“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 5:37 NLT
I should have just said “no.”
But how does a mother say “no” to a grown son who asks her to doggie-sit his year-old Australian shepherd for a week?
Tucker, the aforementioned Aussie, is the most hyperactive dog on the planet. Although he’s calmed down some and our son has worked with him, he’s still a pup with more energy than he knows to do with. Except race around the house every evening and chew everything in sight.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Not everything. Just a fake apple from a basket for decoration, my National Geographic bird book, one of my SmartWool merino hiking socks (my favorite pair), the charging cord for my phone, the cap for my stainless steel water bottle, and whatever paper, plastic, and pens he can get his teeth on. And I think he ate a bar of Dove soap this morning.
My son can’t come get him soon enough.
So why do I feel guilty saying that?
Tucker does have his halo moments. And if I take him outside to let him burn off some of that energy, he won’t feel compelled to chew everything in sight. Okay – not everything.
He loves to chase a tennis ball but refuses to give it back to me. I don’t have time for this “try to get the ball from me” game.
Then the other day I came up with a brilliant ploy: I used two tennis balls. When he came back with one (and refused to drop it), I showed him the other then tossed it. That went on until – glory, hallelujah! – he wore out and went up by the woods line and plopped down in the leaves.
But then we lost one of the tennis balls, so we’re down to just one. And it’s too cold and wet outside to stand there waiting for him to drop the ball so I can toss it again.
So he’s stuck inside. With me. Who can’t say “no.”
In her book Conquering the Time Factor, author Julie-Allyson Ieron examines twelve myths that steal time from us, one of which I’ll address here: “If I turn you down, you’ll think I don’t value you, or worse, you’ll be disappointed in me.”
How many times do I say “yes” because I’m a people pleaser and don’t like to disappoint others, even when it’s an inconvenience (and even when it’s a dog)? And more than an inconvenience – it prevents me from doing what I’m called to do.
Priorities come in play here. It’s important to establish and maintain what’s most important in your life and use this as a plumb line for what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to.
My priories, in order of importance, are my relationship with God, my family, self-care, and my service to God.
I’m not sure where to put “self-care” because if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my family or serve God the best I can. It’s like when the oxygen masks are deployed on a flight – you’re to put yours on first then help someone else with theirs.
The same is true with nurturing my relationship with God by spending time with Him in prayer and His Word. I must feed my own spirit and grow my own faith first if I’m to help others with theirs and fulfill my calling.
It’s okay to say “no” to things that don’t clearly fit in any of these priorities. It’s even okay to say “no” to family at times. Because sometimes I have deadlines. Because sometimes I just need “me time.” Because sometimes there’s something more important to tend to. Remember the saying about not letting the urgent crowd out the important?
And, as Julie-Allyson points out, I don’t have to give a complete, satisfactory explanation when I say “no.” Like Jesus said, “Let your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” That’s it. No explanations necessary.
What about those times the lines are blurred, the times when what you’re being asked to do doesn’t clearly fit in your established priorities?
Pray for wisdom, and God will give it to you (James 1:5).
I’m not saying I have it all put together. I don’t. I still struggle with saying “no.” I continue to wrestle with establishing and maintaining boundaries in my life.
But with God’s help, my vision is becoming clearer and my focus sharper.
What about you? When do you need to just say “no”?
Father, grant me the wisdom to know when to say “no” and the discipline to decline. May the only one I strive to please be You. Amen.
Read and meditate on Matthew 22:36–40
NOTE: Next week, we’ll finish the series “Boundaries and Balance” by examining the walls we construct in our lives.
© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.