Keeping Your Boundaries During the Holidays

There was once an old man known for being able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended throughout the land and many gathered to study under him. One day, a young warrior arrived at the old man’s village. He was determined to be the first to defeat the great master, since he had both strength and the ability to notice and exploit the opponent’s weakness.

The old man gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge. As the two faced one another, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. The verbal insults went on for hours, yet the old man merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Defeated, he left.

The great master’s students gathered around the old man. “How could you endure such an indignity?” they wondered. “And how were you able to drive him away?”

“If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not accept it,” the master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”


As we head into the holiday season we are likely be with family with whom old wounds may be lurking. If you usually experience an annoyance or straight up have an ongoing conflict with someone you're about to visit with, consider giving the relationship some thought ahead of time. If you can come up with greater insight to the dynamics that play out before you sit around the Thanksgiving table (or any situation, really), you might save yourself some heartache.


  • What is it that bugs you about them? What are you worried about happening this time? What stories or past events can you not get out of your head?
  • Why do they annoy/upset/infuriate you? What is it about them that gets your goat? Why does that particular thing get under your skin?
  • When it happens, is it really a personal attack or is it possible that they are projecting their own issues into you? Do they try to injure you or are they maybe stuck in their own misery and throwing it out at others?
  • What are your limits? How much can you take without losing it? Where are your boundaries?

Only you know the answers to these questions and the answers may be unique to each person you’ll be interacting with. It’s also entirely possible that you don’t know the answers to these all questions yet, you just know that person annoys the heck out of you. This is why I encourage you to give yourself some time to prepare.

  • Try to let past stories stay in the past and look at events and relationships with a fresh eye in the present. This can help from compiling anger and resentment, which eats us up from the inside.
  • Be the person you want to be. Respond in a way that keeps you calm and neutral, if not positive. This can help keep a situation from escalating as well as helping you to stay grounded.
  • We teach others how to treat us. If someone is rude, critical or hurtful to you, tell them so and that you don’t appreciate (accept) it.
  • If someone begins trying to goad you into an argument, recognize it for what it is and try not to engage. You don’t have to respond to everything everyone says on that same level. You can provide a “small” answer that ends your participation and move on. You’re not obligate to play their game.
  • Be responsible for your feelings and personal boundaries. No one else is going to do it for you.
  • It’s okay to say no respectfully.
  • If all else fails, ignore and retreat.

To read my previous posts about the holidays, click here and here. To read more about personal boundaries here and here.

I do hope you have an enjoyable and happy Thanksgiving.