My name is Gena, I live on an island and I want to teach you how to “Go Slow.”
If you are approaching an intersection and discover the signal isn’t working correctly and crossways traffic is still headed through in spite of you having a green light; are you going to take your chances because you were given the green light and barrel on through the intersection hoping not to get hit? Of course not. You understand the need to apply the brakes in that situation. You may even pump them to get the traffic behind you to notice the predicament, but you’re not going to ignore the situation. You’re going to deal with it. You don’t want to get crunched by an oncoming cement mixer, right? So you put on the brakes. Funny thing how we notice the obvious when a few tons of steel are headed our way, but not the equivalent of an invisible freight train. Hello dear reader, meet your life’s schedule, otherwise known as a ‘freight train.’ Something is going to give soon, and it won’t be the locomotive; you are going to have to decide to put the brakes on.
“How in the world do I do that?” you are probably asking about right now. Thanks for staying with me, glad you asked. I’d like to reintroduce the little used word ‘No’ back into your vocabulary.
Relearning the Word “No”
Unless you are a parent of a toddler or a preschool teacher you may have forgotten how it feels to say that word. Well, you’re getting ready to speak it, sing it, text it and email it with abandon. Here is a really good example of the “why” behind the need to say “No”:
“Janet” attends a large church in her city with her husband and three children. They have been committed in small group gatherings, dramatic presentations, and at one time or another most areas of involvement. They really enjoy the church and all of the opportunities for a stay at home, homeschooling mom, and kids to stay connected. There is just one fly in the ointment. They have a pretty busy schedule between church, home life, and dad’s work schedule. They just came through a busy holiday season and there is a lot going on in their friend’s and family’s lives. It’s getting ready to get even more interesting . . .
Janet just received a not so nice warning from a gal in the nursery that she needs to put in her *mandatory* volunteer time in the church’s nursery age department. Her youngest is not yet to the age limit and occasionally attends them.
The problem here is in the phrase *mandatory volunteer.* She feels frustrated that the church’s thousands of other parents aren’t consistent and since she’s been faithful in this area for the last eight years, she’s a bit burnt out. No choice though, if she is going to bring her youngest to the class on Sunday mornings or evenings she is going to have to follow the policy she agreed to and do her time. Do you notice the phraseology here? Do the time . . . as if it’s a prison sentence.
Areas of involvement in church, school, or community life can feel that way when autonomy is taken away. Make it mandatory? Before you know it people will chafe at the restraint.
Back to Janet . . . what is her solution? Does she put up with several more months of doing a ‘volunteer’ job she has grown to dread? Does she butt heads with someone she considered a friend? No.
She says no in the only way she feels like she has a right to, she decides to stay home. Something is going to give; if the requirement won’t then she will exercise her only freedom and use her voice in the only remaining way. They will stop attending.
Losing Out & Burning Out
Who is losing out here? Both the church and the family are.
While this is not the overall subject of this article it must be said that Churches, organizations, schools, charities all have in common the need for people. People make what they do a possibility. Families need connection to others, to faith or an opportunity to make a difference, but they also need the freedom to decide when that works best for them. Take away that right and they will be a lost cause.
Janet was facing burnout, she made a decision she felt she could live with. Could this be handled better? Maybe. One way or the other though, she needs to say no. She found her voice, not in an ideal way, but one where her health and peace of mind is still intact. Janet said no.
You may be wondering why I share this little “some details changed to protect the innocent” story. I shared it to illustrate that you are not alone. Others, just like you, also feel worn out, under appreciated, overtaxed and un-rested and they, like you, need to learn how to say ‘No’.
Just Say No
Say that word out loud, right now, really, ‘No.’ As in…
- “Thank you for thinking of me, normally I love doing this sort of thing, but our family business is in a hectic season right now, so no, I won’t be able to help this time.”
- “No, I didn’t know our annual picnic was only two weeks away! I simply cannot help this year, I have other plans. No, that won’t work either; I look forward to it next year, thanks for calling.”
- “We would love to help you with a bake sale later this year, however, right now our family has decided to curtail extracurricular activities in favor of more at home time, so, no, we can’t help you with that.”
I want you to notice you can say “no” and be gracious. I used to wonder if that was possible, but you don’t have to be a jerk, even though you will probably feel bad at first. Then, at some point in the ensuing days, you will realize you have nothing planned for the weekend and it will hit you…the word “no” did this for me.
You are driving the car, others will try and convince you that you have no choice but to barrel on. Don’t fall for it. Their urgent matter, event, situation, etc. is not your responsibility. Your health, peace of mind, family, and life are your responsibilities; that’s enough! This is your wake up call! Put on the brakes before it’s too late! Your health, your family, and your future self will thank you.
Now that we’ve talked a little bit about why and how you say no, I want to share a little of another story. It’s a “testimonial” of sorts on how I almost didn’t make the adjustments in time. My cautionary tale is fraught with medical drama, family intrigue and . . . hold on, I encourage you to bookmark this page to refer to again when you need a shot in the arm, a little reminder and the confidence to say no. Then head over to Part 3 to get the inside scoop on a couple of people headed in the wrong direction . . .