I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve looked around at everyone else and thought, “nobody is as busy as me.” I’ve compared my life to another’s, reassuring myself that I was busier and somewhere in my mind I thought that made me better. My value came from all of the “yes’s” I could give to people. And why shouldn’t I say yes? Usually, it was to things that encouraged my talents and gifts. Though, if it wasn’t, I’d made it work because it was a need I could still fill. But, soon the once a week commitment spiraled into being gone every night of the week (after working an 8 hour shift). I would even try to say no, and people wouldn’t hear it. I’d explain my no, like people needed to hear my reasons, but they still wouldn’t get it. Everything I was involved in and nearly all my relationships were filtered through my “I’m so busy” filter. It was breaking me apart and stretching me too thin. But, it was how I survived – definitely not thrived – through my early twenties.
I needed permission that saying “no” was okay
I wouldn’t say I’m a completely non-busy person nowadays, but I put a much greater effort into not using the word “busy.” In fact, I’ve swallowed the word more than once because it is such a norm to just be busy and tell everyone about that busy. When I say I’m busy, I think I’m busy; when I think I’m busy I get stressed; and when I get stressed I start to judge everyone else – thinking I’m the best at being busy and no one else is as busy as I am. You see how it snowballs into a giant, out of control, doesn’t-melt-until-summer-is-over, snowball? I’m pretty sure I am not alone in this, and I’m ready for it to stop. But, I recognized that it started with me. I needed a mindset and attitude change. I needed to not be busy, and just get organized. I needed permission that saying “no” was okay. Everything in my life needed to change from a dragging chore to joy-filled purpose.
Life shouldn’t pedestal the busy. Life should respect the yes and value the no. So, how can we support each other in this? Here’s a few ideas.
1.When someone says yes to you, be sure to thank them.
How many people are feigning for your attention and involvement? Probably a fair few, and you know you can’t say yes to them all. Therefore, do not expect everyone to say yes to you. When someone says yes to you, they made the intentional choice to do so. Be grateful! A simple thank you card (nothing like snail mail!) goes a long way. I remember when I was applying to go to the School of Biblical Studies in Montana, I sent a check to the base inside of a thank you note – those girls in the office do a TON of work; they say YES everyday to students who apply and have their hundreds of questions, so those ladies needed to be thanked. I figured they probably got a lot of thank you’s for all of the yes’s they give. When I got to Montana months later, I was in the office taking care of some business when the Registrar says to me, “Oh you’re the one who wrote the thank you note! Look, we put it on our wall!” A little thank you goes a LONG way, so be sure to thank those who say yes to you.
2. Hear the no, accept the no, and realize that it’s probably not personal.
Just the other day I was saying no to a customer at work about something, but for the life of her she just wasn’t accepting it. She kept pressing me and pressing me, rewording her question and standing around as if her persistence would make me change my mind. That lady just wasn’t hearing or accepting my no – and it’s not like I even wanted to tell her no! I realistically just didn’t have the means to supply what she was looking for. I used this example specifically to say ladies, I think we’re the ones who are really guilty of this. We ask the one person on our ask list to fill the need we have and when they can’t do it, we take it so personally that we push and pressure as opposed to accept and affirm. And there’s a really good chance that the reason the person is saying no to you (and they don’t need to explain or justify their no) is because they legitimately cannot help at this time. When we’ve got a need that has to be filled (i.e. volunteers for the spaghetti dinner, more leaders for your ministry, a chaperone for the kid’s movie night), be sure to have some back-up options – and be sure you’re good with them. This will make hearing and accepting a “no” significantly easier.
3. Choose words wisely.
Sometimes all it takes for us to feel less busy is to use words like “no” more and words like “I’m busy” less. I really think our busy lives are reflective of busy attitudes and of living in a culture where busy is valued. A couple of years ago I was encouraged to start planning my weeks, including slotting in things like “Sabbath rest” and “social time.” At first I thought I was being ridiculously OCD, but as my mentor assured me, “you’re just being wise with your time!” In fact, as I penned into my week the things I needed to do I found that I was much less stressed and I had more free time to invest in relationships that had so long been ignored. I started saying no to things when it fell the same day as “Sabbath rest,” and I limited myself to being involved in significantly less ministry opportunities. The reality was I wasn’t needed everywhere, and in saying no to people I stopped hindering others from excelling in their gifts. Whereas I previously thought I was the “best,” I soon came to see that there were several others who were better, and that was a gift all in itself (it’s a gift called delegation; a whole different blog!)
So, how about it? Shall we be more grateful, accept the no, and choose the words we use more wisely? You have permission. You’re allowed to take a break. You’re allowed to recharge. You’re allowed to spend a Friday night on a date with the man you fell in love with all those years ago – kids, ministry, homework and busy free. You’re allowed.
God is more sovereign than our no
God is faithful to us when we invest in our relationship with Him and the ones He’s given us to love especially. God is more sovereign than our no, and if whatever you said “no” to is supposed to flourish, then it will flourish under His will. Don’t you worry. Really. Take a deep breath (really, take a deep breath)…hold it there for a minute…you have permission to not be busy, and to just say no. I dare you to try it sometime soon (like…later today?)