with you. You’ve got to let them go. You’ve got to be okay with them leaving. You have to know that God will fill every void in your life. Surrender and trust Him.
Some folks reading this will cave on setting their boundaries because they don’t want to lose someone. They’d rather keep getting punched in the face to keep someone than set boundaries and lose the person. I can’t help you with that. That’s bondage. It’s not love. It’s not healthy. But ultimately it’s your choice and not anyone else’s.
Prepare For Awesomeness
After sowing seed of boundaries with the right heart, you’ll reap a harvest. You may lose a few folks along the way but really that’s for the best! Who wants people in their lives that just want to punk them around anyway??!?! The harvest is AMAZING! Your eyes will be open, your heart will be free, and you’ll have healthy relationships with the ones you love! They will respect you and value your time. You’ll be happy with how things turned out! Trust me! God will be working on your heart and their’s the whole time and it’s like everything just comes into focus. This is how God intended for relationships to be … healthy, balanced, loving!
Friends, it’s a process. It takes incredible strength and courage to step out into the waves of setting healthy boundaries. I’ve given you some general tips but I would highly suggest you get the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. This book changed. my. life. No joke!
We each have our own journey and I’m sure you’ll gain your own insight and tips along the way but one thing that remains the same is Jesus. You are free. You are no longer a slave to fear. You were created on purpose with purpose and anything or anyone who makes you feel stuck is standing in the way of all that God has for you. It’s not their responsibility to move out of the way and start acting right. You are set apart. You were made for such a time as this and the enemy wants to keep you stuck so that you never move from where you are right now.
You know that God has planted incredible gifts in you. Throw off everything that is holding you back and run this race. Stay close to Jesus and He’ll get you where you need to be. He’s all about redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. You’re in good company while you set boundaries.
I’m praying for you! It’s gonna be worth it.
Have you taken advantage of our FREE 8 week course on setting boundaries!? This course is packed with tools, tips, and encouragement to help you break free! It’s on me for a limited time so go get yours today!
Cheers to walking in freedom!
Be sure to check out the Point Her Journey Project here: www.pointherjourney.com