One of the greatest perks of adulthood? More freedom! At first, some families might have issues coming to terms with their little crumbsnatchers growing up and leaving the nest. Considering the fact that it takes 18 years to raise a child, I know how hard it can be for a parent to cut the umbilical cord (symbolically) once they’ve become so attached and used to having the control. With a little guidance as a result of standing firm in your new-found independence, however, they’ll eventually come around.
You’re probably thinking, “setting boundaries with my family isn’t Christlike!” But that’s not necessarily the case. Even Jesus had to do so, on several accounts. While the Bible directs children to obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1), and to honor our fathers and mothers in order to live long, fulfilling lives (Exodus 20:12), to honor and obey are two totally different things. There’s also a huge distinction between being a child and an adult.
The power and authority over your life don’t belong to your parents—especially as an adult. Heck, it doesn’t even belong to you and never did to begin with. It all belongs to our Heavenly Father. You are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). Yes, it’s your duty to honor your parents, but you’re not their property. To Him be the glory, AND the dominion, forever and ever (1 Peter 5:11). Setting boundaries are necessary to keep God, your parents, and your relatives in their rightful places.
Having similar issues with your family? The best time to nip it in the bud is now. Besides, you don’t want this transferring over into your marriage (if you’re not married already). Here are some tips on how to get through the hurdle.
Put Your Needs First
Let’s just get something straight: saying no is not going to send you to hell. There will be many times in your life when you’ll have to decline things, especially if it’s in conflict with God’s Word. The Bible commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39), emphasis on the word AS. If all you do is give, and give, and give to others, you’ll eventually have nothing left to give to yourself. Am I right or am I right? While we’re directed to look to the interests of others in addition to ours (Philippians 2:4), it’s important to prioritize your needs FIRST.
Start Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Confrontation is something I’ve always tried avoiding, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it’s simply impossible. There’s a 99.9% chance that your family isn’t going to be happy with the new boundaries you set—especially in the beginning. Know that they’re most likely going to be vocal about it, too. And I’m not saying this to make you nervous or go back on your decision, because God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). In other words, He didn’t raise any punks. But I do want you to be prepared to put your foot down in the event of some possible resistance.
Approach the Situation with Compassion
There’s a right way to set boundaries, and then there’s a wrong way. If we’re being totally honest, I’ve held a lot of grudges in the past that I’m still healing from, so I’m continuously growing in this area like everyone else! The reason for setting boundaries in the first place is to eliminate the manipulation and control over your life out of someone else’s grasp. It doesn’t mean cutting the ones you love from your life. In this case, it would be your family.
From day one of this process, continue to keep in mind that this is going to be even harder for your family than it is for you. They may genuinely feel that their actions are being done out of love, so just think of all the reprogramming they’re going to have to go through once the new lines are drawn. Just think back to how patient your teachers were in teaching you new skills and concepts, no matter how long it took for you to finally comprehend what you learned. That’s the exact attitude I encourage you to take with your family matters.
Don’t Just Act Like an Adult, BE One
Don’t expect your family to treat you like an adult unless you prove yourself to be one. Expect to walk the walk and talk the talk at all times to be taken seriously. Know that in order to enjoy full-fledged freedom, it’s all or nothing. You need to start taking the responsibility of your finances, living expenses, actions, needs and desires off of your parents and onto you. Your parents have committed to being your safety net since birth, but becoming an adult comes with adult responsibilities—a.k.a., adulting.
Stand Your Ground
Change isn’t easy. I’ll be the first to admit that. But when it comes to setting boundaries, no amount of kicking or screaming should cause you to change your mind. Stick with your guns from the beginning to the end, and trust God to equip you with the boldness to walk in the authority He has given you.
Our God is a jealous God. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than our Heavenly Father is not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). If your family really loves you, they’ll genuinely look out for your best interests and won’t dare stand in the way of your relationship with God. But those boundaries have to be in place.