Saying ‘no’ without regret

By Gerry Lewis | Published Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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My friends, I am aware of a worldwide epidemic. As someone who works primarily with volunteers, I’ve seen it for years. It has no official name, but I suggest a couple:

1. Hand-Raising Syndrome, or

2. No-No-Itis.

HRS manifests when leaders are looking for volunteers for projects or initiatives. Afflicted persons immediately raise their hands to volunteer without considering all that is involved. They are enthusiastic team players, the kind of people that leaders love to have around because they help get new things off the ground quickly.

NNI looks like HRS except it manifests privately. Persons afflicted with this strain may not be so quick to volunteer publicly, but they have the inability to say “no” to requests that come directly to them. They possess no “no.”

I am in recovery from both of these. HRS shows up rarely now, but NNI is a constant battle that requires some very intentional protocols. I will address those protocols momentarily, but let me pause for a moment of clarification.

If you do not suffer from either of these afflictions, you either have good boundaries and processing skills or you may be suffering from AGD (Ain’t Gonna Do it) or HOS (Happy on the Sidelines), in which case different protocols will be addressed in next week’s “Life Matters.”

Now, back to this week’s protocols. Here are three questions to consider before saying, “Yes.”

1. If I say “yes” to this, to what will I have to say “no?” There are only 10,080 minutes in a week. Our answers do not affect that number. Will you say “no” to sleep, family time, work responsibilities or ministries in which you are already invested?

2. What will my life look like five years from now if I say “yes” to this? Time resources are easier to quantify, but you also have a finite amount of financial and personal resources (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy). Every “yes” costs something in each of those categories and will automatically necessitate a “no” somewhere else. The mythological “multi-tasking” concept is really doing multiple things in rapid succession with diminishing effectiveness.

3. Is this something God is asking me to do and what is the eternal investment? God sometimes speaks to us through those requests from others, but if we are consistently listening to Him and have already responded to a greater “yes” in the scope of His kingdom purposes, it is much easier to say “no” without regret or apology to requests that simply create more busyness and stress and tax our resources, preventing us from saying “yes” when God is moving.

Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us to invest in things that have eternal consequence. Jesus said, “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:20-21)

How are you investing in eternity?

Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association headquartered in Decatur.

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