Holiday Boundaries (Compassionate Boundaries Part 9)

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    Nancy Virden (c)2013


Cookies for school, an angel costume for your child, after-hours office party, choir practice and concert, 75 Christmas cards to sign, lights on the house, tree, shopping and wrapping for fifteen people, the church celebration, and your full-time job are only some of what you must do in a few weeks. 

You’ve been asked to organize the meal for the family reunion. You think, No one else is taking care of this, so I guess I have to.

Whew, and you think Santa’s list is a long one!


Perhaps you wonder, I’d like to keep our holidays less commercial, but if I don’t keep up with tradition, everyone will be disappointed. 

Maybe you think,  I could do without ever seeing Uncle Bill again. He’s abusive when he gets drunk- and he always drinks too much. But  I will go to the reunion and be nice.

Ah, American Christmas. I’m not certain how a sense of obligation applies to other faiths this time of year. It would come as no shock to learn that most families have expectations centered around tradition. It is easy to become overwhelmed with what we consider to be duty.  

We may think we are keeping the peace, playing our part, showing respect, or even honoring God when the holiday season becomes too busy. It is when we forget we have choices that resentment, dishonesty, and compromising our values take place. We react to tugs from others until we are dizzy. Or depressed.

The option of looking at the big picture and making healthier decisions, is ours.  Are you truly responsible for making sure everyone else is happy?  If this family reunion does not occur, are there other ways to maintain these relationships? 

We have control over whether or not to be dragged along by the strong-willed personalities of others. Boundaries are not meant to stop someone else. They are how we decide what to allow in. 

Boundaries prevent resentment. They allow us to be separate individuals, not slaves, co-dependent, or doormats. They keep us from being dishonest about what we want and how we feel. Genuine obligations will suffer when we say yes too much to outside pressure. Our relationships are threatened as we grow angry over our supposed lack of choice. Boundaries prevent all this.

How do we say no during the holidays?

I care about you and your plans. I will be no good to you or anyone else if I do not limit my involvement in this. Maybe another time.

I’ve promised your chosen evening to my friends. I will do everything I can to visit you after the holidays. 

I’m sad for your disappointment, but cannot fix it.  I am here for you in the best way I can.

Take a deep breath and enjoy the freedom of control over your choices.


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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