Please, say ‘no’.
You know you’re spread thin. Just yesterday, you looked at your calendar and noticed you’d overscheduled yourself…again. You sighed, told yourself it was fine. You’ll explain your situation, ask for an earlier or later time, a different day, another week. You’ll apologize and quickly follow up with, “It’s just a busy time, but after __________, I’ll have more breathing room.” You’ve been saying that for a while, but inevitably, the blank fills with one commitment, then another. Your life is always busy. It hasn’t slowed down.
I understand the reasons why you say ‘yes’. I know your worth and identity are tightly stitched into each one and it’s not entirely your fault. People like you more when you say ‘yes’. Many hands make light work and if your hands aren’t in it, the work is harder. Some people are disappointed by your ‘no’, some take it as rejection. Some get mad or hurt, and some just don’t understand. Some are so charismatic for their cause, they won’t take your ‘no’. They bargain for a smaller chunk of time or suggest ways to arrange your schedule so they are accommodated. Sometimes the conversation ends with a painful, “Well, I’m sorry, I thought you cared…”
I recognize you’re conditioned to say ‘yes’. You grew up watching overextended loved ones drain themselves past empty. They helped everyone, everywhere, and you were often included. People praised your assistance, gushed over your willingness, and said ‘thank you’ a lot. Praise wasn’t your motivation, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Being the hero isn’t a bad gig, especially for a good cause. Especially when the need is significant, and the work is important.
It’s true you lived selfishly before. There were times you could have helped – should have helped, perhaps – but you made excuses instead. Their problem isn’t my problem. No one helped me when I needed it. You’re not proud of this person, so you assuage your guilt by saying ‘yes’ more than you should. It never feels like enough.
I understand you cast a wide net because you feel underqualified. Everyone else seems to have found their thing and you feel like an imposter. It’s nice to have opportunities open to you. It’s nice to be asked by people who see in you something you couldn’t have seen on your own. Are you passionate about your commitments? Not really, but at least they’re safe. Passions are risky.
I realize the ‘yes’ of many others shaped you and equipped you to become who you are today. It is now both your honor and responsibility to be there for others and that is a beautiful thing. But before you say ‘yes’, please consider this: The cultural message of ‘showing up’ is slippery. It suggests availability to everyone at any time is sustainable. It implies everyone can and should have your attention.
The truth is, you are not called to make everyone happy, solve everyone’s problems, fix the world, etc. There are many good directions, many things worth doing, many noble distractions, and if you are pulled by all of them, your most precious relationships (your spiritual relationship included) are likely to get dysregulated fragments of you—physically present, mentally distracted, emotionally distant, and spiritually drained.
God’s will for you is specific, not scattered.
His plan for you is fullness, not spreading yourself thin.
His purpose for you is restoration through relationship with Him—all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind—that you might experience peace in Him and live in the assurance that the good work is always His.
Pull closer to Jesus, friend. Trust Him more.