When to say yes, when to say no

Join me for deep thoughts. It happens so infrequently here, doesn’t it?

So I listened to Rob Bell’s first podcast the other day and my initial thought was, “I wish he would talk without so many pauses.” He speaks the way he writes, which is just.



Pause for impact.

His messages are usually thought-provoking and cause a stir in my brain. That’s good, mostly. Once I get over his speaking and writing style I can focus on what he’s saying rather than how he’s saying it. The podcast, or Robcast (eye roll), was about paring down your life so that you are only connected to the things you really, truly want to be connected to. Because life is busy, you know? We are ALL SO BUSY, so much that when we talk to each other, it’s all about how busy we are.

“How’s it going?”

“Oh, we’re SO BUSY.”

“Yeah, we’re CRAZY BUSY TOO.”

Etc., etc.

Somehow, this is our normal. We don’t have time, we’re over-extended, racing here and there and everywhere. Part of it is have-to, part of it is guilt-drenched obligation. Rob suggests dumping the obligation and making the choice to say No when something (or even someone) isn’t a top priority.

He gives the example of going to a fundraising dinner with his wife. They accepted an invitation to a charity dinner with a friend of theirs, got a sitter, and had a decent time. If he had to grade it, he’d give the night a B. For his friend, who was all in for the charity, would rate it an A. So Rob sat there thinking, “This is his A, but only my B. How else could I have spent this time?” While the cause was good and the company was fine, he felt like his time wasn’t spent as wisely as it could’ve been and therefore started to wonder how often we choose B’s over A’s.

The point is this: If our time is so limited and precious, why not focus entirely on the stuff that WE TOTALLY, INSANELY LOVE and are PASSIONATE about? Additionally, if we’re all bogged down by B- and C-rated activities, how will we have time for all the A’s?

In other words, how can we get around to the edifying stuff if all our time is spend in active obligation?

yes or no

I used to feel like time was escaping me, like I didn’t have a minute to breathe, but that was mostly when I was working and doing a lot of parenting on my own in Amarillo. There have also been other times when I did all sorts of activities I hated because I thought that’s what I’m supposed to do, like teach Vacation Bible School. Yeah, not my thing. 

Today, in this season of life, I have a lot of free time and that’s because I’ve said No to plenty of things. I said No to traditional education for my kids and No to outside employment. (It isn’t without consequence. Saying No to income means saying No to spending.) I’ve also said No to social activities that aren’t edifying and friendships that drain me. That allows me to say Yes to time with my kids, Yes to writing a novel, and Yes to devoting more time and energy to the meaningful, long-lasting friendships I already have. I say No to more television so I can say Yes to more books.  I said No to serving on a committee at church because I’m already on another committee and a board in our Presbytery. Two is fine, three is too much.

And so on.

There are weeks when I feel CRAZY BUSY but that’s usually because it’s a rare week that has extra doctor’s appointments or travel plans or something out of the ordinary. When those weeks come around, I say No to even more.


Perhaps this is why I’m not one of those Moms who’s saying, “Where did the time go? When did my kids grow up so fast?” I don’t have parenting whiplash. I’ve been present for most of it. Everything is going along just as it should be. I don’t feel cheated or blind-sided by the time-warp of busyness.

All this being said, what am I missing out on by saying No? Am I missing out on an experience that I need? A lesson I should learn? Creating a meaningful friendship with someone? A selfless bout of giving because it’s important to serve others? These are all possibilities when we turn away opportunity in an attempt to keep our lives simple. Surely we aren’t supposed to keep to ourselves and only give of our time when it suits us.


When you’re trying to figure out whether to say Yes or No, here are eight unscientific questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I physically/emotionally/financially able to do this thing?
  2. Will this thing benefit my primary professional/spiritual/familial goals?
  3. Do I have a specific talent or gift that would be useful and meaningful in this situation?
  4. Am I sacrificing my family/loved ones to make this happen for me?
  5. Do I really want to do it or am I trying to make someone else happy by doing it?
  6. Am I being lazy or am I truly over-extended?
  7. Am I scared of what people would think of me if I said Yes or No?
  8. What does my gut tell me?

The last one is the biggest question because our instincts are usually the most reliable source of information we need when trying to make a decision. I don’t mean the self-talk we use to persuade ourselves of one thing or another. I mean that deep-rooted, Spirit-driven, soul-connected voice that tells use the scariest, most honest truths about ourselves. THAT voice. You know what I’m saying.

So why type all of this if I’m already saying No to so many things? Perhaps because I need to practice saying Yes or remind myself that it’s okay to say No. Maybe I know that some of my friends aren’t saying Yes enough or No enough, or they don’t know how to decide and feel imprisoned by so much obligation. I encourage you to list to the first Robcast (eye roll) and hear what he has to say. It’s titled “One Thing,” and if you can get past his excessive pausing, you might gain a nugget of inspiration to help you make some decisions in your life.

Yes or no?

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