Confession: I used to be incapable of saying NO. To invitations, requests for help, a ringing telephone, a text notification, Facebook invitations to a home business, anything! And the ways I got around this inability to say no was simple- and crazy. And if you’re reading this and you’ve been my friend for longer than 5 years, you’ve most likely been the victim of some of these tactics. Sorry, I’m getting better.
- I’d fake interest even when I wasn’t interested or knew I wouldn’t/couldn’t be available. Yes, I’d love to go to that event….I’m totally available….sounds great…
- Then, I’d make excuses to get out of my obligation. Oh man, I just realized I have something else on the calendar that day (wether or not I did)…The kids are sick…I’m sick…
- Or, if backtracking wasn’t an option, I’d follow through on whatever thing I overcommitted to, resulting in strain in my schedule, my health, and often, my family. And I was creating for myself a reputation of chaos and undependability. You just never could trust my yes to be yes.
[This is all a bit difficult to admit]
Then 2 things happened. First, I kept having babies, which severely hindered my craving to say YES to all things and all people and all events at all times. It’s just not physically possible what with the diapers, the naps, the feedings, the parental exhaustion. In hind sight, this limitation has been one of the biggest gifts to my growth and recovery, but at the time, I hated it. Secondly, I realized that my craving to say YES was completely self-serving. Say what?? Isn’t giving and going and pouring out and turning the other cheek (again and again and again) all acts of selflessness? Not in my case. My YES’s were out of a need to feel needed, and out of a fear of offending. They were not directions from God; they were dictates of my fear. If I don’t say yes to this invitation, won’t my friend be mad? If I don’t meet this pressing need, who will?? What if the ringing phone is someone calling to warn me of pending doom???
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was from a man who told me, “You have a lot of potential to offer the world- a lot of gifts and wisdom; but FIRST you must resign as General Manager of the Universe.”
[swallow hurt pride]
So are you ready for some profound insight? Here it goes. You know what happens when you say NO to an invitation you honestly aren’t able to attend? The show goes on without you and your friends (good ones, anyway) will not hold it against you! If you don’t meet that pressing need that you really aren’t able to meet anyway? It provides the opportunity for someone else! If you don’t answer that phone call because you’re actually busy at the moment anyway? You’ll get a voicemail and you can call back when you are able to offer full attention. And if it is a message of pending doom, you’ll see it on Facebook in 1.3 seconds anyway.
You may not struggle with saying NO (please, share your secret!), but if you do, here’s some things that have helped me over the years as I recover from my addiction to YES.
- Begin with a delayed response. Thank you. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you tomorrow. This helped me wean off of my compulsive YES and gave me space to think, look at my calendar, consider my limitations, and pray.
- Depend on email. In the beginning of this new venture of saying NO, I was terrified. So I would respond to requests by email or text. Thank you for your invitation and for thinking of me; I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, I am unable at this time. Period. No long justification, no drama, no chaos. Just a gracious no.
- Practice in the mirror. No joke. My face muscles seems incapable of muttering NO, so I had to practice in the mirror. A lot.
So what are the results I’m seeing from this? First, there’s far less self-induced stress in my life and family. Our schedule is not jam-packed with activity, which actually allows us to do more! We get to be more creative and spontaneous…and rested! Secondly, I’m better able to consider what GOD might be asking me to say YES to vs. what my fear is compelling me to say YES to. Big difference. Huge. Lastly, I’m becoming a more trustworthy person. As I’m able to better acknowledge my limits and clearly communicate them, my words can be trusted.
There is so much more to be said on this topic-from what motivates us, to what our actual limitations are, what true giving looks like, but for now I will end here. Because I have limits. Four hungry children at dinnertime, to be exact!