This post has been on the back burner for about a month now, and I haven’t been ready to write it until now. Within the last couple of days I’ve had folks asking this very question: “How do I say no?” It’s not a word that comes easy for everyone.
Do you remember the “Just Say No” campaign that surfaced in the 1980’s? It was created and championed by then First Lady Nancy Reagan as an answer to the drug epidemic that was spreading in the U.S. Why was that slogan pounded into our culture repeatedly?
At the heart of the problem was the inescapable trap of being influenced by our peers. “Just Say No” introduced the position that we had other options. It was to remind us that “yes” was not mandatory and that “no” was ok.
It’s not just a teen peer-pressure problem though. I find it just as difficult today, many years later, to say no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol. What I am talking about is the importance of not saying yes to everything. It’s about managing your life to accomplish the things that really matter.
Let me give you 3 tips to help you say no.
1. SAYING YES MEANS SAYING NO TO SOMETHING ELSE
We all run on limited resources such as time and energy. You can only be in one place at any given time. You cannot effectively multitask your life!
Multitasking, in my opinion, is virtually impossible. You may chop up tasks or relationships into tiny pieces to move quickly between them, but the truth is, you’re still only giving your attention to one thing at a time. All you’ve done is trim down the time and energy devoted to any one area.
Say yes if you need to, but just remember something else automatically gets a “NO”.
2. DETERMINE YOUR PRIORITIES AHEAD OF TIME
Let’s say you’ve got that friend that needs help at their house. You can say yes, but remember you have to neglect something in the process. Now consider that it’s during the time you promised your spouse that you would spend the day with the family. What do you do?
If you have determined what’s important ahead of time, it’s a no-brainer. With solid values in place you have grounds to say no. You have a previous engagement already scheduled. See how easy that was? (yeah, I’m preaching to me too!)
Sometimes though, it’s not just a time issue. It may be that what you’re being asked to do goes against your personal value system – your convictions. You must have your priorities in place before the temptation arises.
At this point you’re no longer making the decision – you’ve already decided ahead of time. Now it’s just a matter of following through.
3. MOST EXPECTATIONS ARE SIMPLY UNREASONABLE
You can’t be everything to everybody all the time! (I know, I’ve tried) It’s hard enough to be an effective, Christian, spouse, parent, etc. For me, add pastor to that list and you’ve definitely got your plate full.
Those are all wonderful, fulfilling, and usually healthy experiences. The point is, there’s not much extra room for people or things that simply doesn’t fit. We stress ourselves to the limit trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings, and that seems noble, but it’s not sustainable.
I’ve known people that have run themselves empty trying to please everyone except those that should’ve been most important. After all the smoke clears, what have you gained if you’ve sacrificed those that matter most for unreasonable expectations.
You’ll never be able to be there for every person in need, you’ll never have all the right words, and you’ll never be everyone’s hero. Dedicate yourself to the those things that matter most.
4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. (emphasis mine)
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