I used to be so bad at saying "yes" to everything that I got these beverage napkins as a reminder (or a plea for help):
Can you relate to that?
As I've grown older, I've gotten a little better about not volunteering for every job that comes along. But I still struggle with feeling inadequate when I say "no."
Trainers and coaches and optimization gurus will advise such things as "Say 'no' to the good so that you can say 'yes' to the best" or "Don't succumb to the tyranny of the urgent; focus on what's important." And I know their advice is good, but sometimes it just sounds to me like the voice of the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons; all I can hear is "Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah."
I'm beginning to realize that my difficulty in saying no is, more than anything else, a lack of trust. The more I learn that God is good and that I am safe and well in His loving care, the less I worry about saying "no" to things.
I have to practice at doing this, though. Because often I really want to say "yes," but the answer that's best for me and my well-being is "no."
Here's a little example. I was in New York for a conference this weekend, and some truly lovely people asked if I'd like to join them for dinner one night. Honestly, I would have loved to go. I faced a little internal war right there on the spot. In the flash of a few seconds, my mind argued with itself: "These are great people! You'll enjoy talking with them! You might not get another chance like this! This will be fun!" vied with "I am worn out. I need to rest a bit before the evening sessions."
I hated to say "no," but I did it. Not without some regret, but I did it. And it was a good thing. As lame as it may sound, I did need a little rest, and I took it. Then I was able to enjoy the evening sessions of the conference to the uttermost.
As I learn to seek guidance from God and actually listen for answers from Him, I am growing less anxious about saying "no."
This passage from Thomas Kelly's A Testament of Devotion helps me greatly:
"Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that that task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or on the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except one--the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. The Cosmic Patience becomes, in part, our patience, for after all God is at work in the world. It is not we alone who are at work in the world, frantically finishing a work to be offered to God."
How about you? Do you need to answer "no" to something today?
This post is the seventh entry in a 31-day series: Caring for Myself Body and Soul.