You have a right to say, “No” without feeling that you are letting someone down. Naturally, it depends on how you say it. Some of us have difficulty with this two-letter world, because people in the helping or care-giving professions would like to meet human needs when possible. But a big part of feeling good is taking care of yourself. As selfish as that may sound, you have a right to say “No” whether anyone likes it or not. I remember saying it back in 1997.
Seriously, our lives depend on what we say “Yes” or “No” to. We can say “No” to junk food and “Yes” to healthier eating. Think of the things you are prone to say “Yes” or “No” to. If you say “Yes” to anything you’d rather not do, the results can lead to feelings of self-betrayal and dishonesty. And these feelings can lead to depression. It’s the “anger-turned-inward” syndrome. People-pleasers have trouble at this point. There’s something to be said for trying to please people and meeting their needs. There is a built-in reward in feeling that you are needed for something others consider important. Maybe this is what we call “servanthood”.
There are times in my life when I am overloaded, over-schedules and overwhelmed. Ministers are especially vulnerable. We can say “Yes” to so many requests that we can neglect our families, friends and our own health. We may even have the feeling that we are somehow letting God down if we say, “No”. Also, the ego gets involved and we have an inflated sense of importance when we are asked to do so much.
What does all of this have to do with our faith? A great deal. Faith in God can grow much better when we pace ourselves with activities. Sometimes it’s a matter of choosing the best over the good. The mismanagement of time is very common. It’s easy to get bogged down in the mundane. This calls for a look at the things that deserve a high spot on our priority list.
I have a friend who said, “I’d rather have a root canal than go to a cocktail party where you stand around trying to balance food with conversation.” I can understand that. Jesus gave a parable about a man who was preparing a great banquet and invited several to come. All of them said, “No” because they had other things to do like taking care of their land or a new marriage or seeing about their oxen. They missed the point (Luke 14:16-24). The Apostle Paul struggled with this problem. “The things I know I should do, I don’t, and the things that I shouldn’t do, I end up doing.”
So, ask yourself, “What are the things that take top priority in life?” Saying “Yes” or “No” is learned behavior and it takes some of us a long time to learn which is most important at any given time. I believe our happiness depends on it. On that note, excuse me. I’ve got to run. I’ve been invited to a cocktail party.