Holiday Boundaries: Taking Action!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about the importance of implementing boundaries during the holiday season. Hopefully, you’ve thought about some of the boundaries you need to implement in your life. Maybe, though, you’re struggling with how to implement those boundaries in a loving, realistic, Godly way–one that doesn’t leave your friends and family members hurt and hating you.

I get it.

Boundaries are hard. 

I don’t think many of us are out there aiming to hurt our friends and loved ones purposefully. Because of that, we tend to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of people-pleasing.

Let me encourage you today:

  • You CAN set reasonable boundaries. 
  • You CAN implement these boundaries with your loved ones in a kind and Godly manner.
  • You CAN eliminate some of the chaos from your life and breathe this holiday season. 
peace sign

Just Say No!

I need you to understand right now that I’m writing to myself just as much as I’m writing to you. I always think the best sermons are the ones where the pastor talks about how they were challenged as they were writing it. 

Those are the good ones.

So, right now, I want you to know that while I’ve been working on these boundaries, I’m still a work in progress, and this last one is still my biggest hurdle.

God does not intend for us to do everything.

Nowhere in my bible have I ever read any author telling me it is my responsibility to do everything and do it with a grateful heart.

No, in fact, we are clearly told that we are all called to different things. Ephesians 4:11 tells us

And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers.

Ephesians 4:11 (TPT)

Some people are apostles.

Some are evangelists.

Some are pastors.

Some are teachers.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you were called to be all of those things?

Your head would spin off your body.

You’re probably thinking, “what does this have to do with saying no during the holidays?” 

I’m glad you asked.

Just like we are all called to do different things in ministry, we all have different callings and responsibilities in our own lives during the holidays:

  • With our families
  • With our churches
  • With our friends
  • With our extended families
  • With our work families

No one is called to do it all.

Maybe you need to read that again and allow it to really sink in.

If someone is asking you to do something, and it is causing you anxiety, if your gut is telling you no, or if you know this is not what you are supposed to do, then let me encourage you to just say no.

Saying no has always been difficult for me because I always feel like my no is letting someone else down, it’s putting a burden or responsibility on someone else, and I’m going to disappoint the person asking me.

I understand the struggle.

Here are some things we all need to remember when we are faced with this struggle of saying no:

Ephesians 4:2 (TPT) reminds us that

With tender humility and quiet patience, always demonstrate gentleness and generous love toward one another, especially toward those who may try your patience.

Ephesians 4:2 (TPT)

When you’re faced with telling someone no, approach it with humility and patience and deliver your no with gentleness and love.

Let’s say the choir director comes to you and asks you to help direct the kids’ song for the Christmas service. Immediately your gut starts to knot up because you know you want to actually watch your kids in the service and not have to play enforcer. You know you need to say no.  

How do you respond with humility and patience in gentleness and love?

“While I really appreciate the fact that you think I would be a good fit for this, I’m going to have to pass this year. I promised my kids I would watch them in the service this year, and I can’t do that for them if I say yes to this.”

Maybe your mom calls and wants you to cook the ham for Christmas but that would mean you would have to miss church on Christmas morning.

“I appreciate the fact that you trust me with such a major part of Christmas, but I have church on Christmas morning, and it’s important to me to be there. I’m sorry I can’t help you with this. I hear the Chinese restaurant is open on Christmas…”

The key to a positive no is in how you package it. 

It’s absolutely human and understandable for us to get bent out of shape, especially when we feel like we’re being taken advantage of or placed in an undesirable situation. Responding with that anger and aggressiveness has a tendency to breed more anger and resentment. If you can set your boundary and implement it with gentleness and love, you will hopefully breed gentleness and love in return.

No on paper

Boundaries with Family:

It’s one thing to say no to a friend, colleague, or pastor. It’s an entirely different thing to implement boundaries and say no where family is concerned.

All families are different.

The key to implementing boundaries within families is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 4: 31-32:

Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead, be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (TPT)

Even though we probably wish it was different at times, we are literally called to be kind and affectionate toward our family members, and while sometimes we might feel like our temper tantrums, insults, and revenge are warranted, there really isn’t a place for them in our relationships.

What’s that mean for implementing boundaries in our families?

It means that we have every right to advocate for ourselves and to set boundaries that are healthy for us, but when we implement them, we are called to do so with kindness and affection–not anger and temper tantrums.

I need to be completely honest with you here–my family was not the hallmark for healthy discussion of our emotions and feelings growing up, but we were really good at grumbling and passive aggression!

This is most assuredly a skill I’ve learned in my very adult life.

Implementing boundaries with kindness and affection might look like this:

  • Choosing to forego the giant family Christmas gathering BUT explaining to your immediate family why you have made that choice AND making arrangements to see them and celebrate at a less stressful time
  • Not inviting the entire neighborhood to your house for New Year’s Eve BUT explaining to your friends and loved ones that your family needs a quiet time to recover from the rest of the Holiday Season’s responsibilities.
  • Eliminating gift-giving between adult siblings BUT explaining to your siblings that your budget has changed and you have had to make some sacrifices
  • Not attending the Ladies’ Christmas Outing BUT texting the leaders and complimenting them on their planning and organization AND expressing what a wonderful day they have planned for those who attend

What you are responsible for when setting a boundary is the condition of your heart and healthy communication. If you know you are making a healthy choice for yourself and your family, that is what is important. If you are making a choice that your loved ones won’t understand, you have the choice of how you communicate that to them. The best way to avoid misunderstanding is to communicate effectively with love and kindness.

arguing through the phone

The Response:

If you get nothing else out of this series, I hope you hear this:

You can’t control the response to your boundaries.

You might do all of the things I’ve suggested and you still might get a terrible response.

That’s humanity.

Unfortunately, the only thing we can control in these situations is ourselves.

My biggest suggestion here is to do just that–control your words, control your tone, control your message.

If you have set a boundary for the sake of yourself and your family, and other people react negatively, you have no control over that, but you want to be able to walk away from those conversations and those situations knowing that you did the right things–

  • You were true to your needs.
  • You approached the situation and conversation with gentleness and kindness.
  • You were loving.
  • You didn’t throw a temper tantrum or seek revenge.

Those are what you can control. 

  • You might get guilt-tripped.
  • You might encounter passive aggression.
  • You might even have to deal with insults, anger, and a temper tantrum.

Regardless, you have made several steps toward healthy relationships and healthy communication in these relationships.

figurines on a bench

The Christmas Season doesn’t have to run you into the ground. It’s my prayer that this year you will eliminate the chaos from your holiday season by choosing to implement some boundaries and by believing that you are not called to do it all or to be everything to everyone. 

I pray that you give yourself permission to say no, to be still, and to breathe.


  1. What boundary do you need to set this holiday season, but you’ve been putting it off?
  2. What are you afraid the outcome of this boundary might be?
  3. How can you approach this boundary with gentleness, kindness, love, and affection?

Scriptures for Reflection:

Ephesians 4

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