“Do you think you could make something for the bake sale this weekend? It’s the only one we’ll have this year, I promise!”
“We need lots of volunteers to run this year’s Halloween Carnival! It’s the PTA’s biggest fundraiser–hope you can help out!”
“Have you found your place to serve yet? We count on volunteers for so much of the ministry of the church! And you know, God loves a cheerful giver!”
“Mom, can I please play soccer this year? Practice is only three nights a week!”
“The Cub Scouts need some parents to help with the meetings. You don’t have to run them; you just need to be there to help the boys stay focused….”
“Our gym is hosting an invitational meet for 300 gymnasts in a couple of months, and we need a volunteer to coordinate the volunteers. It won’t take much–mostly phone calls and emails–but we really need somebody to stay on top of this, and we think you’re the perfect person for the job!”
Hey, we’re putting together a team for the this year’s Relay For Life! I know you’ve had family members who’ve struggled with cancer and thought you might want to be on our team! There’s an organizational meeting next week; hope you can make it!”
“”Mom, can you go to the State Band Competition with us next weekend? The band director said we really need more adult helpers! Please??”
You get the idea! So many requests, so many needs, so many opportunities to help, to do good, to serve….
How do we know when to say yes and when to say no? They’re all such good causes, such worthwhile activities. How can we say no to any of it?
Maybe we don’t! Maybe we just say yes to everyone and everything. That’s certainly one way to deal with it.
And if that works for you and your family, then read no further. This reflection will have nothing to offer you.
If always saying yes doesn’t always work, however, if that “strategy” has been known to occasionally leave you feeling frazzled, stressed out, overcommitted, sleep-deprived, snapping at your partner, kids, co-workers, dog, pet turtle, etc., or in any other way has left pretty clear indicators that you are not filled to the brim with peace and joy, well, you might want to keep reading. If you can spare a few moments. 🙂 There’s a simple perspective, I believe, that just might help.
That perspective is this: when you say yes to something, you’re effectively saying no to something else.
It may not feel that way. You may never have thought of it that way. I hadn’t until recently (although once I did, it seemed obvious!). It may seem like when you say yes to someone or something, that’s all you’re doing, saying yes to that someone or something–which at times, for any number of reasons, seems easier than saying no to that someone or something….
However…when you say that “yes,” you are effectively, at the same time, by your decision, consciously or unconsciously, saying “no” to someone or something else.
When you say yes to making something for the bake sale, for example, you are saying no to whatever else you might have been doing in the time you’ll now be baking, whether that would have been exercising, grocery shopping, having coffee with a friend, connecting with your kids or partner, reading, sleeping, etc….
When you say yes to helping out at the Halloween Carnival, you’re saying no to whatever else you might have been doing during that time–yard work, a family hike, household chores, eating dinner together, etc….
When you say yes to coordinating the volunteers for the gymnastics meet, even though “it can mostly be done via phone calls and emails,” you’re saying no to whatever else you might have been doing in those moments–talking with a friend, listening to the radio, flipping mindlessly through a magazine, sitting quietly, praying, etc….
I suspect you get the idea….but just for kicks, I’m going to do the same thing for saying no!
When you say no to serving on the church mission committee, you’re saying yes, perhaps, to spending more time with your family; you’re saying yes, possibly, to a calmer schedule and a less frantic way of living.
When you say no to chaperoning the Cub Scouts meetings, you’re saying yes, perhaps, to focusing on helping your kids with their homework, or to more meals at home together, or maybe even to time for yourself, to take a bath or read a book or look up cool projects on Pinterest…
When you say no to your child’s request for one more activity, you’re saying yes, possibly, to your family spending more time together, to a schedule with more time to breathe, play, and relax, with time–just maybe–to do nothing, whether all together or by yourselves….
When you say yes to something, you’re effectively saying no to something else. When you say no to something, you’re effectively saying yes to something else.
Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing wrong with saying yes. We need people who say yes! There are many worthwhile organizations and meaningful activities that would not survive without people saying yes!
But there’s also nothing wrong with saying no. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if, in our fast-paced, over-scheduled, stressed-out society, we need more people who say no….
The next time it’s your turn to decide, the next time your moment of (in)decision comes, when you’ve been presented with yet another “worthwhile opportunity,” perhaps take a moment to simply consider, if you say yes, what you might also be saying no to, and if you say no, what you are possibly saying yes to. Say yes if that feels right, and feel good about it…or say no if that feels right, and feel good about that, too.
Simple, right? Yes.
Worth a try? I think so.
Game-changing? Only time will tell. 🙂