Occasionally the holidays can be stressful. Shopping, juggling commitments, shopping, fighting crowds, shopping, and trying to get everyone to that Christmas party can make us miss the point!
In a study of male macaque monkeys dealing with agitating and stressful relationships, researchers learned that the friendliest monkeys were found to have stronger immune responses. Dr. Sheldon Cohen’s results, reported in the September 1992 issue of The Journal Of Psychological Science, suggest that “affiliation protects animals from the potentially pathogenic influence of chronic stress.”
In a recent interview discussing the high stress of college football, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said, “Pressure is good. That means the stakes are high. Stress is bad; it’s an indication (someone) isn’t prepared or lacks confidence.” Relational stakes are high as we all need affiliation and connection. But if we are not prepared or lacking in confidence relationally we will be agitated or chronically stressed.
There are two gifts that God gives us at Christmas. The first that is our relationship with Him can be reconciled through Jesus. The second gift is that Jesus helps us reconcile our human relationships. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says these Christmas gifts are “from God, who through Jesus reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Sometimes our relational agitation and inability to affiliate is a boundaries problem. We often unknowingly “judge the boundary decisions of others. But the Bible says whenever we judge, we will be judged (Mt. 7:1-2). If we condemn others’ boundaries, we expect them to condemn ours. This sets up a fear cycle inside that makes us afraid to set the boundaries that we need to set. As a result, we comply, then we resent, and the “love” that we have “given” goes sour“ (Dr. Henry Cloud in Boundaries).
Many of us aren’t close to God because we judge His boundaries as too strict. And many of us don’t have close human relationships because we judge others’ boundaries as selfish or unloving. If we are agitated with God or others it is likely because we do not respect their boundaries. We often judge others and God by focusing on our perception that someone’s boundary is hurting our own freedom, and not acknowledging the pain our judging has caused our relationship.
If we are to experience the stress protection of reconciliation and affiliation this Christmas, we must prepare ourselves to confidently address our boundary failures of the past. “No wonder there is little intimacy when we have not had the courage to enter the heartache of the other that we have brought. These are the words that are always the beginning of intimacy, ’I am wrong.’” Dr. Dan Allender