Delay Saying Yes… and Learn to Say No

My friend Jennifer spoke some great words to our group of moms at SideBySide this morning. She talked to us about the importance of learning to say “no” to free up our calendars for the people and things that ultimately matter most. It was such a refreshing thought, that I asked Jennifer if I could borrow the book she was quoting so I could share some of this wisdom with you, dear blogosphere readers. I know a lot of you are moms, and I hope this post gives you a little sigh of relief today.

I cannot give you the formula for success,

but I can give you the formula for failure…

which is: Try to please everyone.

-Herbert Bayard Swope

Throughout my life I have been a “people pleaser”, meaning that when someone asked me to do something, I typically did it because I wanted their approval, I wanted them to like me and I wanted them to say nice things about me to other people. It’s an unfulfilling and frustrating way to live and I do not recommend it.

Now that I am old and wise (I’m going to be 33 you know…) I don’t care so much what people think of me. I’ve become more confident in myself and my ability to make good decisions on how I choose to live each day. As a wife and a mother, I cannot make 99.9% of my decisions based solely on myself, I have to think of Ryan and of my children and consider how each decision will affect our family as a whole.

This isn’t about choosing between right and wrong, but choosing to turn down “good” things in order to make time for the “best” things. Sometimes the best thing is just slowing down and spending an afternoon drawing with chalk on the driveway.

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I think for most of us, when someone asks us to do something we immediately say “yes” to their request. It’s instinctual, we like feeling needed, we are flattered to be asked, and we have forgotten that there is a difference between being asked and being called. In her book The Worn Out Woman Alice Gray suggests that if we can delay saying “yes” long enough to seriously seek God’s direction it may help us free up our daily schedules for the things that God wants us to be available for. Wouldn’t it be great to live with space for God to work in and through our lives?

If we can determine our goals for our families, that will help us be able to say no to things that do not push us closer to those goals. If we are clear on our priorities, we can more easily identify which things are in line with those and which things we simply say “no” to. For example, it’s nice to be invited, but I am not going to spend all Saturday morning at a birthday party for a kid in Ruby’s preschool class who we hardly know because my priority is that when Ryan is home, the girls and I get to spend quality time with him. I don’t have to explain all this to said preschool classmate’s mother in the RSVP… I just have to say “no”.

Saying “no” isn’t easy, so here are some tips from an anonymous author. I especially like the last one.

How to Say No

  • I’ll have to pass it up.
  • I’ve done it in the past. I’ll do it again in the future. But I can’t do it right now.
  • I’m sorry, but my schedule doesn’t permit me to take on any more obligations this week, this month, this year, this decade!
  • It was really kind of you to ask me, but I really must say no.
  • I’ve made a mistake. I shouldn’t have committed myself. I’m sorry, but I really must back out this time.
  • FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS: I cannot do this. I don’t have the desire, the time, the interest, or the energy. NO. Absolutely not!

All in all, we need to rest in the fact that for this short window, our number one ministry is motherhood. We need to recognize the value we are adding to our children and our families. We need to feel honored that God would give us the incredible responsibility of daily shaping the character and integrity of the little hearts of our children. These long days and short years are not easy, so I’m taking every bit of advice I can! Here’s to delaying saying “yes” and learning to say “no” more often!

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