When to say “Yes” and when to say “No”

Ten days ago I was in Jamaica for a training and certification trip with my travel agency. No one feels sorry for me and no one believes I was really working. With views like these, I can hardly blame them.

(If any of you are interested in booking a family vacation, cruise, or all-inclusive resort, I’m your girl!)

While there I met a number of other travel agents, most of whom do this gig on top of another job. So, the common question was: “What else do you do?”

My answer: “I’m a professional juggler.”

Those who didn’t know me better pictured me working kids’ birthday parties and circus routes. I had to explain that I’m a writer and an editor, but that I also do graphic and website design. Oh, and I co-founded an anti-trafficking organization that promotes abolition and justice. All this on top of vacation planning.

They laughed as I shuffled through my business cards trying to find the right one.

Now, I could go on and on about all the things I’ve juggled recently, but it’s not news. Everyone in the modern world juggles. Many juggle way more than I do!

The weight and specifics of the load matter far less than one’s ability to hold it.

I’m a big advocate of harmony over balance. Balance indicates equality of value, presence, and priority. My family means a whole lot more to me than my writing credits, so when given a choice of which gets my attention, you can guess what wins.

Finding equilibrium in my life doesn’t mean allotting equal attention to all my pursuits; it means creating harmony with them.

It means setting my priorities rather than having them set for me. It means knowing what is most important in that moment and what I can reasonably expect from myself. It means saying saying “yes” to the right things and “no” the not-right-for-me things. And doing both of those without guilt.

Did you catch that last part? Without guilt. No guilt for saying “yes” and no guilt for saying “no.” That requires significant wisdom and grace.

How do you know what to say “Yes” to and what to say “No” to?

I’m still learning.

My middle child syndrome makes me a peace-maker and a people-pleaser. And so, more often than not, I’ll commit to a new project or task before I really think it through. I want to help people and I want them to like me and be grateful for my service. And I really, really hate saying “no.” The problem is that, when I commit without weighing the opportunity and my situation wisely, I lose. Halfway through the project, I’m burnt-out, frustrated, and maybe a little bitter. That’s hardly the attitude of a loving, gracious servant. So, not only do I feel guilty for letting people down, now I feel guilty for my attitude as I do all they’ve asked me to do.

It’s a cycle that has repeated itself far too often, and it needs to stop. So …

I use a cheat-sheet.

Collecting wisdom from a number of sources over the years (most recently, Lysa TerKeurst’s book The Best Yes), I compiled a little cheat-sheet for myself. For the last two months it has hung in my office, reminding me daily to think before I commit. And it seems to be working.

It’s just a list of questions, really, but this list helps me make wise(r) decisions with each new opportunity or request. It helps me live my priorities and to allot my time to tasks in line with those priorities.

Here it is. Feel free to print one out for yourself. (Click on the image for a larger size, then download and save for yourself.)

Before you say yes

I mentioned Lysa TerKeurst‘s book as a contributing source to this list. If healthy boundaries and confident decisions are a struggle for you, too, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy. I’ve highlighted so many pieces of this book. Here are a few of the golden nuggets I’ve found within its pages.

“In this great day when most women wave banners of authenticity about our pasts, we crouch back from honesty about our presents. We’ll tell you all about our broken places of yesterday, but don’t dare admit the limitations of our today. All the while the acid of overactivity eats holes in our souls. … We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.” (p. 5)

“The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls.” (p. 23)

best yes“Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul.” (p. 32)

“When we slip at living out the Word of God, we slip at living in the will of God.” (p. 55)

There is no such thing as a perfect decision. Perfect is an illusion. Are there good choices and bad choices? Yes, of course…But at this point in my life, I’m not getting tripped up as much in the good versus the bad decisions. More often now, I find myself stuck between a good choice and another good choice, trying to figure out which one is perfect.” (p. 85)

We steer where we stare, so stare mightily at God’s plan.” (p. 90)

“Saying ‘yes’ all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman. It will make me worn-out woman. … If they push back when you say ‘no,’ that’s disrespectful on their part. And if you play along, it’s dysfunctional on your part.” (p. 151, 159)

There’s oodles more! Each chapter is bathed in Scripture and godly insight.

You can purchase it at your local bookstore or online by clicking the cover image above.


How do you build and maintain healthy boundaries in your life?
What tools do you use to make wise decisions?

Talk to me!

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