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Friday, September 28, 2012

Why It's Okay To Say "No"

This morning as I ran around completing errands while listening to satellite radio, one of my favorite songs by Reliant K played. Although I've heard the song hundreds of times and know the words by heart, one of the lyrics struck me today: "I am a hostage to my own humanity." Yes, yes I am.

I've always been a dreamer. An idealist. Wanting to believe the best in this world and in every single person who inhabits it. Wanting to fill every need I encountered. Wanting to soothe every hurt endured by not only those I love, but by those exposed to me with obvious hurts. I say this not to tout my empathy as some type of badge of honor. I say it with a tone of frustration because this song--this lyric--reminded me that I'm limited by my own humanity. The limits of time, energy, resources, and strength erected by the fact that I'm human.

I can't help every person who asks. I can't give to every cause (my husband won't let me answer the phone between 5 and 8 pm!). I can't say "yes" to every request made of me. Even though I want to.

I grew up in a home in which my parents had limited means. There wasn't money for dance class, the latest technology, or the hippest clothes. But despite my not having the ridiculous creature comforts my kids enjoy, I felt minimal loss. Sure, when I was in middle school and my friends were wearing name-brand jeans and could participate in extra-curricular activities that I couldn't because my brothers and I were latch-key kids, I nursed the narcissistic attitude of some teenagers that I was being robbed of something. Kids are kids and can have a tunnel vision that requires a re-indexing.

My sweet Daddy provided that re-indexing. He didn't do this through words; he did it through his example. He went on mission trips to help build things. He volunteered his time. He provided a vision of service that truly embodies the idea of giving yourself to those who need it. His life inspired in me a servant's heart. This can sometimes lead to an overextension of self. We get pulled in lots of directions. We get asked more often than most because those asking know we'll say "yes."

One of the most important lessons I've learned in my forty-something years is to navigate my life so that I willing offer my time, focus, and love to those things that matter most to me. So when the asks come that I need to say "no" to but would otherwise feel obligated to say "yes" to are a no-brainer. I simply don't have the time to dedicate because I've resourced it already.

As you examine your life and where your energies go, please give yourself the permission to prioritize according to what's important to you. Because if you give your energies in places your heart doesn't sit, you do both yourself and those you've committed those energies to an injustice. If we all simply focused our time and energy on those things that inspire us, all the parts would be covered.

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